How long does it take for the liver to detox?

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The liver starts to detox immediately within hours after your last three drinking sprees.

Factors such as age, weight, how much you drink, how often you drink, how long you have been drinking, previous detox history and pre-existing health conditions affect the length of time needed for your liver to flush out all the toxins brought by alcohol dependency.

Liver detox, also known as cleansing or flush, is a popular treatment for alcoholism which aims eliminate alcoholism-acquired toxins.

This is also done to regain the liver's normal health, heal alcohol-induced scarring, and save what's left on our liver.

The liver is the body's largest internal organ responsible for delivering over 500 bodily functions.

These include detoxification, carrying medicines and specific nutrients, and filtering the body from harmful toxins through neutralization.

Alcohol consumption puts our liver in great jeopardy.

As soon as alcohol is ingested, the brain sends out a message to the liver to eliminate the toxic substance, pressuring it to work harder and remove the poison out of the body.

With constant alcohol exposure, the liver becomes inflamed, scarred, and develops abnormal cell growth or cancer.

Like any other organ in the system, the liver is also equipped with built-in protection against toxins allowing it to regenerate within days or weeks.

For people with decent health, young age, and a brief history of alcoholism, the liver can fully recover and return to normal health after two weeks.

For severe or chronic drinkers with liver damage, the healing process may take a few months or longer and leave permanent scarring and irreversible damage.

People who once loved their daily dose of booze come to a certain point where they want to wean off from alcohol and start living a healthy lifestyle.

They often wonder how long it takes the liver to detoxify all the ingested toxins.

This is normal because no one wants to get stuck on cleansing for a long term, and we all want to immediately start the detox cleansing regimen and finish it in no time.

However, liver detox is a process, and there's no shortcut to it. You need to trust and follow the process and let your liver perform its function at its own pace.

Start by weaning off from alcohol as soon as possible so that your liver can gradually start cleaning your system.

Liver detox requires close supervision from medical and treatment professionals because it triggers the onset of alcohol detox symptoms or withdrawal symptoms.

The intensity of these symptoms varies depending on the person's alcohol history.

Whether the symptoms are mild or severe, the patient should be placed under close monitoring of a medical professional, preferably a doctor from one of our specialist rehab facilities.

Withdrawal symptoms can manifest as a manageable discomfort for people who have not drunk long enough to develop chronic dependency.

However, chronic alcoholics are more likely to experience severe alcohol detox symptoms.

These symptoms are severe and can even become life-threatening; thus, close monitoring performed by a medical treatment professional is necessary.

How long should I detox my liver?

The general liver detox cycle commonly lasts for seven (7) days, but this number is just an approximation and non-definitive. 

As discussed above, there is no ironclad number, formula, or timeline on how long your liver detox should last.

Furthermore, the speed of detoxification depends on several factors such as age, current toxin build-up, alcohol drinking history, weight, and medical condition. Thus, the length of time needed to cleanse varies.

For alcoholics with decent health, the time needed to cleanse can be shorter. Also, people with a brief history of alcoholism are more likely to detoxify faster.

But for chronic and severe alcoholics who have been drinking heavily for a long time, their liver needs a longer detoxification cycle to flush out all the toxic chemicals in the system.

Liver detoxification or cleansing is a preparatory step towards complete rehabilitation.

Before starting the more extended rehabilitation programme, the body needs to gradually release all the accumulated toxins and give the body a chance to regain its normal functions and achieve full recovery from alcohol.

When you divulge into alcoholism, the body's biological balance changes, creating pseudo homeostasis wherein it adapts to a new routine and accepts the presence of alcohol in the system as part of its new normal.

During the liver detox cycle, the body needs time to adapt and regain its normal homeostasis removing alcohol from the equation.

The body immediately detects the ongoing treatment for alcohol abuse and alcoholism and quickly reacts to it.

The National Institute on Health defines it as a period where medical professionals help the patient repress their alcohol-inclined psychological and biological dependence.

But don't mistake liver detox as a treatment for alcoholism because it is not an alcohol addiction treatment.

It is merely the initial process towards full private alcohol rehab that aims to clear the mind, cleanse the body, and straighten the person's perspective to pursue full rehabilitation and eventually go back to their life rhythm.

Generally, a liver detox cycle is comprised of three stages:

1. Intake Evaluation

The medical professionals assigned to the case will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the patient's history, including drug abuse, medical records, and psychiatric history.

This is done to ensure that the team is ready, equipped with all important information to understand the patient better, and deliver a feasible plan of action to address the patient's case.

2. Medication

Depending on the detox program, it mostly uses medications to manage and mitigate detox symptoms.

These medications are administered to mimic the effects of alcohol in the body, suppress other discomforts, and address co-existing disorders.

3. Stabilization 

Medical and psychological therapies are given to patients to help them regain biological and psychological homeostasis. This aims to clarify further the patients' mind and body from alcohol-induced urges.

Detoxification can be done through inpatient and outpatient set-up but should be closely monitored at all times.

Medically-assisted liver detoxification minimizes and mitigates withdrawal symptoms, but there's no ironclad assurance that they will not experience any adverse symptoms.

That is why round-the-clock monitoring is recommended to alleviate and prevent the sudden onset of unavoidable adverse effects. 

What are the signs of liver detox working?

The signs of liver detox working involve mild to life-threatening symptoms. The short-term minor signs include confusion, anxiety, irritability, sweating, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, nightmare, and headache.

On the other hand, serious signs include increased heart rate, tremors, picked-up blood pressure, seizures, extreme hallucinations, disorientation, and in worse but rare cases, delirium tremens.

These signs are also known as withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to understand that everyone responds and reacts to liver detox differently. Here is a timeline of detox and the corresponding signs of liver detox for each phase.

1. First few hours (8-10 hours)

The first set of detox signs occurs during the first 8-10 hours after your last sip of alcohol. You may experience nausea, abdominal pain, shaking, headaches, irritability, and bouts of anxiety. 

You are also likely to experience fatigue, restlessness, and insomnia due to your liver doing a hard time filtering toxins flushing them away, and getting tired in the process.

2. The first days ( 24- 72 hours)

The struggle continues during the next 24-72 hours after your last shot of alcohol.

Fatigue is most likely to predominantly rule your day along with confusion. At this time, your body is exhausted in processing the ingested toxins, and your liver steadily continues its function in eliminating the remaining toxins.

Due to the continuous metabolic processes inside your body, your brain's ability to process information is affected. I

t is manifested through your delayed reactions to stimuli or inability to understand the situation that you're in.

As time passes by, more signs start to set in. As the metabolic and excretion processes continue, the physical and psychological symptoms become imminent, putting added pressure on the body.

The body needs to compensate for these additional pressures, which results in an elevation in body temperature, which leads to an increase in blood pressure which in turn trigger a rapid increase in heart rate leading to a cycle of fatigue and anxiety.

At this point, the urge to drink alcohol to stop detox signs is optimally at its peak.

3. The first week

Series of detox signs may come and go during the second day until the end of your first week. Signs of emotional agitation are prominent at this stage, and the urge to drink increases.

The liver remains at detoxification even with minimal traces of alcohol in the system because it was used to working double time in processing ethanol from the body.

The sudden absence of it disrupts the fake balance of the liver. At this point, you can expect hallucinations, seizures, and tremors to set in. 

Auditory anomalies also occur at this stage, including ringing in the ears and hearing strange sounds. For medically assisted liver detox, these signs can be mitigated and properly managed.

Patients should be informed of what they may experience during detoxification to prepare themselves for these signs.

4. After 7 days

After the first agonizing seven days of your liver detox program, the signs start to diminish until it eventually tapers off.

Symptoms may persist for a few weeks, but most of these signs are minor and are manageable with detox medications.

Severe signs of liver detox also minimize after the first week of rigorous detox, but some may experience Post-acute Withdrawal Symptoms or (PAWS).

It is a longer-term sign of liver detox, which includes anxiety, insomnia, and delayed reflexes, and these could last for a few months up to a year.

The most challenging time in the liver detox timeline is the first 10-30 hours after your last shot of alcohol. The signs start to lessen as the body weans off from alcohol approximately between the 40th to 50th hour.

Delirium Tremens is a severe sign of liver detox, but it's rare, only affecting around 5 per cent of alcohol backsliders. This commonly occurs within the first 2-5 days after your last drink.

It is characterized by shaking, rapid confusion, sweating, shivering, irregular heartbeat, and hallucination.

It has a high mortality rate because patients who develop Delirium Tremens are most likely to get Aspiration Pneumonia.

Moreover, its effects are irreversible. That's why medically-assisted liver detox is recommended to prevent the onset of fatal signs and symptoms.

People with pre-existing lung and heart conditions should seek a medical professional to administer and monitor the detoxification because the signs can quickly worsen, and their bodies can deteriorate fast.

With medically assisted detox, your heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs are monitored. You can also seek help to alleviate pain, discomfort and ask for counselling.

Start your Liver Detox Now

Alcoholic or not, your liver is incessantly subjected to toxins since we are surrounded by different types of toxins from the food we eat, the beverage we consume, and the air we breathe.

The liver is usually equipped with a self-regenerative function to protect itself while delivering its basic bodily functions. But the story changes when alcohol is added into the equation.

Alcohol brings in loads of toxins to the body bringing the liver to work hard in processing, breaking, and excreting them.

The liver's constant and continuous exposure to alcohol leads to inflammation and other liver damages.

Don't let your liver get tired of flushing out toxic alcohol. Start your rehabilitation journey now and seek a liver detox program to help you get back to your old life rhythm and shape.

Please don't wait until it's too late! Let us help you find the best liver detox program provider for you, and let us guide you through your sobriety journey.

Reach us through our 24/7 free Helpline at 01603 513 091 to talk with our licensed professional counsellor.

You may also visit our rehab centres located in Scotland or Gloucester. This is non-obligatory, and we will keep your information confidential.


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.