What is the fastest way to detox from alcohol?

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There is no ironclad formula and a definitive answer as to how quickly the body will detox and eliminate all toxins. 

However, if you wish to opt to quicken your detox from alcohol, we suggest that you enrol in a medically assisted detox programme performed in a rehabilitation and treatment centre to help minimize the symptoms, strengthen your drive to detoxify through counselling, and prevent the diverse effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.  

Although it does not affect the timeline of detoxification, it increases your chance of completing the process of straightening your mind and logic and flushing the toxin build-up in your body.  

Generally, it takes the body 7 days to detoxify but that is not, in any way, accurate and precise.

How quickly your body reacts to the sudden cessation of alcohol supply and how fast the liver process, break-down, and excrete the accumulated toxin build-up in your system depends on several factors including your age, weight, health condition, detox history, toxicity level, alcohol tolerance, and length of alcohol drinking history.

Thus, each case is unique, and the length of time needed to detox varies.  

An alcohol detox timeline is set to educate people on what to expect during the process. The time and symptoms may vary from the actual because each case is different. 

This only serves as a guide to understand what goes on in the process, prepare for what might happen during the process, and inspire yourself that despite the hard process of detoxification, a sober version of you is possible at the end of the journey.  

Although there’s no evidence that the detoxification process can be expedited, we can help our body cleanse itself and eliminate all the toxins away.

Lending extra help may boost our system’s integrity while performing its natural detox function.  

1. Sleep it off

After all the nights spent in binge drinking sprees, it’s just fair to give your body a break. Sleep helps the body recuperate from all the damages caused by alcohol and its complications.

Studies showed that enough sleep allows the brain to rejuvenate, helps identify toxin build-up in the body, and send out commands to concerned organs to expedite the process of removing the poisons out.

2. Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate

Water is a universal solvent. Aside from lubricating the joints, regulating normal body temperature, dissolving food particles during digestion, and aiding in nutrient absorption, water helps detoxify the body by stimulating the excretion process.

Drinking lemon water also helps cleanse your liver, the main detoxifying organ of the body. Lemon juice is known to revitalize the liver and stimulates the elimination of toxin build-up in the body.

3. Eat Right               

Food is the fuel of the body. It provides appropriate energy that allows the body to resume its normal body functions.

So, while your system is all worked up in detoxification, using every ounce of nutrient to amplify detox processes, show some support by eating the right and nutritious food.

Cruciferous vegetables are great foods that aid in detox. It aids in the digestion process all while supplying the body with essential nutrients.

4. Be friends with Antioxidants

After exposing your body to free radicals generated from drinking too much alcohol for a long time, it’s time to seek help from antioxidant-rich foods.

Antioxidants protect the cells against molecular damage caused by free radicals.

Go the natural way by eating antioxidant-rich foods instead of ingesting supplements; nothing beats the natural process not even synthetic supplementary supports.

Foods’s rich in Vitamin A, C, E, selenium, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin contain choke-full antioxidants. Focus on eating fruits like berries, nuts, vegetables, and spices.

You may also reinforce your diet with cocoa, coffee, and green tea beverages which are known for their high antioxidant contents.

5. Take advantage of Prebiotics

To boost your body’s detox, support your gut health by adding probiotics to your diet. Your intestines have their own detoxification and excretory system that protects your gut and the normal flora of your digestive system.

Your gut houses good bacteria called probiotics which helps in the production of short-chain fatty acids.

Probiotics feed on prebiotics to fulfil their functions- boosts immunity and maximizes detoxification. Natural prebiotics food sources include tomatoes, artichokes, bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic, and oats.

6. Exercise

Exercise increases the metabolic rate of the body and boosts digestive function which in turn amplifies the body’s excretion.

However, due to sudden changes in lifestyle and diet, you need to consider your body’s ability to withstand physical activity.

Start with a low impact, low intensity, and short-duration exercise.

How Long Does It Take to Detox from Alcohol?

Asking how long it takes to detox from alcohol could mean two (2) things; the time it takes to eliminate the toxins from the body or how long each detox treatment programme lasts. 

Initial detox takes about a week but the process of clearing the mind and body from all the accumulated toxins may take weeks, even a few months, depending on age, weight, drinking history, current medical condition, history of previous detox attempts, and substance abuse.

On the other hand, the detox treatment programmes often last for a week although there are shorter detox programmes that only last for 3 or 5 days long.

Every human being has a different DNA genetic make-up than the other. Even siblings who share the same parents have different DNA.

This is also one of the reasons why there is no definitive answer as to how long it takes to detox from alcohol, different DNA make-up.

Our body performs biological processes at its own pace. Although there are time frames for most biological processes, it only serves as a guide and most processes don't fall within the said time frame.

And that goes for the alcohol detox process as well.

Here’s a list of the factors that affect how quickly the body’s detoxification process, including:

  • Co-occurring substance abuse or multiple substance abuse and which substance/s was used
  • Length of drinking history
  • Amount of alcohol ingested per drinking session
  • Drinking frequency
  • Underlying health and mental condition
  • Medical history
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Weight

Younger people in decent health, with a brief history of alcoholism, and who have never indulged in substance abuse have a higher chance to detox and free themselves from alcohol-induced toxins quicker than chronic alcoholics.

Generally, detox starts after a few hours from your last shot of liquor, and this is also where detox symptoms start.

To get a better understanding of the detoxification process and withdrawal symptoms that one may experience, the American Academy of Family Physicians subdivided the potential detox symptoms into three stages.

Stage 1- Mild or the first 6-12 hours

During the first few hours, the person may experience mild detox symptoms or the first signs that you are weaning off from alcohol psychologically and biologically.

Symptoms may include headache, gastrointestinal pain and disturbances, insomnia, bouts of anxiety, poor appetite, heart palpitations, and hand tremors, and nausea.

Stage 2- Moderate or 1-3 days after last alcohol intake

As you go deeper into your detoxification process, your brain starts to react to the absence of an incessant supply of alcohol into the system.

As you form a drinking habit, your brain and body start to recognize alcohol as a normal part of your routine and system.

The sudden removal of alcohol in your daily routine disrupts the brain’s pseudo-normal and it goes haywire trying to adapt to its absence and shift to its original normalcy during pre-alcoholism days.

During Stage 2, commonly manifests 1-3 days after your last drink, your detox symptoms increase, adding elevated blood pressure, confusion, slight hyperthermia, and increased respiratory rate into the equation.

Stage 3- Severe or 1 week after the last sip of alcohol

During the third stage, the body continues to detoxify the remaining traces of alcohol and toxins in the body. The urge to drink increases and the determination to continue tends to slip away.

But with proper guidance, counselling, and encouragement from family, friends, and professional treatment counsellors will help you earn back your drive to go on with the detox programme and the following rehabilitation and treatment process.

During the 3rd or Severe stage, you may experience stage 2 moderate symptoms with hallucinations, fever, profuse sweating, and in worse cases, Delirium Tremens (DT).

The third stage manifests the worst, hard-to-resists symptoms and unbearable symptoms that often require medication to alleviate the discomfort and manage the complications. 

How to safely detox from alcohol at home?

Detox from alcohol at home is not recommended because it poses fatal complications.

However, safely detoxing from alcohol at home is still possible even without round-the-clock medical supervision if you exert an extra layer of caution, receive full support from family, are equipped with proper information, and an emergency plan of action is available.

Although you can choose either to go cold turkey or gradually taper off, it is still advisable to go with the latter to avoid causing the body to go into shock due to abrupt deprivation of alcohol,

Before deciding whether to detox at home or seek medical treatment, you need to understand what happens to the body once you start to detoxify.

Alcoholism influences the body to develop a certain chemical addiction to the substances present in alcohol.

As your drinking progresses and the volume of your alcohol intake increases, your body tries to keep up resulting in further dependency.

Now, when you decide to detoxify and abruptly deprive your body of alcohol, you unconsciously send your body, neurotransmitters of the brain, and blood levels to go into shock.

Alcohol suppresses and temporarily disables your brain’s neurotransmitters.

Once alcohol supply to the body is reduced or deprived, your glutamate levels spike up reaching sensitive neurotransmitters causing your brain to go haywire and sends in abnormal commands into the body.

Alcohol detox symptoms are beyond discomfort, it poses risks for complications that can be fatal.

It is important to seek professional advice and medical consultation before going into outpatient alcohol detox at home.

It will help you gather significant information on what to do, how to do it, and the signs you need to monitor in case complications and other high-risk symptoms arise.

Studies and records show that safe alcohol detox at home is possible and here’s a rundown on how to do it.

1. Gradually Taper-off

Tapering from alcohol is the best option to avoid the sudden onset of major alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It is done by cautiously reducing your alcohol intake and taking it at a scheduled interval.

When choosing the tapering method, you need to seek supervision from a family member who will closely monitor your alcohol intake including the dosage and scheduled frequency.

Having someone to monitor your tapering off process will help you follow the process. When weaning off, you cannot trust your decision-making skills because you can sabotage your plans out of desperation.

2. Get rid of potential temptations

Make your home comfortable and conducive for detoxification and rehabilitation. Throw away all your hidden stash of alcohol and steer clear from alcoholic friends to avoid temptation.

3. Seek Support from Significant Others

You will need all the support available during this challenging phase in your life. Don't hesitate to reach out and seek support from your immediate family.

You will need someone to strictly follow your tapering process, schedule, and dosage.

In case your withdrawal symptoms worsen to a severe level, you will need someone to help you alleviate the symptoms, manage the discomforts, and call for immediate medical intervention when the need arises.

Aside from that, you will also need utmost emotional support and inspiring encouragement to avoid falling into urges and cravings.

4. Free-up your Schedule

Weaning off from alcohol is not a walk in the park. It will require your full attention and commitment. Alcohol detox takes time and there’s no shortcut to it.

You are most likely to be out of shape during the process thus you need to put off work and other prior schedules to concentrate on your recovery journey.

5. Eat Healthy Foods

You may lose appetite during alcohol detox because of all the withdrawal symptoms that you’ll go through. However, you need to reinforce your body’s immunity and overall health with nutritious food.

Eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy diet will help boost your body’s detoxification functions.

6. Divert your Attention

Alcohol symptoms are uncomfortable by nature, but you need to apply the mind over body rule to ease the discomforts.

Diverting your attention to fun and enjoyable activities will help you bear the symptoms. Dwelling on the discomforts will only heighten your cravings and urges and will increase your likelihood to fall back into your old alcoholic routine.

7. Proper Hydration

Stay well-hydrated during your alcohol detox journey. This will help you avoid dehydration headaches which can worsen your detox symptoms.

Hydrating your system properly will also help your body’s natural detox functions by enhancing your excretory processes flushing traces of toxins in the process.

8. Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

After years of alcohol abuse, your body needs all vitamins and minerals to amplify metabolic processes, boost healing, and help regain its normal balance and homeostasis.

You can take multivitamins, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, and magnesium to strengthen your body’s immunity to fight off toxins.

9. Remember that this, too, shall pass

Keep a positive mindset that these withdrawal symptoms are just temporary and will soon wear off. The discomfort that the process brings is manageable with proper intervention, but the effect is lifelong.

You just need to cross the boundary of sobriety, take one step at a time, be patient, and strengthen your will to recover from alcoholism.

Alcohol detox: To admit or not?

Medically assisted alcohol detox is recommended to ensure your safety throughout your cleansing journey.

However, safe alcohol detox at home is also possible given that it’s done with caution, optimum support from family members, and strict compliance with the process.

In choosing whether to admit to a clinically assisted alcohol detox, you need to consider significant factors including age, weight, medical history, pre-existing health conditions, and comorbidity, drinking history, and co-occurring mental condition to assess potential health and risk of severe complication.

It is important to assess the body’s capability to adjust to withdrawal symptoms in deciding whether to admit or not.

In hospitals, they follow a certain set of protocols and they use indicators to help them create a smart and effective evaluation and recommendation. It is best to admit and seek medically assisted detoxification for patients with:

1. Alcoholism-related History

It is vital to gather as much information as possible regarding the person’s alcoholism history.

It’s important to know how long he’s been drinking, the volume of alcohol he regularly consumes, detox history, previous withdrawals and relapse, and previous detox symptoms he experienced such as tremors, hallucinations, seizures, and Delirium Tremens.

These factors are predictive of recurrence thus knowing this information helps the medical provider evaluate your chance of experiencing severe symptoms once you start detoxing.

It is also important to acquire accurate information about potential substance abuse along with alcoholism.

A combination of alcohol and prohibited drugs have a stronger, more addictive, and damaging effect on the body and the withdrawal symptoms are relatively severe.

2. Initial Findings

The person may lie but the body’s gait, stupor, vital signs, and current condition couldn't.

It’s important to take notice of the person’s vital signs as it may give hints on the current condition and level of alcohol dependency in which the person can deny.

Existing medical conditions such as difficulty in breathing, rapid heart rate, infection, etc. need to be closely monitored especially when detox begins because it may worsen or cause a series of complications that the body may not be able to withstand.

3. Laboratory Screening Results

Laboratory results will provide more accurate data on the current health condition of the patient.

These laboratory screenings may include complete blood count (CBC), chemistry panel, liver function tests, urine toxicology screening, and blood alcohol level (BAC).

In case your laboratory results are below or above normal levels, admission to a clinically administered detox is highly recommended to prevent potential manifestations of complications and severe withdrawal symptoms which may aggravate your abnormal body function.

4. Comorbidities

People with pre-existing medical conditions should opt for medically assisted detox because they are at high risk of complicated withdrawal.

They are more likely to experience severe to chronic withdrawal symptoms during detoxification and it may trigger their pre-existing condition making matters worse.

Alcohol detox on patients with liver disease, acute pancreatitis, congestive heart failure, heart arrhythmias, aspiration pneumonia, and hypertension requires close round-the-clock monitoring because they are at high risk of cardiac arrest.

Moreover, patients with ulcers and other medical conditions that are at high risk for haemorrhage require close supervision because, at this point, alcohol has damaged the clotting function of the body.

Outpatient alcohol detox is different from self-detox. Never attempt to self-detoxify because it could expose you to irreversible dangers which could be fatal.

If you want to detoxify at the comfort of your home, you need to seek the recommendation of a certified medical rehabilitation treatment professional to make sure that you are making the right choice.

In outpatient alcohol detox, the patient regularly reports to the rehabilitation facility to seek medication that will alleviate withdrawal discomfort, attend counselling, support groups, such as AA.

The process of alcohol detox is not simple, and it requires every ounce of drive, determination, and will to seek professional help, admit to detox programmes, continue with the rehabilitative treatment programme, and successfully overcome alcoholism, and enjoy a long life of sobriety.

Help is available and we are willing to listen. We will give you options and we’ll work together in your journey towards sobriety.

Our 24/7 free Helpline at 01603 513 091 is open for you and will remain available until you’re ready to seek help. You may also visit our clinics at Abbeycare Scotland or Abbeycare Gloucester to schedule an appointment.

We have the best and empathetic licensed professional counsellor to discuss the best options available for you. Let’s work together to regain the old, sober, and great you.


About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete 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 The Hygrove and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.