Stages of Alcohol Detox: What to Expect

The Importance of Alcohol Detox

Whether it’s a genetic trait, an attempt to cope with stress, socio-cultural influence, or something else, some people suffer alcohol use disorder and even severe dependency when consuming alcohol. For many, by the time they recognize the symptoms, their alcoholism is already evident to the people around them. If an alcoholic reaches the point where quitting seems nearly impossible, alcohol detox in a professional medical setting is an important first step.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today at 877.969.1993 to learn how we can help.

For alcoholics, getting sober is not a matter of simply quitting drinking.  Taking the cold turkey approach can be counterproductive and even dangerous. That is because alcohol is a physically and emotionally addictive drug that causes physical dependence.  When a person’s body has become dependant on alcohol, stopping drinking all at once will cause withdrawal symptoms that can range from uncomfortable to fatal.  This complication makes undergoing alcohol detox in a controlled, professional environment critical to combating the disease of alcohol addiction.

What Is Withdrawal?

The physical hold alcohol creates in the body is what makes quitting such a difficult process. For problem drinkers and alcoholics, getting sober means going through withdrawal, and without the right support and guidance, that can be a painful and even a dangerous process. 

During withdrawal from alcohol, users can experience various symptoms, including shakiness, sweating, appetite loss, nausea, and restlessness, to name a few. That is why it’s important to seek out a medically managed alcohol detox program, one that can provide you with the support you need while your body heals.

Alcohol Detox Timeline

If you have never been through alcohol detox before, you may be suffering some trepidation as you contemplate your upcoming sobriety. You know you need help, and you realize you need to stop drinking, but you worry about what comes next.

Understanding the alcohol detox timeline will provide tremendous help, and knowing what to expect is essential. Here are some of the steps a person who has been drinking heavily for a long time may encounter on their journey from alcoholism to a lifetime of sobriety:

  • 6 hours: After six hours of not drinking, alcoholics may experience potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including possible seizures. Medical supervision is essential to keep the individual safe.
  • 12 to 24 hours: At this stage, those with severe alcohol dependency may experience hallucinations, seeing, and hearing things that are not there. These hallucinations can range from mildly disturbing to extremely frightening and distressing.
  • 24 to 48 hours: One to two days into alcohol detox, individuals may experience additional symptoms, including nausea and upset stomach, tremors, and severe headaches. Having support through this stage can be essential for long-term success.
  • 48 to 72 hours: This is one of the most potentially dangerous stages of the alcohol detox process, with some people experiencing Delirium Tremens, also known as DTs. During this stage, alcohol detox can include severe symptoms like seizures, high fever, and elevated body temperature.
  • Over 72 hours: For many alcoholics, the 72-hour mark is the peak of withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms can be quite severe at this stage of the process, and may include rapid heartbeat, panic attacks, and even delusions.  It’s important to know ahead of time, that after 72 hours, you’ll likely start to feel better.  

As you can see, alcohol detox symptoms can range from mild to severe and even life-threatening. That’s why it is important to eschew the DIY approach to sobriety and seek professional help instead. Whether you have tried to stop drinking on your own and been unsuccessful, or this is your first time, do yourself a favor and get the help you need right away.

The Importance of Detoxing in a Supervised Medical Setting

The good news is that medical detox can eliminate most of the dangerous and uncomfortable effects of withdrawal.  By seeking assistance in detoxifying your body you can free your system of the toxins you’ve been ingesting. Professional help and guidance are the best way to detox safely, increase your comfort, and supporting you every step along the way. 

In a medical detox program, like the one at WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab, you’ll be safely weaned off alcohol while being monitored by medical professionals around the clock.  Your vital signs will be checked on a regular basis, and you’ll also be asked regularly about your comfort level.  Medications can be administered as needed to help keep you stable and feeling comfortable.  

If you are ready to tackle your problem head-on, you need the right partner by your side. Getting help through a formal alcohol detox program like at WhiteSands Treatment is essential, and the sooner you get started, the better off you will be.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.