The Stages of Alcohol Detoxification, Explained

Are you one of the almost 15 million Americans suffering from alcohol use disorder? If so, you should know that you can get help with your alcohol addiction.

There are quite a few rehab facilities scattered throughout the country that can assist those trying to kick an alcohol addiction to the curb. But before you begin to go through the rehab process, you’ll need to work your way through alcohol detoxification.

There are several stages of alcohol detoxification that you’ll encounter. Each individual aspect of the alcohol detoxification process will challenge both your body and your mind in a whole new way.

The answer to the question, “How long does alcohol detoxification take?”, is going to be different for everyone. It’ll depend on everything from how long you’ve been drinking to what kind of alcoholic beverages you’ve tended to drink.

You can begin preparing for alcohol detoxification by learning about what you can expect. Here are the stages you’ll go through as you detox your body from alcohol.

Stage 1 (Lasts From 6 to 12 Hours After Your Last Drink)

Believe it or not, you’re probably already going through the first stage of the alcohol detoxification process on an almost daily basis. It starts every time you haven’t had a drink for between 6 to 12 hours.

So unless you’re at the point where you’re literally drinking almost all day and night long, you should have at least a little bit of experience with this alcohol detoxification stage. And you have likely gone through some of the symptoms that are associated with it.

During this stage, you’re often going to see some of the following symptoms pop up:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Shaking

Unfortunately, one of the easiest ways that people can get rid of these symptoms is by grabbing a drink. It’s why so many people who suffer from alcohol addiction run right back to the bottle at the first sign of alcohol detoxification.

But the good news is that this stage shouldn’t last for too long. You might be able to sleep right through it in some cases.

Stage 2 (Lasts From 12 to 24 Hours After Your Last Drink)

The second stage of the alcohol detoxification process will kick in shortly after the first stage ends. It’s when things start to become slightly more serious as your body and mind realize that it’s been a while since you’ve had a drink.

At first, you might begin to feel disoriented during this stage. You won’t feel quite like yourself if you don’t have a drink in your hand.

And you might find that it’ll get slightly worse from there. In addition to feeling disoriented, you’re also going to experience symptoms like hand tremors and sometimes even seizures as your body works to detox.

Not everyone who goes through this stage of alcohol detoxification is going to have to deal with seizures. But they should, at the very least, be on your radar as you aim to make it through this stage successfully.

Stage 3 (Starts About 48 Hours After Your Last Drink)

Making it through two full days without a drink is a real accomplishment for those suffering from alcohol addiction. It isn’t easy—at all—for them to reach the third and final stage of the alcohol detoxification process.

It also isn’t always easy for people to survive the third stage of the alcohol detoxification process unscathed. It’s another stage that often sees people go through seizures.

There are also some other potentially harmful symptoms associated with this stage of the alcohol detoxification process. These symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure

In a worst-case scenario, someone who is detoxing from alcohol might also suffer from a condition called delirium tremens. When someone is going through this part of alcohol detoxification, they’ll often become confused and will sometimes start to hallucinate. There is a chance it could be fatal in some instances.

Thankfully, a very small percentage of those going through alcohol detoxification will encounter delirium tremens. But if you happen to fall into this category, it’s going to be a rough road. You’ll likely need to get professional help to ensure your health doesn’t take a turn for the worst.

Which Stage of the Alcohol Detoxification Process Is the Hardest?

Let us begin answering this question by saying this: Every stage of the alcohol detoxification process will be difficult to some degree. You’re going to have to physically and mentally prepare yourself as best you can to make it through all the stages of alcohol detoxification.

But obviously, you could make the argument that the third stage is going to present the most problems for people. If you’ve been a heavy drinker for years now, you might find that it’ll be almost impossible to get through the third stage of alcohol detoxification without professional help.

What Can You Do to Make the Alcohol Detoxification Process Easier?

If you would like to make the alcohol detoxification process a little easier on yourself, there are several ways that you can do it. For starters, you can give yourself the necessary time to prepare yourself for it as opposed to diving headfirst into the process.

You can also take these steps to make alcohol detoxification a little simpler on yourself:

  • Try to scale back on how much alcohol you’re drinking in the weeks and days leading up to the alcohol detoxification process
  • Let family members and friends know that you’ll be going through the alcohol detoxification process
  • Remove any alcohol that you might have in your home to eliminate temptation during the alcohol detoxification process

By doing these types of things, you can set yourself up for success at the start of the alcohol detoxification process. You’ll like your chances when you get your attempt to quit alcohol off the ground.

Can You Make It Through the Alcohol Detoxification Process on Your Own?

If you’re someone who is going to have to try to conquer the alcohol detoxification process, you’ve likely been drinking alcohol for a long time now. This means that you are going to be in for quite the battle when you decide to break up with the booze.

That isn’t to say that you can’t try to take on the alcohol detoxification process on your own. There are people out there who have done it.

But generally speaking, most people who suffer from alcohol addiction will need to get help in some form to reach the end of the alcohol detoxification process. You shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help if you feel as though you might need it at any point.

Who Should You Trust to Assist You During the Alcohol Detoxification Process?

If you decide that you do, in fact, want to get some help during the alcohol detoxification process, you can ask your family members and friends to assist you. You might find that detoxing will be easier on you when you stay at someone else’s house as opposed to staying at home alone.

You can also take things to the next level by finding a rehab facility that specializes in helping those recovering from alcoholism. They’ll be able to walk with you as you make your way through alcohol detoxification. They’ll also be able to lend a hand to you after detoxing is all done.

What If You Fail to Complete the Alcohol Detoxification Process?

The entire alcohol detoxification process will only last for several days for most people. But even still, there are people who simply can’t stomach it and start drinking again before it’s over.

If you find yourself in this boat after you attempt to detox your body from alcohol, you’re going to feel discouraged. It’s only natural for you to feel this way.

But just because you aren’t able to complete the alcohol detoxification process the first time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it again. You should try it as many times as you can to increase the chances of you leaving drinking in the past once and for all.

You Can Finish the Alcohol Detoxification Process and Live Life Without Drinking

The three main stages of alcohol detoxification are a huge hurdle for many people to clear when they’re addicted to alcohol. Going through the alcohol detoxification process can be very painful for them.

But you can make it through the alcohol detoxification process if you’re prepared for it. You can also lead a life that doesn’t include alcohol and see so many positive changes in your life as a result of it.

Would you like to get some more information on quitting an addiction? Look for it in the other articles that have been posted on our blog.


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