Alcohol Detox

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Call our local number 01603 513 091
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Call our local number 01603 513 091
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Overcoming alcohol dependence means first ceasing alcohol intake, and taking care of physical and chemical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms can begin quickly after you stop drinking, and can be dangerous in an unsupervised setting.

Detoxing from alcohol means undergoing withdrawal, but with the assistance of prescribed medication and a detox phase, to substitute in place of the alcohol itself.

The substitute medication mimics the chemical effects of alcohol, meaning fewer serious withdrawal symptoms are experienced.

Later, once alcohol detox is complete, it’s important to identify and address the root cause of the addiction itself, in a dedicated rehab facility.

Alcohol Addiction & Withdrawal

After alcohol consumption reaches a certain consistency over time, tolerance is likely to increase, and dependence is likely to develop.

This means the brain and central nervous system have adjusted to the level of alcohol intake, and have changed the levels of other brain chemicals and hormones accordingly.

The body becomes used to receiving an amount of certain chemicals from an external source (excessive alcohol). To compensate for this, the brain adjusts to produce less of these on its own.

As intake continues to increase, the brain again produces less of the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, motor function, and other key functions.

In this cycle, it can feel as though the only way to improve these factors, is to drink more alcohol. This is how physical and chemical dependence occurs. Alcohol cravings begin at this point.

Later, when you stop drinking, the brain and body must adjust once more to the change in alcohol consumption. Previous prolonged alcohol use will usually result in severe withdrawal symptoms at this stage.

To avoid these withdrawal symptoms or reduce alcohol cravings, many will return back to alcohol use again.

And, as alcohol use continues over time, the time delay between stopping drinking, and the onset of symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, will reduce.

At this point, we can say that the individual is physically addicted to alcohol. And therefore, the alcohol detox process and addiction treatment are needed to prevent withdrawal related symptoms.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms experienced, can be physical and/or psychological.

Physical Symptoms

Physical withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation – As the alcohol begins to be processed and released by the body, without any further intake, the brain must re-find balance in its production of chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Until it does so, experiencing withdrawal symptoms of agitation, anxiety, heart rate fluctuation, and restlessness is common.
  • Difficulty Sleeping – Chemicals such as serotonin aid sleep patterns. However these are at a low during withdrawal, and as such alcoholics in withdrawal will initially suffer from some difficulty in sleeping until fully detoxed. Insomnia usually occurs in the early stages and could also last long after the effects of other symptoms have subsided.
  • Headache - Usually, alcohol withdrawal is accompanied by some level of headache with varying severity. Some people can also experience a foggy head as part of their headache. While undergoing alcohol withdrawal, you may also experience headaches and dizziness at the same time.
  • Night Sweats Profuse sweating, typically experienced during the night, is the body’s attempt to release some of the alcohol in other ways. The liver processes only so much of the toxins ingested. Excessive alcohol use, for a longer period, will usually result in night sweats alongside other mild withdrawal symptoms.
  • Nausea And Vomiting – Along with increased temperature and sweating come alcohol withdrawal symptoms of nausea and sickness.
  • Blurred Vision - One of the alcohol abuse symptoms is blurred vision, and most people who have had symptoms of alcohol withdrawal have suffered from blurry vision at one time or the other when trying to give up alcohol. Double vision or blurry vision after alcohol abuse can be temporary effects of intoxication or a hangover. This effect is not long-lasting as it is just due to a hangover, and its side effects are apparent after you get sobered, thereby clearing your sight in 24 hours. Apart from the blurry vision withdrawal symptoms, which is just a symptom on its own, you can also experience blurred vision during detox. Hangover blurred vision is an indication of a high level of binge drinking. It is essential that the dangers of drinking, especially to your eyes, are understood clearly. This is because alcohol addiction and problem drinking can cause long-term damages to the eyes. Excess alcohol consumption can lead to blindness in a severe case after the human brain’s ability to process visual input remains impaired.
  • Tremor or Delirium Tremens – Under alcohol withdrawal, motor function suffers, usually resulting in hand tremor, to varying extremes. A severe form of tremor symptoms, accompanied by mental confusion and autonomic nervous system hyperactivity, is called Delirium Tremens. This often occurs around 3 days after the last drink is consumed. The central nervous system is also affected and can lead to physical health issues and muscle spasms.  Delirium Tremens is likely to affect 5% of alcohol dependent patients and neuroleptic medications are often used to minimise their severity.
  • Seizure - Tonic clonic seizures can occur during alcohol withdrawal treatment, and are especially prevalent in those with a pattern of heavy drinking and longer term alcohol abuse. Alcohol itself mimics the effects of a neurotransmtter called GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid), therefore inhibiting neuronal activity. The rebalancing of GABA levels during alcohol detox mean that this suppression of activity is removed, and hence can result in acute episodes of brain activity, resulting in withdrawal seizures. 

These are common withdrawal symptoms and physical signs when you quit drinking and substance abuse.

Psychological Symptoms

The mental health issues that underlie the addiction itself will often surface during the withdrawal period.

Many times, alcoholics are also suffering from co-occurring complex mental health complaints such as Borderline Personality, Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, etc. You may experience  withdrawal symptoms after giving up on drug abuse that can affect your mental symptoms:

  • Depression - If you’ve previously been attempting to suppress (e.g.) sadness, grief, or depression symptoms, these will typically surface even more strongly again during the period of physical withdrawal symptoms.
  • Hallucinations – Especially prevalent in those affected with liver issues such as fatty liver or cirrhosis, visual hallucinations can be very disturbing, but appear very real.
  • Anxiety – Alcohol is a depressant and dulls our day-to-day responses and reactions. When withdrawing from alcohol, any anxiety that would have been present previously is heightened.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is the term used to describe the above collection of withdrawal symptoms but experienced more quickly when you stop drinking.

Symptoms can be the same, but more severe in nature, and are usually seen in those with advanced alcohol abuse, or a drinking problem built up over several years of alcohol dependency.

This will often be accompanied by more advanced physical symptoms of alcohol use disorders, such as a history of seizure, fatty or decompensated liver, or cirrhosis of the liver. Sometimes, there is post acute withdrawal syndrome as well in some individuals.

Withdrawal Timescales

The alcohol detox timeline is as follows:

  • Days 0 –> 1 – Agitation or anxiety symptoms usually begin within 6-12 hours following the last drink, along with other general alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as headache or nausea, as the body attempts to begin processing the alcohol from the body.
  • Days 1 –> 2 – The usual onset of tremor, jerking, and trouble with motor skills, is between days 1 and 2. In more severe cases, some may experience withdrawal seizures during this period. High blood pressure, temperature, nausea, and sickness are also common. If not dealt with care, it can lead to potentially life threatening serious complications. Prescription medications in case of severe symptoms are essential.
  • Days 2–> 3+ – Shakes, blood pressure fluctuations, and the possibility of withdrawal seizures continue. If hallucinations, withdrawal delirium, or delirium tremens are likely, they will usually start during this period. Those with pre-existing non-alcohol-related mental disorders or neurological issues may experience exacerbated symptoms during this period. If you experience severe withdrawal symptoms when quitting drinking or during the recovery process, seek urgent help from medical professionals.
  • After a week - Most symptoms begin to subside once you complete the first week of detox. You may experience acute withdrawal symptoms that go on for more than a week. These symptoms are manageable and can be treated with medication.  

If you're facing severe symptoms, it might be time to get the alcohol withdrawal treatment options to deal with alcohol dependency. In cases of alcohol use disorder or substance abuse, contact Mental Health Services Administration in the US, or your local GP in the UK for detox and withdrawal.

Alcohol Help

What Is Alcohol Detox?

Completing alcohol detox means ceasing intake, and beginning alcohol withdrawal, but doing so with a medication that substitutes the effects of alcohol, and reduces the risk of severe side effects such as seizure or liver complications.

This is usually done under medical supervision and advice.

Home Detox

A certified addiction professional attends and oversees your detox, including withdrawal symptoms, offering initial support in person, and later, by telephone.

Whilst home alcohol detoxification can be a suitable option for those who don't drink heavily, or with unavoidable practical commitments, it’s not a cure for alcohol use disorder, and in most cases, we recommend a residential stay to deal more fully with alcoholism in your life, and its causes. It will help to deal with life threatening symptoms and provide treatment options beyond residential treatment providers.

Residential Detox

In the majority of cases, treatment for alcohol addiction in a treatment facility is safer and more comfortable.

Your alcohol withdrawal symptoms are monitored, and adjustments can be made by clinicians to ensure your detox goes smoothly.

Substance abuse treatment in a clinic offers safety in being physically away from your alcoholic triggers, and the stressors in life that would previously have caused you to turn to alcohol, to cope with.

Gaining the emotional breathing space to detox is one of the biggest advantages of residential treatment, and provides a greater chance for long term success, than attempting to detox alone or in a community setting.

Detox As Part Of A Bigger Treatment Plan

Detoxing from alcohol is usually one step of a bigger plan, to tackle the psychological and lifestyle issues that have resulted in alcoholism, and its consequences in your life.

Following alcohol detox, most will progress onwards into a full residential alcohol rehab facility.

Treatment: Detox > Rehab > Aftercare

A full recovery from alcoholism usually takes place in 3 stages:

  • Detox
  • Rehab
  • Aftercare


Detoxing from alcohol in a treatment centre setting usually takes 7-10 days and both medical and addiction specialist staff are on hand throughout to assist.

After meeting with clinic staff and the medical care team, most clinics will begin your detox medication shortly thereafter, depending on specifics and detox symptoms.

Most spend the first few days of detox, resting more than normal, to give the body and mind a chance to find equilibrium again.

Adjustments can be made to tailor the detox process to your needs and symptoms. For most, it is a relatively comfortable experience to overcome the alcohol detox symptoms during the treatment process and withdrawal phase.

After 3-4 days of initial rest, you’ll normally be asked to begin to take part in the daily activities in the clinic.

Even a small understanding gained from therapeutic work undertaken can reap sizeable long-term improvements in psychological health.


Beginning a treatment programme for alcoholism is the first step in earnest, toward long-term alcohol recovery.

It’s a statement that you’re willing, and ready, to tackle the underlying issues that have kept you trapped in using alcohol as a coping mechanism, over time.

Rehab usually starts as soon as detox ends and means taking part in an organised program of activities in a treatment facility.

The treatment process will usually include:

  • Therapeutic help, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help you identify core beliefs, patterns, and conditioning around alcohol.
  • 12 step work, building a foundation for alcohol recovery based on the historically successful work of alcoholics anonymous.
  • Holistic care and therapies such as reiki, reflexology, massage, etc. Most residential clinics provide a variety of holistic therapeutic work. This provides a number of options to choose from, when planning your long-term recovery work, and can help you realise the other options to release stress and tension, beyond turning to a coping mechanism.
  • Physical exercise – any recovery from alcohol will include finding more balance in life between physical and spiritual and learning to adopt exercise as a means to release stress and deal with issues that may previously have acted as triggers in your life. In treatment, you’ll be encouraged to take part in regular exercise to reinforce this. This could be walking, cycling, yoga, Pilates, or a gym workout.


Rehabilitation from alcohol, for good, also means planning for the future.

Alcoholism tends to foster chaos in life, and most alcoholics suffer from a lack of structure, and a strong foundation in life, to grow from.

Solid aftercare planning in a treatment centre setting helps you evaluate what you’ve learned in the clinic, and lays out a plan to provide support for the future.

You’ll collaborate with your case manager, on a practical plan – for day-to-day life in recovery, and what that will look like, in practice.

More specialist forms of support can be set up at this point, and aftercare planning in Abbeycare is tailored to your needs, including location, following treatment.

Addiction Help FAQ

I’ve been detoxed before at home or in a clinic, can I be detoxed again?

We can assess your suitability for treatment individually as this will depend on a number of factors, unique to you. Generally, where you’ve undergone detox before, you should strongly consider a full residential rehab programme to tackle the underlying psychology behind the pattern of alcoholism in your life.

Can I self-detox, without any help?

We strongly advise against this. Detoxing or withdrawing from alcohol can be dangerous, even with only mild symptoms. Withdrawing can result in Delirium Tremens, and in some cases, seizures and blood pressure issues. The safest option is to seek supervised, professional treatment.

What about detoxing at home?

Abbeycare do offer a home alcohol detox service.

However, there are a few important points to note. By it’s nature, detoxing at home, even with assistance, carries less supervision than being in the fully supported environment of a residential treatment provider.

Your safety is our highest priority and as such, approval and acceptance rates for our home detox service tend to be lower than our residential service.

In many cases, residential alcohol rehab is also more cost-effective than detoxing at home. Please ring us direct for personal advice on your unique situation.

How long does alcohol detox typically take? (Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline)

Detox can normally be achieved within 7-10 days, for most This assumes no severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms are present. However, this depends on a number of factors personal to you, including, current and past alcohol intake level, dependency developed, pre-existing mental health factors, pre-existing medical conditions, other factors such as age, gender, weight, and the decisions of the medical professionals at the specific treatment centre you've chosen.

If you’re completing detox as part of a rehab program, this will usually take 28 days or longer.

I’ve been detoxed previously in hospital, can I undertake the remainder of the programme in the clinic?

Usually, yes. In all cases, your suitability for detox is assessed by Abbeycare treatment centres on an individual basis. To discuss treatment, ring us direct on 01603 513 091.

Is it ok to drink again, in moderation, after being detoxed?

It’s generally acknowledged by those in alcoholism recovery, that drinking in moderation is impossible, in most cases, due to psychological associations, triggers, and prolonged alcohol use in the past.

Making a commitment to remain abstinent from alcohol, for good, makes it much more likely you’ll achieve lasting freedom from substance abuse.

What happens after the detox phase?

If you’re undertaking alcohol detox in a safe and supportive environment, like a clinic, their treatment programme will usually begin as soon as detox completes, if not before. This means taking part in a daily agenda of recovery activities, psycho-educational learning, and treatment programme, to learn about your personal triggers for alcohol and the underlying psychology behind your alcohol pattern. The exact programme of addiction treatment will depend on your specific treatment provider.

How much does alcohol detox cost?

In some cases, alcohol detoxification can actually be cheaper in the clinic than at home.

Costs vary, depending on your length of treatment, specific treatment provider, and your needs. Two individuals drinking the same amount could need entirely different treatment centres, depending on other factors. Please ring direct for personalised advice. Or, Abbeybot below can provide guideline pricing, subject to approval from our admissions and medical teams.

Where are your clinics located?

Abbeycare are a UK based treatment provider. We offer both alcohol detoxification at home and in our residential clinics in Scotland and Gloucester. Our admissions team offer professional treatment advice on 01603 513 091.

What are the success rates for alcohol detox?

Success rates are generally very high for alcohol detox, it would be very unusual for someone to not complete detox successfully.

Long-term recovery from alcoholism depends on undertaking the rehabilitation work thoroughly and following through on aftercare planning.

Your long-term success is likely to be proportionate to the therapeutic work you’ve completed, the depth of your understanding of your addiction, and your follow-through on supports provided.


Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: September 27, 2023

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.