How Long Does it Take to Detox from Alcohol?

For people with mild or moderate alcoholism, detox generally begins within eight hours after the last drink and typically lasts between five and seven days. For those with severe alcoholism, withdrawal symptoms may not subside for two weeks or more.
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Detox is the process of removing toxins, such as alcohol, from the body. During this time, people with alcohol addiction may experience withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, tremors or hallucinations.

This process can be painful and, at times, dangerous. The length of alcohol detox depends on various factors, including the severity of a person’s alcoholism. The more severe the substance use disorder, the longer detox takes.


Nanci Stockwell of Advanced Recovery Systems talks about the average duration of alcohol detox and the factors that affect the length of detox.

The Length of Alcohol Detox

Detox is the first stage of treatment for alcoholism. Someone who has dealt with alcoholism for multiple years likely will endure a longer detox period than a person who has experienced alcohol addiction for a few months.

Detox from Mild and Moderate Alcohol Addiction

During the early stages of alcoholism, drinking tolerance increases as the body adapts to alcohol use. When they stop drinking, people with mild or moderate alcoholism may begin to feel negative side effects, including alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia or anxiety.

Withdrawal effects peak about 72 hours after the last drink, and symptoms reduce between days five and seven.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Symptoms of withdrawal typically begin within eight hours of the last drink, according to a 2014 report published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Withdrawal effects peak at about 72 hours, and symptoms reduce between days five and seven.

Detox from Severe Alcohol Addiction

For those with severe alcoholism, detox takes longer. Severe alcoholics may experience delirium tremens when they stop drinking. Delirium tremens is a set of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms that often affects people with late-stage alcoholism. These symptoms may include confusion, hallucinations and tremors.

Delirium tremens is a rare and serious condition. In fact, research has indicated that about 3 to 5 percent of people hospitalized for alcohol withdrawal experience delirium tremens, according to The New England Journal of Medicine’s report.

Delirium tremens symptoms typically begin about three days after the start of detox. They generally last two to three days, but they can extend past eight days depending on the severity of withdrawal effects. Delirium tremens can lead to death.

Factors that Affect the Duration of Alcohol Detox

A person’s tolerance to alcohol and the severity of his or her addiction are two of the biggest factors that influence the length of time that it takes to detox. The amount of time someone has been dependent on alcohol and the average amount of alcohol consumed also affect detox duration.

Factors that determine how long alcohol detox lasts include:

  • How much the person usually drinks
  • How long the person has been drinking
  • Whether he or she binge drinks or drinks at a steady rate
  • Age
  • Weight
  • Biological sex
  • Genetic factors
  • Tobacco or other drug use
  • Mental health
  • Overall health

The way that a person approaches detox can also quicken or shorten the time it takes to get through withdrawal. Quitting alcohol cold turkey is the fastest way to detox, but it’s also the most dangerous.

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Alcohol Detox in Rehab

Going through alcohol detox at home can be dangerous for someone with alcohol addiction. People with severe alcoholism who suddenly stop drinking can experience dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptoms that they may not know how to manage.

Alcohol rehab offers a safe, secure location for people to detox. Trained medical professionals can employ medication-assisted therapy to alleviate painful withdrawal symptoms. This can expedite the detox process.

Medical staff check the vital signs of people experiencing delirium tremens every 15 to 30 minutes. They also provide medications, such as benzodiazepines, to promote sleep, control agitation and decrease the likelihood of seizures.

After completing detox, people with alcohol addiction enter residential or outpatient treatment, where they can work on changing their feelings toward alcohol and learn ways to control their cravings. They may also participate in alcohol addiction counseling.

Content Writer,
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.
Medical Reviewer
Psychiatrist, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health

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