Detoxification (or “detox”) is a common approach for those looking to break the habit of substance abuse addiction, and alcohol is no exception here. Alcohol detox is a regular part of many alcohol recovery programs, and there are several parts of this process that are highly variable based on the person in question — including how long it will typically take.

At Moonlight Mountain Recovery, we’re here to offer the very best alcohol and drug rehabilitation services in Boise and nearby areas, including medical detox programs that are highly beneficial to many patients. What are the factors that impact how long alcohol detoxification may take for you or a loved one? Here are several, plus a very general timeline range to keep in mind if you or someone you know is preparing to enter alcohol detox.

Length of Alcohol Addiction

One of the single largest factors that will impact the timeline of alcohol detox is how long the individual has been abusing alcohol in the first place. In general, those who have only been drinking heavily for a short period of time will detox more quickly than those who have been struggling with alcohol addiction for many years.

This is because chronic alcohol abuse takes a serious toll on the body, and can cause lasting damage to vital organs like the liver. In severe cases, this damage may be irreversible, so it’s important to seek help as soon as possible if you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction.

Severity of the Addiction

It’s not just the length of time that someone has been abusing alcohol that matters — the severity of the addiction is also a key factor. Someone who drinks heavily every day is going to have a more difficult time detoxing than someone who only drinks on occasion, even if they’ve been doing so for many years.

The reason for this is simple — someone who drinks heavily every day is consuming a much larger quantity of alcohol, and is likely to have a higher tolerance as a result. This means that they’ll need to detox for a longer period of time in order to completely rid their body of the substance.

Medical Conditions

In some cases, medical conditions can impact how quickly someone will detox from alcohol. For instance, those with liver damage from alcohol abuse may find that it takes longer to detox, as their liver will need time to recover.

Likewise, those with other medical conditions may find that they have a more difficult time detoxing, as their body may not be able to process the alcohol as quickly. It’s important to speak with a medical professional before beginning any alcohol detox program, as they’ll be able to assess your individual needs and make sure that you’re taking the best possible approach.


Age is another factor that can impact alcohol detoxification timelines. In general, younger people will detox more quickly than older individuals, as their bodies are typically more resilient.

This is not always the case, however, as some older individuals may be in better health than their younger counterparts. As with medical conditions, it’s important to speak with a medical professional before beginning any alcohol detox program, as they’ll be able to assess your individual needs and make sure that you’re taking the best possible approach.

Severity of Withdrawal Symptoms

Another key factor that will affect the timeline for alcohol detox is the severity of withdrawal symptoms experienced by the individual in question. Some people who abuse alcohol may only experience mild symptoms like headaches, nausea, and fatigue during detox, while others may suffer from more severe symptoms like hallucinations, delirium tremens (DTs), and seizures.

These more severe symptoms are often associated with a condition known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS), which typically occurs in those who have been drinking heavily for an extended period of time. AWS can be extremely dangerous, so it’s important to seek professional medical help if you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of this condition.

General Alcohol Detox Timeline

While all of the above factors may impact this timeline, either somewhat or significantly in certain cases, here’s a general idea of what those entering such programs can expect:

  • 6-12 hours into detox: Early in the detox process, most people will experience mild symptoms like headaches, nausea, and fatigue. These are clear signs that the body is beginning to rid itself of the alcohol.
  • 12-24 hours into detox: For some people, symptoms will begin to intensify at this point, and they may start to experience more severe symptoms like hallucinations and delirium tremens (DTs).
  • 24-48 hours into detox: By this point, most people will still have mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms, or may have even progressed into very intense symptoms.
  • 48-72 hours into detox: For many people, this is when symptoms will reach their peak before beginning to decline. That said, some may continue to experience severe symptoms for several days or even weeks in certain cases.
  • 72+ hours into detox: After the 72-hour mark, most people will begin to see a significant decline in their withdrawal symptoms, though some may still experience mild fatigue and other issues for a week or more.

It’s important to note that these are general timelines, and the detox process will vary from person to person. If you or a loved one is looking to detox from alcohol, it’s best to speak with a medical professional beforehand to get all the proper information.

For more on this, or to learn about our medical detox or other drug and alcohol addiction recovery programs, speak to the caring staff at Moonlight Mountain Recovery today.