Heavy drinking can take a major toll on your physical and mental health—especially if you drink heavily on a regular basis or suffer from alcohol addiction. When you drink high amounts of alcohol regularly—such as every day—your body will eventually come to rely on alcohol to experience relaxation, contentment, and happiness, and to avoid feelings of illness in the form of withdrawal symptoms.
In most instances, the safest way to recover from alcohol dependence without putting yourself at risk is to receive professional addiction treatment at an alcohol rehab center.
Here’s a closer look at what happens to your body when you stop drinking, and where to go for help if you’re ready to become sober.
What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Harvard Medical School defines alcohol withdrawal as, “the changes the body goes through when a person suddenly stops drinking after prolonged and heavy alcohol use.” Most people begin to feel alcohol withdrawal symptoms within eight hours after the last drink, reports the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shaking or tremors
- Rapid heart rate
- Irritability and mood swings
- Cloudy thinking
- Loss of appetite
Of the people who experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they quit drinking, between 3% and 5% will go on to experience a severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens, reports the NLM.
Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- Body tremors
- Delirium (severe confusion)
- Excitement or fear
- Abrupt changes in mood
- Bursts of energy
- Extreme sleepiness
- Changes in mental function
- Extreme sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
Delirium tremens is considered a medical emergency. If you think that you or someone you care about may be experiencing delirium tremens, seek medical treatment immediately. A hospital stay may be necessary, during which medications may be used to treat specific symptoms and reduce complications.
How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually last between two and 10 days, reports the World Health Organization (WHO). Factors that may affect the alcohol withdrawal timeline include age, the severity of the addiction, and the presence of medical conditions, among many others. For instance, a person who has been drinking heavily only for a few months may have a shorter withdrawal period than a person who has been struggling with alcohol addiction for many years.
The WHO states that alcohol withdrawal symptoms are typically most severe between 36 and 72 hours after the last drink. Symptoms may last for several weeks, but will gradually dissipate and improve with time—especially if the person practices healthy lifestyle behaviors such as drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods, and staying active. The doctors at an alcohol detox center can usually provide patients with a more accurate timeframe regarding how long it may take them to fully withdraw from alcohol.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detox is the first stage of treatment at an alcohol rehab center. Also commonly known as medical detox, this treatment involves being monitored closely by nurses and doctors while going through withdrawal, and receiving medications and other interventions that help manage and reduce symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, sweating, rapid heart rate, and reduced appetite can often lead to more severe complications when not managed properly. Dehydration, heart attack, and malnutrition are potential complications associated with these symptoms, as well as seizures. Alcohol detox treatment minimizes all these risks and allows patients to recover more comfortably among highly trained and experienced medical staff.
What Happens To Your Body After 3 Weeks Of No Alcohol?
The NLM reports that alcohol withdrawal symptoms may begin several days after the last drink, though three weeks is an exceptionally long time for symptoms to begin, and is unlikely.
By three weeks after the last drink, acute withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sweating will likely have ended, though you may still experience psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression. If you chose to withdraw from alcohol at a detox center, you may be well on your way to feeling significantly better physically and mentally after three weeks of no alcohol. Many detox centers offer nutrition services, yoga, mindfulness meditation, and mental health treatment for those who need help battling any symptoms that linger following the acute stage of alcohol withdrawal.
How Long Does It Take For the Brain To Heal From Alcohol?
Alcohol addiction can often cause long-term damage to brain structure and function, such as brain shrinkage and mental illness. However, researchers have found that brain shrinkage caused by heavy, chronic alcohol use may gradually reverse after staying abstinent from alcohol for a long period. In terms of mental illness, many alcohol rehab centers offer mental health treatment for those who need help recovering from anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition after becoming sober.
The exact length of time it may take for the brain to heal from alcohol will vary from one person to the next based on factors such as the extent of brain damage, lifestyle behaviors, and genetics. For instance, chronic alcohol use can deplete the body’s stores of vitamin B1, which is essential for optimal brain function, reports the National Institutes of Health. However, a person who takes vitamin B1 supplements or who eats lots of foods high in B1 may reverse alcoholic brain disease at a faster rate than those who do not increase their intake of this essential nutrient.
How Long Does It Take To Die If You Stop Drinking?
Quitting alcohol abruptly may lead to death for those who try stopping on their own without professional medical treatment or medical detox—which is why it’s extremely important to get help at an alcohol rehab center when you’re ready to become sober.
Alcohol withdrawal can be highly dangerous for those who have severe alcohol use disorder, as quitting abruptly can lead to grand mal seizures that result in death. Malnutrition, dehydration, hallucinations, and irregular heart rate may also lead to death when not managed properly.
Death from alcohol withdrawal can occur at any point after symptoms begin. When you’re ready to stop drinking if you are struggling with alcohol addiction, seek treatment right away to experience a safe, long-lasting recovery.
Where Is the Best Place To Go For Alcohol Addiction Treatment?
The best place to receive alcohol addiction treatment is a rehab center that offers medical detox, behavioral therapy, and pharmacotherapy. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, all these treatments are proven and effective for the treatment of alcohol use disorder.
After completing alcohol detox, many patients transition into a rehab program to receive behavioral therapy that educates them on how to resist common triggers and manage stress. Most rehab centers offer a variety of behavioral therapies customized for each patient, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, family behavior therapy, and 12-step facilitation therapy such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Pharmacotherapy may also be used to help patients stay sober long-term. Acamprosate, disulfiram, and topiramate are medications all shown to improve treatment outcomes among those in recovery from alcohol addiction. Disulfiram produces unpleasant effects when used with alcohol, while acamprosate and topiramate lessen the desire to drink.
Summer House Detox Center offers alcohol detox in sunny Florida to help people safely recover from alcohol dependence and addiction. Call us today at (877) 338-6907 to learn more about our many customizable addiction treatment programs.
Disclaimer: This post serves a strictly educational use. It does not necessarily reflect the services, products, or therapeutic approaches of this establishment or its healthcare practitioners. The purpose of this blog is not to advertise the products, services, or therapeutic approaches of any other establishment that may be associated with this site. On the subject of safe or legal services, products, and appropriate therapies, recommendations ought to be given by a qualified professional on a case-to-case basis.