Alcohol Detox – Helping You In overcoming Addiction And Getting Sober

Alcohol Detox and withdrawal

What is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox (detoxification) is a medical procedure that helps people overcome physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. It combines medicines, counseling, and other supportive measures, such as nutrition. 

Detoxing from alcohol helps a person achieve an alcohol-free state and [manage immediate withdrawal symptoms. Besides, any coexisting medical condition or mental illness is also treated during detox. Addiction professionals typically perform alcohol detox in an inpatient facility. 

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Withdrawal occurs when long-term heavy alcohol users abruptly stop taking alcohol. In general, the longer the duration of alcohol use or the higher dose, the more intense the withdrawal symptoms. 

Withdrawal can occur during detox, as your body and brain are dependent on alcohol. Some withdrawal effects are severe and need immediate medical attention, such as seizures. 

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The most common symptoms that can occur when withdrawing from alcohol are:
  • Shaking
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Increased irritability
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia (sleep difficulty)
  • Nightmares
  • Elevated blood pressure
Severe withdrawal – delirium tremens (DT) – can occur in about 4% of people during detox. DT is a medical emergency and needs immediate medical care. Its signs and symptoms are:
  • Extreme confusion
  • Profound restlessness
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Sensations of itching and burning (tactile hallucinations)
  • Rapid changes in heart rate
  • Experiencing (seeing or hearing) things that do not exist (visual or auditory hallucinations)

Alcohol Withdrawal Stages and Timeline

According to the American Family Physician (AFP),  the best way to detox from alcohol are:

Stage 1

This stage includes mild symptoms like anxiety, tremor, insomnia, headache, irregular heartbeat, and digestive problems. 

Stage 2 

This stage includes stage 1 symptoms as well as excessive sweating, increased blood pressure, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, confusion, and mildly high body temperature.

Stage 3 

The hallmarks of this stage – delirium tremens (DT) – are visual or auditory hallucinations, seizures, altered attention, and disorientation. Besides, some may have symptoms mimicking those of stage 2. 

Timeline

Various factors can affect alcohol withdrawal timelines, such as the duration of alcohol abuse, dose, and underlying medical condition. The approximate timeline is as follows:

Rarely, some people experience sleep disturbances, weakness, and mood swings for several months. Fortunately, most people recover without any lingering symptoms, provided they start medical detox early.

How to Detox From Alcohol?

Best alcohol detox centers provide the safest and most effective way to detox from alcohol. Detox programs are available in inpatient and outpatient facilities. 

Inpatient services

Inpatient Services are ideal for people with moderate-to-severe withdrawal symptoms. A medical team will watch you closely for hallucinations and signs of DT. Treatments can include:

  • Monitoring your blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and blood levels of alcohol and other substances
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids or medicines (injecting fluids or drugs into your vein)
  • Medicines to keep you calm (sedatives) until complete withdrawal is achieved

Outpatient services

People with mild-to-moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms may consider these services. Treatment at an outpatient facility means you are constantly under medical supervision until you are stable. However, you do not need to stay at the facility. Treatment can include:

  • Sedatives to help you calm down
  • Blood tests to check for blood levels of alcohol and other substances 
  • Patient and family counseling to identify the cause of alcoholism and possible long-term solutions
  • Diagnosing and treating different medical conditions related to alcohol use

 

Is Self-Detox for Alcohol Safe?

Probably, but most experts do not recommend detoxing on your own. 

Many people erroneously believe that alcohol is not as dangerous as other drugs, such as opioids. Thus, they prefer detoxing from alcohol at home. However, this is not true. What they do not understand is alcohol detox, if done incorrectly, can be life-threatening. Many medical studies have consistently found that alcohol withdrawal can lead to death. Delirium tremens (DT), which occurs in about 4% of people during detox, is a medical emergency and needs immediate medical care. 

Call 911 immediately if you have any of the following signs and symptoms while detoxing at home:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Profound restlessness
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Sensations of itching and burning (tactile hallucinations)
  • Rapid changes in heart rate
  • Experiencing (seeing or hearing) things that do not exist (visual or auditory hallucinations)

Also, make sure your relative or friend accompanies you during detox at home. Tell them to call your doctor immediately if your symptoms become worse.

Alcohol Detox Medications

Alcohol detox medication is routinely used to help relieve withdrawal symptoms and prevent seizures.

Benzodiazepines

Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium) are the two most commonly used benzodiazepines during detox. They help alleviate anxiety and reduce the risk of seizures. The USFDA has approved benzodiazepines for use during detox:

Chlordiazepoxide (Librium),  Clorazepate (Tranxene),  Diazepam (Valium),  Oxazepam (Serax)

Anti-seizure drugs

Doctors may use specific drugs to prevent seizures, such as:

Carbamazepine (Tegretol),  Gabapentin (Neurontin),  Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal),  Valproic Acid (Depakene)

Barbiturates

Barbiturates may be used if withdrawal symptoms do not improve with benzodiazepines.

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What are the Advantages of Medically-Supervised Alcohol Detox?

Because self-detoxing from alcohol on your own can cause potentially fatal complications, it is best to seek professional help at a detox center. These centers provide both inpatient and outpatient services customized to meet your needs. 

Besides, medically supervised detox is safe and more effective and drastically reduces the risk of relapse.

Some of the advantages of alcohol detox under medical supervision at Silicon Valley Recovery:

  • Medical stabilization
  • Healthy diet
  • Peer and family support
  • 24-hour monitoring for high-risk people
  • A safe, supportive, and quiet environment
  • Availability of medical and other services
  • Family counseling
  • Emergency care
  • Long-term addiction treatment 

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