Medical Detox Treatment

An alcohol or drug detox is a palliative intervention designed to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal while the body goes through the process of detoxification. There are various ways, methods and means of detoxing from alcohol or drugs but not all are safe. If you or a loved one suffer from a drug or alcohol dependence or addiction, the first step in recovery is detox. The way you choose to detox can really matter. And can be the difference between success and failure. Successful and safe detoxification from alcohol and drugs can also be used as a foundation to rehabilitation and recovery.

What is detoxing?


Detoxing is the process by which the body and brain undergoes an adjustment period whilst abstaining from alcohol or addictive substance. Detoxing can often be uncomfortable, require huge amounts of discipline and bring about symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms are the brain’s response to being without a substance it has become accustomed to having a constant supply of through the bloodstream. In terms of alcohol and drug dependence, detox if not conducted correctly, can result in life threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Detox Treatment

Alcohol Detox Treatment

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances to detox from, along with other CNS (central nervous system) depressants drugs such as benzodiazepines, sedative hypnotics (sleeping tablets, gabapentinoids, opiates and opioids and certain antidepressants and antipsychotics. Detoxing can be achieved in different ways, not all are safe nor clinically recommended (depending on the substance).

Here’s a brief overview of the detox methods available for alcohol and drugs, along with the risks and benefits of each.

How you choose to detox really matters. It can result in recovery success or failure.

Alcohol detox is the first step in treating alcoholism. It is the first stage of treating alcohol addiction where alcohol is completely flushed out from your body. Alcohol detox results in withdrawal symptoms that typically subside within approximately one to two weeks after starting a medical detox program. But, the medical detoxification process can take longer depending on the severity of your Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD. Upon completion of detox, clients are able to focus on other recovery aspects including different activities, therapy, counseling sessions and peer support programs.

Alcohol Detox Treatment

Alcohol Detox Treatment

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances to detox from, along with other CNS (central nervous system) depressants drugs such as benzodiazepines, sedative hypnotics (sleeping tablets, gabapentinoids, opiates and opioids and certain antidepressants and antipsychotics. Detoxing can be achieved in different ways, not all are safe nor clinically recommended (depending on the substance).

Here’s a brief overview of the detox methods available for alcohol and drugs, along with the risks and benefits of each.

Alcohol detox is the first step in treating alcoholism. It is the first stage of treating alcohol addiction where alcohol is completely flushed out from your body. Alcohol detox results in withdrawal symptoms that typically subside within approximately one to two weeks after starting a medical detox program. But, the medical detoxification process can take longer depending on the severity of your Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD. Upon completion of detox, clients are able to focus on other recovery aspects including different activities, therapy, counseling sessions and peer support programs.

Alcohol is a depressant that your body begins to rely on and becomes ever more accustomed to, over the course of long range consumption of alcohol with months and even years of drinking. The impact of alcohol abuse on your brain, is that your body eventually stops producing certain chemicals that it now receives directly from alcohol. Becoming dependent on alcohol abuse. That’s why when you quit drinking, you’ll need some time for your body to adjust and rebalance. When quitting you’ll begin to experience withdrawal symptoms including headaches, fever, nausea, irregular heartbeat and hallucinations.

While some people are apprehensive about quitting drinking because they’re afraid about withdrawal discomfort and illness experienced during alcohol detox, others may experience more minor withdrawal effects. But, others can face extreme pain and even dangerous withdrawal symtoms with severe negative medical effects. While withdrawal symptoms can change quickly and aggressively, supervised medical detox under the care of addiction specialists can make your detox treatment recovery safer and more comfortable. Detox treatment professionals at a rehab facility can help you manage withdrawal pain using different detox medications for each type of addiction you’re experiencing. This allows you to focus on your recovery and get better.

Symptoms of Alcohol Detox

The alcohol detox phase can involve withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild intensity to life-threatening. Oftentimes, the longevity and severity of your alcohol use disorder (AUD) will play a role in the withdrawal symptoms you experience. For example, individuals who have struggled with years of heavy drinking are more likely to develop serious withdrawal symptoms like seizures or delirium tremens.

Minor symptoms of alcohol detox include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches

More serious negative alcohol detox withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Extreme hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Delirium tremens (in rare cases)


Although uncommon, the most serious effect from alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens. These can start within two to five days after your last drink and can be life-threatening.

But, less than five percent of people will develop delirium tremens when quitting drinking.

Due to the severity of some withdrawal symptoms, alcohol detox should be monitored by a medical professional. This is especially true for those who have a history of lung or heart diseases, or other medical conditions, as withdrawal symptoms can quickly worsen. Detox treatment specialists are able to track your blood pressure and heart rate to make sure your condition doesn’t worsen. You can also talk with them about the symptoms you are experiencing, as well as if you are in any pain. This information helps your medical team determine which medicine will help alleviate your discomfort.

Alcohol Detox Timeline


Withdrawal symptoms can begin to surface in as early as two hours after your last drink. While the most painful symptoms typically subside within the first week, some mild symptoms can last for several weeks to a year. There is no exact timeline as to when or what withdrawal symptoms you will experience; however, there’s a general outline of what to expect.

What does the alcohol detox process look like?

First six to 12 hours


The initial symptoms of alcohol detox are mild, but can quickly begin to worsen as time goes on. Some of the early withdrawal symptoms include headaches, anxiety, shaking, nausea and irritability.

Day one


As you approach the end of the first 24 hours of detox, symptoms may become increasingly severe. Alongside the effects felt from the first 12 hours, additional symptoms may involve disorientation, hand tremors and seizures.

Day two


Similar to the first full day of detox, the most painful symptoms will continue into the second day. Hallucinations and panic attacks are common during this time as your body rids alcohol from its system.

Days three to seven


For the remainder of your first week in detox, different withdrawal symptoms may come and go. This is also the timeframe where you’re most at risk for life-threatening symptoms such as delirium tremens.

After one week


By the time you’ve completed your first week of detox, many of the withdrawal symptoms will begin to taper off. While some symptoms may persist for a few weeks, most of them are minor and can be treated with medication.

Even after the most serious withdrawal symptoms have lessened, some people may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) – the prolonged symptoms of detox. Generally, these symptoms include anxiety, low energy, trouble sleeping and delayed reflexes, and can last from several months to a year.

Alcohol Detox Timeline Summary


The most uncomfortable detox withdrawal symptoms usually peak around 10 to 30 hours after the last drink and start to lessen by 40 to 50 hours. Although delirium tremens is unlikely, roughly 30 percent of those who get it will also develop Aspiration Pneumonia. A medically-assisted withdrawal helps prevent serious complications, keeps track of a patient’s health condition, and relieves any painful effects.

Medications Used During Alcohol Detox


When alcohol detox is treated in an inpatient rehab facility, different medications may be used to help reduce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Medications can also help keep a person’s body chemicals in balance, lowering the risk for serious complications. In rehab, a medical professional will administer the medication and monitor its effects. If the medication begins to cause unwanted side effects or interferes with the detox process, another remedy can be used.

Several medications commonly administered during the detox phase are:

Benzodiazepines


Benzodiazepines (benzos) are most frequently used to treat withdrawal symptoms during the alcohol detox phase. They are used to help calm your central nervous system and may also be prescribed to treat insomnia, anxiety and muscle spasms. The medication comes in two forms: short-acting and long-acting. Usually, long-acting benzos are administered for three days or taken as needed. Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium) are two types of benzos prescribed most often in an inpatient rehab setting.

Naltrexone


Naltrexone helps reduce alcohol cravings during the detox stage. In the event of a relapse, naltrexone works by inhibiting the high feeling that alcohol may cause. Since the medication can stimulate withdrawal symptoms, it is recommended that you wait seven to 10 days before taking naltrexone. It comes in two forms: a tablet and injectable. The pill form of naltrexone is sold under the brand names ReVia and Depade, while the injectable form is known as Vivitrol.

Acamprosate


Years of heavy drinking can significantly alter how the brain looks and works. Acamprosate, sold under the name Campral, is prescribed to help your brain begin to function normally again after you quit drinking. Research studies have also started to look into whether or not acamprosate helps reduce the symptoms of PAWS including insomnia, anxiety and restlessness. It also works to reduce alcohol cravings; however, it will not produce an unwanted effect if alcohol is consumed.

Disulfiram


Another medication used in the treatment of alcoholism is disulfiram. Unlike other medications, disulfiram works by producing severe reactions if alcohol is consumed. For instance, if you drink while on disulfiram, you will experience unwanted effects like facial flushing, nausea, headache, weakness and low blood pressure. The negative effects are meant to deter you from continuing your drinking pattern. Disulfiram is not meant to reduce your alcohol cravings or restore brain functions like some other medications.

The Time For Help Is Now


Seeking help for alcohol use is a huge step toward sobriety. That’s why the decision on where to get treatment should not be taken lightly.

Let us help you find the right treatment center that fits your needs.