How Long Does it Take to Get Sober from Alcohol and Drugs

The gift of sobriety is absolutely worth every effort it may take to get there. Once you make this important decision and begin the recovery journey, you will embark on several important steps, including detox. Read on to learn how long does it takes to get sober from alcohol and drugs, and what to expect next.

About Alcohol and Drugs Affect the Brain

Alcohol and drug abuse, dependence, and addiction fall under the umbrella term substance use disorder (SUD). SUD is a complex disease affecting brain chemistry and neural pathways that results in the compulsive use of substances. Addiction is when the compulsive need to use the drugs or alcohol persists, despite the resulting negative consequences.

Addiction is studied extensively to gain a deeper understanding of the neurobiology behind it. With this research, experts in the field are better equipped to educate the public and thus improve prevention efforts. As the science evolves, treatment techniques become continuously refined.

A rush of dopamine, a brain chemical that evokes a sense of euphoria and deep relaxation, caused by the substance is what leads to addiction. These effects are then associated with certain stimuli that trigger the desire to repeat the experience. 

Addiction involves a three-stage cycle that includes the intoxication stage, the withdrawal stage, and the preoccupation/anticipation stage. This cycle becomes etched in the brain’s reward network, which then spurs the ongoing use of alcohol and drugs. 

How to Know When it’s Time to Get Sober From Alcohol and Drugs

What are the signs that you might have a SUD? Consider these common signs and symptoms that are typical in substance abuse or addiction:

  • Unable to limit the substance abuse or to stop, even when you want to quit.
  • Obsessed about having enough of the substance on hand.
  • Needing more of the substance to obtain the desired effects.
  • Loss of interest in usual hobbies and past-times.
  • Engaging in secretive behaviors.
  • Avoiding family and friends.
  • Lying about how the substance abuse.
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors.
  • Doctor shopping for pills.
  • Neglecting responsibilities or obligations in favor of substance use.
  • Drug or alcohol cravings.
  • Unable to quit the substance, despite negative consequences in your life.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Weight loss or gain in a short period of time.
  • No longer care about personal hygiene or appearance.
  • Change in appearance, such as looking bloated or gaunt, having pinpoint or dilated pupils.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the substance wears off.

How Long to Get Sober from Drugs or Alcohol?

The decision to get sober can be lifesaving. To being the path to sobriety, you will need to first complete detox and withdrawal.

In most cases, especially for more advanced SUD, withdrawing from a substance should be monitored by medically trained experts. This is because here may be severe or unexpected withdrawal symptoms that can pose a health risk.

Once you stop the substance, your brain will become confused. This is because over time, the brain has adapted to the presence of the substance in the system. The symptoms that emerge are the overt signs that the brain is destabilized due to the absence of the substance.

The withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, and therefore depends on various factors. These include:

  • How advanced the SUD is.
  • If there is more than one substance of abuse.
  • If there is a co-existing mental health disorder.
  • Your age and health status.

The detox process can take anywhere from five days to four weeks, and just depends on how severe the SUD is. The longer you used the substance and the more that was consumed on a regular basis, the longer the detox.

Alcohol and Drug Detox Timeline 

The process of removing the substance from your system can take some time. Certain drugs will require a gradual tapering of the drug or a similar drug to soften the withdrawal symptoms. These include prescription opiates, benzos, and stimulants. A tapering schedule can take two or three weeks in many cases.

Alcohol detox and withdrawal is usually completed within one week, although some symptoms will persist for weeks after.

The detox timeline varies based on which substance and the severity of the SUD. Each substance will have its own withdrawal symptom profile, but the common pattern for detox includes:

  • Emerging symptoms. These begin to surface within 6-18 hours after the last drink or dose.
  • Peak symptoms. Symptoms are acute during this phase, which lasts a day or two.
  • Subsiding symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms gradually recede, with some symptoms persisting for weeks or months.

Rehab for Alcohol and Drug Recovery

When you enter recovery, you will learn that there is more to it than just getting sober. After the detox is completed, that’s when you enter the treatment phase. Treatment is where you learn how to change the way you respond to the stimuli that can trigger cravings.

To accomplish learning the new behaviors, you will engage in various types of therapy and other activities. The treatment plan is either short term or long term and is fully customized to your unique recovery needs. Here is what you can expect at the treatment program:

  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy includes a range of behavior-based therapies. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, DBT, contingency management, and more.
  • Peer or family group sessions. Small group therapy sessions focus on improving communication and relating skills.
  • Medication support. Medications that help the individual stabilize in early recovery include naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone.
  • Education. You will engage in classes that teach new coping skills and techniques to help you prevent relapse. Staying sober is the focus of the classes.
  • Recovery meetings. Recovery principles found in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery provide a framework for progress. Later you will join a local group with other people in recovery, which provides the social support needed.
  • Nutrition and Exercise. You will learn how nutrition can help restore health, and that exercise can provide a long list of wellness benefits.
  • Holistic methods. To promote relaxation and reduce stress, you will engage in a menu of holistic activities. These may include massage therapy, cupping therapy, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and focused breathwork.
  • Case management. You will receive guidance as you transition from a residential program to sober living and/or outpatient program. The case manager will also arrange any aftercare services needed.

Getting sober from alcohol and drugs is only the first step in a lifelong journey. Take that first step today!

Pacific Bay Recovery Residential Addiction Treatment 

Pacific Bay Recovery offers the perfect blend of expertise and compassion, guiding you on the path to recovery. To learn more about the timeline of how long does it take to get sober and about our treatment programs, please reach out today at (619) 350-8220

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