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How Long Does it Take to Detox from Alcohol – It Depends!

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

Among the many questions we answer for clients is the question, “how long does it take to detox from alcohol?” People want to know what to expect from the detox process so that they can prepare accordingly. Some are disappointed when we tell them that the length of time necessary for detox depends on many different factors. However, we can say that detox typically takes between 7 to 10 days under normal conditions. Various influences can shorten the time to five days or less, or extend it beyond two or three weeks.

For the record, someone attempting to recover from alcoholism can choose from several different types of detox programmes. For example, if you were to seek treatment from your GP, your detox might consist of daily visits to an outpatient clinic where you would receive prescription medications, a medical exam, a breathalyser test (to confirm you are no longer drinking), and counselling.

On the other hand, you may enrol in a private residential rehab programme that includes a 7- to 10-day detox treatment administered by medical professionals. Your treatment would be followed by rehabilitative therapies designed to help you deal with the emotional and psychological aspects of alcoholism.

A Detox Only Scenario

There are people suffering from alcohol problems who want to get detox completed as quickly as possible so they can get back to work and their daily routines. Likewise, there are private detox clinics that offer this kind of treatment. It is fast, efficient, and intended for people who have been diagnosed as either problem drinkers or alcohol abusers. Nevertheless, a detox-only treatment programme has deficiencies that make it inappropriate for a confirmed alcoholic.

If you were to enter a detox-only treatment programme you could expect to be done and back to your normal routine within 5 to 7 days. Some people who respond very well can complete detox is little as 3 to 5 days. Indeed, there are clinics specialising in 3- to 5-day programmes utilising vitamin therapy. The medical community does not agree on whether or not such a short detox is effective or appropriate, so it is not widely used in the UK at this time

The primary benefit of detox-only treatment is that a person can schedule a week away from work, complete the treatment, then resume work the following week with no one else being the wiser. Nonetheless, the significant disadvantage lies in the fact that detox only addresses the physical problems associated with alcohol abuse. It does nothing for the psychological and emotional issues.

Problem drinkers and alcohol abusers can see to the psychological and emotional issues by participating in an alcohol support group. They can attend meetings and counselling sessions outside of work or school without drastically interrupting the daily routine.

Detox with Rehabilitative Therapy

A confirmed alcoholic can undergo detox and rehabilitative therapy on either an outpatient or inpatient basis. The choice here is critical in terms of how long you want detox to take. A person who wants it to be as short and as effective as possible should consider undergoing treatment at a private rehab clinic. A person preferring a more gradual withdrawal might choose an outpatient programme.

With outpatient detox, a person is typically prescribed medication that eases the symptoms of withdrawal by mimicking some of the effects that alcohol has on the brain. This is certainly one way to detox without the same level of discomfort associated with non-medicated detox. However, there is a disadvantage: detoxing with such medications can prolong the process beyond the 7- to 10-day mark. It is entirely possible for an alcoholic to be still undergoing detox several months down the road because he or she has not stopped drinking entirely during treatment.

The advantage of inpatient detox is that recovering alcoholics have absolutely no access to the drink they crave. Medication can still be used to take the edge off withdrawal symptoms, but physical separation from alcohol is complete and distinct. This virtually guarantees detox will be completed in 10 days or less.

You might be wondering why it is necessary to complete detox so quickly. It boils down to the old principle of 'striking while the iron is hot'. In other words, rehabilitative therapy cannot begin until detox is complete. The longer detox is prolonged, the less likely it is that the recovering alcoholic will be amicable to future rehabilitative therapy. Keeping detox as short as possible allows treatment providers to get rehabilitative therapies going quickly, thereby increasing the chances of a full and complete recovery.

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Detox the First Step in Recovery

Do you need to undergo detox to conquer your drinking problem? Only a medical professional with alcohol recovery experience can tell you that. But we can say is that you will need detox if you are a confirmed alcoholic. There is no way to conquer your problem without it.

If you are willing to call us on our 24-hour helpline, we can offer you a preliminary assessment capable of determining the seriousness of your alcohol problem. If our assessment suggests you are an alcoholic, we can refer you to a treatment provider appropriate to your needs. If you are not an alcoholic, we can refer you to treatment that is appropriate for alcohol abuse or problem drinking.

How long does it take to detox from alcohol? That depends on you. It depends on the seriousness of your alcohol problem, how long you have been drinking, your history with substance abuse, and your willingness to commit to getting well. The stronger your commitment, the sooner you can complete detox on your way to an alcohol-free life.

We are an independent organisation offering advice and referrals to alcohol abusers and their families. We would be happy to assist you as you seek the treatment you need to overcome alcohol problems. Rest assured that our services are free to use and absolutely confidential. We want nothing more than to help you break free from the bondage of drinking.

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