Alcohol detox is an important first step towards quitting alcohol use and abuse for good. This process is designed to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms that are highly likely to occur when you give up alcohol.
While you were drinking alcohol, your body became dependent on the substance. It also adjusted to your drinking patterns and frequency. When you stop this behavior abruptly, it will take some time before your body figures out the chemicals that it has been missing. As a result, you are likely to experience some painful and uncomfortable – and sometimes fatal – withdrawal side effects.
What Are Alcohol Detox Symptoms?
Most of the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol detox are likely to occur about 2 hours after you take your last drink. However, they will only peak anywhere between 24 and 48 hours. During this period, you are likely to suffer the most uncomfortable and painful of your withdrawal symptoms. These might include but are not always limited to fever, tremors, sweating, blood pressure changes, rapid heartbeat, and insomnia.
Although you might suffer a couple of these symptoms, there is also a high likelihood that you could experience more serious ones. For instance, you might develop delirium tremens – the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal that occurs during alcohol detox.
This condition could also surface anywhere between 24 and 48 hours after taking your last drink. The condition is accompanied by a wide variety of adverse symptoms. These include high blood pressure, hallucinations, shaking, and confusion.
Even though delirium tremens isn’t common, it can still prove to be life-threatening. In particular, if you have been drinking heavily for a long time and you suddenly quit, there is a high risk of developing this condition.
For this reason, it is essential that you undergo alcohol detox through a highly monitored and medically managed detoxification program. Doing so will ensure that you receive the right help when and as needed.
Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal that will most likely occur when you undergo detox include:
- Auditory hallucinations
- Delirium tremens
- Excessive sweating
- Hand tremors
- High blood pressure
- High fever
- Tactile hallucinations
- Visual hallucinations
How Long Are Alcohol Detox Programs?
The length of your alcohol detox program will be affected by several factors. These factors include but are not always limited to:
- Any co-occurring physical and mental health conditions that you might have
- The amount of alcohol you used to consume when you were drinking
- The duration of time you spent drinking
- Your frequency of drinking
- Your unique medical history
- Whether you used alcohol alongside drugs or not
Is Alcohol Detox Dangerous?
Sometimes, alcohol detox might prove to be dangerous. This is the main reason why it is highly recommended that you undergo this process under a medically supervised and managed program.
There is also a high risk that you could experience acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome. This will happen when you suffer severe and sudden symptoms of withdrawal after giving up drinking.
When you experience this syndrome, there is a high risk that you will lose conscious albeit temporarily. You might also have seizures or develop delirium tremens. All of these conditions are considered to be life-threatening.
While trying to overcome your alcohol use disorder, you should undergo detoxification at a highly specialized rehabilitation facility, clinic, or hospital so that you can get the right treatment to manage any adverse conditions that occur.
By so doing, you will get to work with medical professionals who will assess your physical and mental health on a frequent basis. They will also ensure that your symptoms of alcohol withdrawal do not escalate.
Today, there are several facilities that are experienced in dealing with any of the adverse effects of acute alcohol withdrawal. In many cases, these programs will have teams of specialists who can minimize the withdrawal effects that you develop. They will also prevent any complications from occurring as well as focus on your ongoing health and wellness.
The other risk with alcohol detox involves post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. This refers to the prolonging of side effects after the initial withdrawal symptoms subside. If you develop this condition, you will suffer withdrawal symptoms after your acute withdrawal. As you can well imagine, this could make life challenging especially after you check out of the treatment center.
PAWS is commonly accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Delayed reflexes
- Emotional outbursts
- Increased proneness to accidents
- Low energy
- Memory problems
- Trouble sleeping
What Is Alcohol Detox Like?
The treatment of alcohol withdrawal is considered to be a short-term fix. As such, it will not completely help with the core problem that you are struggling with, vis. your alcohol use disorder.
During your alcohol detox, therefore, your medical team will engage you to discuss ongoing treatment for your alcohol dependence. They can also provide you with advice on how to stop abusing alcohol.
Although alcohol detox is not considered to be comprehensive enough, it is still an important first step that you have to take when you want to start getting better. It can help you deal with the physical symptoms of your alcohol abuse and addiction.
What Does Alcohol Detox Consist Of?
There are many services that are provided during alcohol detox. Unless you experience serious health conditions or have experienced severe withdrawals from alcohol in the past, it is highly likely that you will be provided with a supportive and caring environment during your alcohol withdrawal. This will typically include:
- A positive and supportive atmosphere
- A quiet place
- Healthy food
- Limited contact with others
- Lots of healthy fluids
- Soft lighting
The medical team will also continue monitoring all your basic signs – including your body temperature, pulse, and blood pressure – to ensure that you do not suffer any adverse changes. They will also check you for symptoms like hallucinations and seizures.
What Medication for Alcohol Detox?
Some of the symptoms of alcohol detox can be treated using medications. These medications include benzodiazepines and sedative drugs. These medications can be useful in making the detoxification easier for you to manage. They could also allow you to focus on every other aspect of your ongoing recovery from your alcohol use disorder.