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How Long Does it Take to Recover From Alcohol Abuse?

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How Long Does It Take to Recover From Alcohol Abuse?

Recovering from alcohol abuse can seem complicated and endless, which is why many people are apprehensive about recovery.

However, knowing what challenges and benefits to expect can make recovering from alcohol abuse more worthwhile and even easier. 

The time it takes to recover from alcohol abuse is different for everyone. The brain typically needs at least 2 weeks to reverse alcohol damage.

Recovery is a lifelong, dynamic process. In most cases, however, the withdrawal process is the hardest during the first week.

How Long Does Detox Take?

Starting the recovery process for alcohol abuse begins with detox. This process can be done at home or in a hospital setting. 

Adjusting from drinking alcohol every day to not drinking at all anymore can be difficult. During this time, you’ll experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

Here’s what to expect:

Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

The first 48 hours are when the alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the most severe. An abrupt cessation of alcohol intake can result in these symptoms manifesting as early as 6 to 8 hours after the last drink.

Symptoms during this time include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Mild fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular sleep

These symptoms might subside by the second day. Seizures might also occur during the first 12 to 48-hour time period.

Five to 6 days after stopping alcohol consumption, you may experience auditory or visual hallucinations. In this case, medical professionals will administer medication to ease the symptoms. They will monitor symptoms in a hospital or clinic.

The majority of people recovering from alcohol abuse experience mild symptoms. However, 5% of these people might experience delirium tremens (DTs), a life-threatening set of withdrawal symptoms.

DTs commonly manifests itself 48 to 72 hours after the cessation of drinking. DTs can cause a person’s body temperature to become dangerously high or cardiac or peripheral circulation failures. These are all life-threatening situations.

In the event of severe withdrawal symptoms, people recovering from alcohol abuse are sedated to prevent exhaustion and injury.

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Long-Term Sobriety

People with long histories of alcohol abuse can still recover and become productive members of society. 

A common saying in AA groups is, ‘all you have to do is quit drinking, and change your whole life!’ However, to do that, there are challenges to overcome.

Challenges of Long-Term Sobriety

One of the most demanding tasks of long-term sobriety is remembering the personal reason(s) for recovery. Here is where 12-step groups come into play.

Twelve-step groups provide lifelong support groups where people offer help through active listening. Telling and listening to recovery stories can remind people of the challenges alcohol caused them and motivate them to continue recovering. Much of the discussion is about people facing life challenges in family, social or work environments, and how they approach these challenges without drinking alcohol.

Anyone recovering from addiction is prone to relapse, which is why they need access to support groups that follow the same recovery principles.

Benefits of Long-Term Sobriety

Maintaining long-term sobriety lessens the risk of:

  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Stroke
  • Stomach bleeding 

Alcohol abuse has also been related to mismanagement of other diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders. All of these become more manageable during long-term sobriety.

You’ll also be able to maintain better relationships with friends and family outside the influence of alcohol.

How Long Does It Take for Your Brain to Recover from Alcohol Addiction?

Addiction risk never entirely disappears. But studies have shown that the brain can begin to reverse the damages from alcohol abuse in as little as 2 weeks.

Alcohol abuse can cause brain matter to shrink. This shrinkage is often due to brain cells changing in size.

When you stop drinking alcohol and your body removes all residual substances, your brain cells begin to normalize. Some researchers say this is the only time that recovery truly begins.

As the brain recovers, you can also retrain it to avoid triggering a relapse. Mindfulness and meditation can help form better habits that support long-term sobriety.

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How Treatment Can Help You Recover

Seeking professional addiction treatment can help in many ways. It provides a safe space to undergo withdrawal symptoms with medical supervision.

Alcohol addiction treatment also offers peer support groups and therapeutic intervention, which are two techniques that can help maintain sobriety.

Aside from joining 12-step groups or inpatient rehabilitation, you also can take medications and undergo behavioral therapy. Medications can ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms during early recovery. Behavioral therapy provides tools to create a stronger foundation for long-term sobriety.

Updated on April 22, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  2. Alcohol related brain damage and recovery.” Life Works, Priory.
  3. Alcohol Use Disorders: Diagnosis and Clinical Management of Alcohol-Related Physical Complications.” National Clinical Guideline Centre, National Clinical Guidelines Centre, 2010
  4. Laudet et al. “Pathways to Long-Term Recovery: A Preliminary Investigation.” Taylor & Francis Online, Informa UK Limited, 6 Sept. 2011
  5. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2014
  6. Treatment - Alcohol misuse.” NHS, Crown, 21 Aug. 2018

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