What Is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol Detox (also known as Alcohol Detoxification) is the process of safely removing alcohol from a person’s body with the goal of reducing and hopefully eliminating harmful alcohol use by a person who has a demonstrated a history of problem drinking.

alcohol detox

Alcohol Detox can be performed in either an inpatient or outpatient setting, however it is important that it be managed and monitored by a physician. Detox itself is often the first step in getting clean but is not enough to cure an addiction. Medical interventions and the inclusion of behavioral therapy and counseling are usually needed for a true recovery from an addiction to alcohol.

Alcohol is a more dangerous drug than many people realize. If a person drinks alcohol heavily for weeks, months, or years, they can have both mental and physical problems when they stop drinking or even seriously cut back on the quantity that they drink. This is called alcohol withdrawal and its symptoms can range from mild to very serious.

If a person drinks only once in a while, it’s unlikely that they will have withdrawal symptoms when they stop. However, if a person has experienced alcohol withdrawal in the past, they are more likely to go through it again the next time they try to stop or reduce their drinking.

What Causes Withdrawal from Alcohol?
Alcohol withdrawal creates a medically depressive effect on the human body. It inhibits the brain’s functioning and changes the way nerves send messages back and forth. If alcohol is used in excess for an extended period of time, the central nervous system adjusts to its continuous presence. As a result, the human body creates a number of “work-arounds” to make sure that all of the functions remain intact. However, if the amount of alcohol being consumed suddenly drops, the brain stays in this artificial state. This is what causes withdrawal.

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from fairly benign to very serious. The symptoms that an individual will experience depend on how much alcohol they drank and the length of time that they misused alcohol.

In some cases, mild symptoms can show up as soon as 6 hours after a person has taken their last drink of alcohol. These symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Shaky hands

More significant problems can range from the onset of hallucinations about 12 to 24 hours after the last drink to seizures within the first 2 days after stopping. These are not the same as delirium tremors, or DTs as they are often called. Delirium tremors usually begin 48 to 72 hours after the last drink and express themselves with even more severe symptoms that can include vivid delusions and hallucinations. Only about 5% of people with alcohol withdrawal experience the DTs and those that do may also experience one or more of the following:

  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Confusion

How Do New Life’s Doctors Diagnose Alcohol Withdrawal?
New Life’s trained physicians have deep experience in providing alcohol detox to patients in need. We will examine a patient’s immediate symptoms and then explore their history with alcohol and how recently they stopped. Our doctors will also ask if the patient has ever gone through alcohol withdrawal or alcohol detox before and will look for other medical conditions to see if those could be to blame.

Importance of Alcohol Detox
Eliminating the existing alcohol from your system is a critical initial step in initiating treatment for addiction. Detoxification can be an uncomfortable process because the body often exhibits withdrawal symptoms as it gets used to not having the drug available anymore. In some cases, these withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and can cause seizures or even a stroke. Most alcohol and drug treatment programs that include detoxification require that the patient be under the care of a qualified medical professional during the detox process. Being monitored by a physician, such as those at New Life Medical Addiction Services, ensures compliance with the detoxification and treatment program.

Cherry Hill Alcohol Detox
Detoxification from alcohol is typically not as intensive as detox from highly addictive drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and prescription narcotics. According to studies, most people recovering from alcohol addiction need four to seven days to fully detoxify from alcohol. Nevertheless, during alcohol detox, the patient may experience nausea, shaking, sweatiness, and anxiety as withdrawal symptoms. Again, physician monitoring is critical.

Life After Alcohol Detox
After completing an alcohol detoxification treatment, the recovering alcoholic still needs to go through treatment to complete his or her recovery. Therapy and group support programs are usually necessary to help the patient develop methods of dealing with problems and temptation without resorting to drug or alcohol use. This therapy and support can be accomplished in a residential treatment setting or through outpatient services. Without follow-up treatment, detoxification is unlikely to cause any permanent changes and the user is likely to relapse soon after the initial detox. However, participation in a treatment program can vastly improve the odds that the detox will lead to a permanent cessation of drug use.

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