What is Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detox is the body’s natural process to rid itself of waste products and toxins from excessive and long-term alcohol consumption. Alcohol detox in a professional treatment setting involves medical supervision, counseling, and medications to ease the withdrawal process. The longer and more excessive alcohol abuse, the more extreme the negative side effects can be during detox, some of which can be dangerous.
When the body becomes used to the constant presence of alcohol, it becomes dependent on it and once removed, starts to have negative symptoms or withdrawal symptoms. The body does not know how to function without it at first.
Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) occurs when a heavy drinker suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake. They can experience a combination of physical and emotional symptoms, such as anxiety, fatigue, and nausea and even hallucinations, seizures or death. The severity of symptoms depends on how long and how much alcohol was being consumed.
Symptoms can start to appear anywhere from a few hours to a few days after the individual’s last drink and include:
- Anxiety and irritability
- Nausea and vomiting
- Insomnia and nightmares
- High blood pressure
Symptoms may worsen after 2 to 3 days, and the milder symptoms can persist for weeks. Withdrawal can also be more severe and even be dangerous into a syndrome called delirium tremens (DT) and includes symptoms such as:
- Extreme confusion and agitation
- Tactile, visual, and auditory hallucinations
- Excessive heart rate, high blood pressure, and fast respirations
The Phases of Alcohol Withdrawal
Medical detox can limit the withdrawal side effects a person can feel when they stop consuming alcohol. There are still some side effects that may be unavoidable. Withdrawal occurs in the following two phases, each with its own set of symptoms:
Acute withdrawal happens within hours after a person stops drinking and goes on for days or weeks.
Early Abstinence or Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptom. This phase occurs over months as the brain slowly repairs itself and gets back to normal functions.
Medical Detox for Alcohol
Detoxing on your own, or detoxing cold turkey, can be dangerous or even fatal, especially for heavy users. Seeking professional help when you stop using alcohol with a medical detox can ensure a safe and more comfortable withdrawal process.
Withdrawal symptoms peak around 10 to 30 hours after the last drink and start to resolve around 40 to 50 hours after. When alcohol detox is treated in an inpatient rehab facility, different medications may be administered to help reduce the worse withdrawal symptoms. These medications can also keep the body’s chemicals in balance and lower the risk of complications.
Medications Used in Alcohol Detox
- Benzodiazepines – These help calm the central nervous system and can help treat insomnia, anxiety and muscle spasms.
- Naltrexone – This helps reduce alcohol cravings and if the person relapses, it inhibits the effects of alcohol.
- Acamprosate – Because heavy drinking alters the brain, acamprosate helps the brain to function normally again, such as reducing insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.
- Disulfiram – Unlike the other medications, this one works by producing severe reactions is alcohol is consumed, such as nausea, headache, weakness, and facial flushing.
Medication-assisted detox can help a person successfully complete detox and ensure long-term sobriety. It is also a good option for those who are hesitant to stop because of fear of withdrawal symptoms.
What Happens After Detox?
Alcohol detox is just the beginning of a successful recovery. It is important to enter addiction treatment after, such as residential treatment. During this time, those in recovery can explore the underlying cause of their addiction and build a plan for their long-term recovery.
The Healing Place’s alcohol detox center helps each individual’s unique needs and aims to ensure each client has safe and effective detox. No matter how difficult detox can be, it is important to remember it is temporary and a better alternative than alcohol continuing to control your life.
If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol detox in West Palm Beach, The Healing Place is here to help you. Please give us a call today if you have any questions or want to get started in our alcohol detox program.