Alcohol Detox & Withdrawal

Medically Managed Detox

Dedicated detox unit with round-the-clock care from a team of doctors and nurses.

Safe, Medically Managed Detox

We understand that detox can be daunting. That is why we are here to offer medical guidance and support throughout the process so you can rest assured you are in the safest of hands.

Located close to the main hospital is our alcohol detox centre, Kirkurd House. With ten single, en-suite bedrooms, a large sitting room and a 24/7 medical centre complete with full-time medical staff, the unit follows NICE quality standards, including  QS11 Alcohol-use disorders: diagnosis & management.

Castle Craig is one of the few addiction hospitals in the UK with a medically-managed detox unit.

Alcohol Detox Explained

  • How long does it take to detox from alcohol? Detox is person-specific and will be influenced by the duration and quantities of alcohol consumed. Typically it can vary from 3-14 days. The first 72 hours after stopping drinking is considered the most high-risk and requires the closest observation.
  • Do you need to detox under medical supervision for alcoholism? Most people opt for a medical detox in order to ensure safety. However, this ultimately depends on the severity of your illness and can be answered after a short, free assessment.
  • An alcohol detox on its own is often not enough to sustain long-term sobriety.
  • Withdrawal from alcohol: The physical effects of withdrawal can vary but typically can include sweating, shaking, anxiety, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, hallucinations and in severe cases seizures. At Castle Craig, we medically manage all symptoms within our detox facility.

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Do I Really Need a Detox?

Often, patients displaying mild alcohol dependence will not require an assisted detox. If you drink less than 15 units of alcohol 4-5 days a week then it’s possible that detox might not be necessary, although all people have different levels of tolerance. Patients with moderate dependence can generally be treated in a less formal setting or with a home/community detox.

Detox is the First Step in Recovery

Everyone who steps through our doors is assessed by our expert team of specialist doctors and nurses, psychiatrists and therapists, not everyone requires detox, and whether it’s needed will depend on the severity of one’s addiction.

We hope this section of the website will act as a guide to detoxing from alcohol and its role in helping you recover.

Establishing Your Drinking History

To create a bespoke detox programme, our medical team first carefully establish each patient’s chemical/alcohol use history. Often people minimise how much they have been drinking, or have other substances in their bloodstream, so it is important to make a thorough assessment. 

This assessment phase is followed by blood tests, which give the medical team a more precise diagnosis. Sometimes we come across substances that haven’t been mentioned; for example, somebody has come in primarily for a problem with alcohol but has also been taking Benzodiazepines. We can treat both of these substances as part of detox.

What Are We Trying to Achieve?

Alcohol detox is the first step in treating alcoholism.

Addiction is a complex and chronic illness, caused by a person’s environment, life experiences, social circumstances and biological factors such as genetics. Addressing these issues takes time and detox is simply the beginning; it cannot treat the underlying cause.

However, before fully immersing a patient into therapy at Castle Craig, we concentrate on eliminating the alcohol from their body.

Patients then receive the maximum benefit from our residential programmes.

Alcohol Detox Can Last Anywhere Between 3 to 14 Days

The time it takes to successfully eliminate alcohol from your body depends on the severity of your addiction. Your age, physical health and any history of delerium tremens or alcohol withdrawal seizures are also factors to be considered when determining a detox timeline. 

Detox from alcohol lasts on average 3-7 days, depending on the following:

  • How much alcohol the person has been drinking
  • The length of time they have been drinking for
  • Their overall health – physically and cognitively
  • What withdrawal symptoms occur, and how they are tolerated
  • If the more painful symptoms have subsided after three days
  • Patient’s age/gender

How much is too much?

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming between 70 and 100 units per week. (4 pints is 10 units, 1 litre of vodka is 40 units).

Alcohol Detox Timeline Example

  • If you consume more than 15 units of alcohol daily (half a bottle of vodka, 1.5 bottles of wine, 6 pints of beer), then you can assume that detox will take approximately three days  
  • If you have been consuming this level of alcohol or more for an extended time period measured in years, then detox will take longer up to 10 days
  • Please note everyone is different and may or may not experience the below thoughts or symptoms

What Happens When You Stop Drinking?

In the first 12 hours

Often for heavy drinkers and alcohol dependent individuals, the first 6-12 hours are often symptom-free and may only consist of mild headaches and an increase in anxiety and irritability. There may be sweating and some confusion or dizziness.

In the first 24 hours

After 12 hours, as no new alcohol is added to your system, the withdrawal symptoms get progressively worse. Hangover symptoms like anxiety, shaky hands, headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia and sweating all increase in intensity. 

Seizures can be a single ‘tonic-clonic seizure’ or consist of a brief episode of multiple seizures.

Up to 72 hours after your last drink is usually the most dangerous time for an alcoholic or heavy drinker to withdraw from alcohol. It is best to have medical supervision.

Second day

As the body craves alcohol, the more uncomfortable symptoms may continue into the next day. Patients often feel very unwell and frequently disoriented. Anxiety can become much worse with some people experiencing panic attacks, crying and becoming very emotionally upset.

Third day onwards

This is a period where some of the symptoms begin to improve in some cases. In some cases, delirium tremens will occur at this stage. Patients often complain of feeling flat or empty, with many choosing to join the programme. You should still expect to experience cravings at this point. 

One week

For most people, excluding more severe cases, all physical sensations and symptoms will have tapered off. However, feelings of unease and anxiety may persist. In fact, any of the emotions that drinking suppressed will return, including depression. Physical cravings may decrease but a tendency to obsess over alcohol may persist. 

Enhanced Patient Care

We ensure that alcohol detox is a gradual, safe and comfortable process. Our nurses and doctors conduct blood and urine analyses to ensure overall health. In addition, we prescribe vitamin replacements as most people who have been drinking heavily are low in essential vitamins and minerals.

Our psychiatrist-led medical team monitors for possible complications closely, and we are adept at quickly identifying and responding to any severe withdrawal symptoms.

Any symptoms are monitored closely by our specialist medical team. In addition, our nurses have many years of experience in treating alcohol detox.

Patients with the following alcohol-related illnesses may need to spend longer in detox

  • Fibrosis/scarring of the liver tissue, Wernicke’s encephalopathy (malnutrition) or alcoholic hepatitis can significantly prolong detox times.
  • All patients with decompensated liver disease are treated under specialist supervision.

Will I Experience Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms often vary depending on the severity of your alcohol abuse and how much/how long you have been drinking. Other factors such as gender, age and physical health can also affect withdrawal symptoms. At Castle Craig, we ensure patient safety by providing a medically-managed detox programme for those that need it. Medication can be provided to alleviate many of the severe symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal, such as delirium tremens.

Most patients experience withdrawal symptoms for up to 7 days, during this time patients will be cared for by our medical team until they are ready to begin the therapeutic phase of treatment.

While in alcohol detox at Castle Craig, all patients are able to start participating in therapy sessions as soon as they are physically able to. This can be done remotely from your bed should you wish. All patients in detox have access to their focal therapists.

Detoxing From Alcohol Safely

Depending on your alcohol level and how many years you have been drinking, alcohol detox will require medical supervision to safely begin the withdrawal process before embarking on a therapeutic rehab programme.

Medically supervised alcohol detoxes take place at our dedicated facility, where alcohol-dependent patients are cared for round the clock by a detox-specialised nursing team.

Care consists of close monitoring and soothing of withdrawal symptoms and providing emotional support. In addition, patients can rest assured that a doctor oversees our alcohol detoxes. The alcohol detoxification stage typically takes about one week.

Medication-Assisted Alcohol Detox

When it comes to treating acute and severe symptoms, benzodiazepines are typically the go-to option. They work by enhancing the effects of GABA, a neurotransmitter that reduces symptoms such as anxiety, tremors, and sweating.

Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium) are the most commonly used benzodiazepines. They are effective because they can substitute for GABA, stabilising the nervous system during detox.

In certain cases benzodiazepine treatment may not be appropriate, in which case alternative medications like anti-convulsants can be used.

Anti-convulsants like carbamazepine (Tegretol), gabapentin (Neurontin), and clonidine, an anadrenergic agent, work in different ways to manage core withdrawal symptoms and help prevent further seizures.

On top of that, benzodiazepines can be used in tandem with non-benzodiazepines to cover a spectrum of withdrawal symptoms.

Post-withdrawal, our medical professionals may recommend medications such as naltrexone (Vivitrol, Revia), acamprosate (Campral), and disulfiram (Antabuse) to control cravings.

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Why Detox is Important

  • Detox aims to stabilise your condition before continuing to the deeper therapeutic element of alcohol addiction treatment.
  • At Castle Craig, our detox facility is onsite, and once completed, patients can become an active part of our recovery community as soon as their condition permits.
  • It’s important to note that detoxing from certain substances (such as alcohol alongside opioid use) can be dangerous and should never be attempted alone.
  • Also, remember that detox is only the first step of a rehab programme and should be followed by treatment at our accredited alcohol rehab to support long-lasting sobriety.

Home Detox

It is possible to detox from alcohol or drugs at a local detox facility before coming to residential treatment.

This may be useful if it is unsafe for you to travel to your residential clinic before detox takes place or if an emergency detox is required due to life-threatening medical conditions.

It is not recommended to undergo a detox programme solely; for the best chance of success, alcohol addiction treatments require an advanced level of therapy and techniques to alter addictive behaviours.

Alcohol Addiction Success Stories

Peter’s Recovery Journey

Peter shares his journey of overcoming alcoholism and how Castle Craig helped him reclaim his life. Watch to hear more about his transformation and how his life has changed since finding recovery.

Alcohol Addiction Resources

  1. How To Flush Alcohol from Your System
  2. Hot Flush After Alcohol Consumption
  3. The Dangers of Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey
  4. Is Secret Drinking a Sign of Alcoholism

How Can Castle Craig Help?

How Do I Pay For Rehab?

One concern we sometimes hear from people is how they will fund their rehab treatment. The cost of rehab varies depending on what kind of accommodation you choose. You can pay for treatment at Castle Craig privately, or through medical insurance, and some people receive funding through the NHS.

How Long Is the Rehab Programme?

Residential rehab treatment starts at 4 weeks and can go up to 12+ weeks. Research shows us that the longer you stay in rehab and are part of the residential therapy programme, the longer the likelihood of continued abstinence and stable recovery.

Who Will I Speak to When I Call?

When you call you will reach our Help Centre team who will give you all the information you need to help you decide whether to choose treatment at Castle Craig. Once you have decided that you would like to have a free screening assessment you will be put in touch with our admissions case managers who will guide you through the admissions process.

What Happens at the End of My Treatment?

Castle Craig thoroughly prepares patients before departure by creating a personalised continuing care plan which is formulated following discussions with the medical and therapeutic team. We offer an online continuing care programme which runs for 24 weeks after leaving treatment, in order to ensure a smooth transition back into your everyday life. Patients leaving treatment automatically join our Recovery Club where they can stay connected via our annual reunion, events, online workshops and recovery newsletters.

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