The first step in recovering from a substance use disorder is the detoxification process. Detox is the process of removing traces of alcohol from the body. This process often comes with mental and physical challenges and, in some cases, can be complicated and dangerous if not done under the care of addiction specialists.

At Quit Alcohol, we offer information about addiction and help to access alcohol detox services. Our rehab advisors prioritize helping individuals find professional care to safely undergo detox.

What Is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox or detoxification is a medical process where an alcoholic weans off the potentially dangerous side effects of sudden alcohol cessation with medication and a long-term treatment plan to ensure continuing recovery of the mind and body.

Putting down the last drink can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms for an alcoholic. According to Harvard Medical School studies, between 5-25% of people who go through serious alcohol withdrawal die from the ordeal. It is crucial not to attempt alcohol detox on your own. Seek professional help when detoxing.

Sudden alcohol cessation causes dangerous withdrawal symptoms like delirium tremens. In inpatient detox, medical professionals often substitute drugs like benzodiazepines that have similar effects to that of alcohol to prevent uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Following detox, a facility will often have other forms of treatment and therapy to guide the recovering alcoholic to maintain sobriety and avoid relapse.

Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is not limited to the first few hours after putting down the last drink. Complications can stretch days to weeks after you stop drinking alcohol.

In the initial days or weeks, an alcoholic might suffer from acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome with side effects such as:

  • Delirium Tremens or “DTs”
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Visual & auditory hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Convulsions

The second stage is longer, lasting weeks to as much as a year. A chronic alcoholic can experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS, marked by symptoms such as:

  • Irritability
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Anxiety
  • Low energy
  • Dizziness
  • Intense cravings
  • Chronic nausea

The severity of the withdrawal symptoms may depend on how long you have been abusing alcohol and how much you drink, as well as your physical health.

Science & The Meds

Alcohol mimics neurotransmitters in the brain like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), slowing down neural processing that leads to relaxation, sociability, and sleepiness. With a chronic drinker, the brain does not produce enough GABA, and neurons misfire, causing withdrawal symptoms like shaking and a rapid heartbeat.

In detox, medical professionals administer medications that activate GABA receptors and regulate the firing of neurons in the brain. This lessens dangerous withdrawal symptoms. These medications may include benzodiazepines such as Librium, Valium and Ativan. Antiepileptic and sedative-hypnotic sleep aids are other medications that professional detox facilities may use.

Medical Detox

At Quit Alcohol, we recommend medically supervised detox to ensure you do not have to suffer through the more severe withdrawal symptoms. This process involves medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, and addiction specialists who monitor you 24/7 to ensure you are safe and comfortable while your body rids itself of the toxins caused by substance use.

Medical detox often incorporates medication-assisted treatment, which is the use of FDA-approved addiction medicine to help ease discomfort caused by withdrawal symptoms. Addiction medicine often provides the stabilization you need to focus on the recovery process.

There are some ways to tell if you will require medically assisted detox. Turn to a treatment center that offers medical detox if you:

  • Drink alcohol in large amounts and have done so for a substantial amount of time
  • Require larger amounts of alcohol to get the same effect
  • Crave the substance if you do not have it
  • Unsuccessfully tried to quit using alcohol

How the Process Works

At the treatment center you choose, they will perform an evaluation before the detox process can begin. Medical professionals will evaluate your mental and physical health and get a full medical history.

Not only will this allow your treatment team to plan the right medications, but it will also assist them in choosing the best therapies for you. This is crucial if you have a dual diagnosis and need mental health treatment along with addiction treatment.

There are a variety of medications your team can choose from to help you detox, depending on the type of substance abuse and its severity.

After Detox

Once you complete the detox process, your treatment team can begin planning the addiction treatment you need to find lasting recovery from alcohol. Inpatient treatment can be a good next step because it offers a high level of structure and support. It is a valuable option for people who have a high risk of relapsing.

Outpatient care such as partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient treatment can be other options. If you have responsibilities you cannot take a break from to attend residential treatment, outpatient care will allow you to return home each night but still offers hours of treatment each day. Both types of treatment, inpatient and outpatient, almost always offer support groups, individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and other treatment modalities.

Many treatment centers offer medication-assisted treatment during rehab, allowing you to focus on recovery without worrying about cravings. Not having the stress of these cravings can help prevent relapses.

Get Top Addiction Treatments

Studies show that alcoholism rewire the brain, making it more difficult for people with substance use disorders to be able to stop using on their own. If you feel you show some of the red flags of developing a substance use disorder, seek professional help and treatment. If you would like to be the hero of your own story and need help finding a treatment facility, the best first step you can take is to reach out to us at Quit Alcohol. Contact us today to learn more about your treatment options.