Alcohol Detox, Importance, Timeline, Process, Medications, Treatment

What is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol addiction is a dangerous condition that can ultimately become life-threatening.  Alcohol detox allows the body to eliminate the presence of all alcohol in the body and return to its usual way of functioning.  An individual who has been struggling with a moderate to severe alcohol use disorder (alcohol addiction) has a significant likelihood of developing withdrawal symptoms and could benefit from the help of a detox program.  The longer and heavier the drinking, the more prolonged and more severe detox will be.  For this reason, going through the process sooner than later, and getting help, is critical to recovery.

Some people are apprehensive about quitting drinking due to withdrawal symptoms, but alcohol detox is the first step in treating alcoholism.

Importance Of Alcohol Detox

The alcohol detox stage is the first step in treating alcoholism.  Withdrawal symptoms typically subside within approximately one to two weeks after starting detox; however, this could take longer depending on the severity of your AUD.  From there, you will be able to focus on other aspects of the recovery process, such as different activities, therapies, counseling sessions, and support options.

The benefits of alcohol detox are a life-saving experience.
The benefits of alcohol detox are a life-saving experience.

Alcohol is a depressant that your body begins to rely on over months and years of drinking.  Your brain eventually stops producing certain chemicals that it receives from alcohol, becoming dependent on the drug.  That’s why when you quit drinking; it takes time for your body to adjust.  This causes withdrawal symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea, irregular heartbeat, and hallucinations.

Withdrawal symptoms can change quickly and aggressively, which is why it’s important to detox under the care of medical professionals.  Treatment professionals at a rehab facility will be able to help you manage your pain with different medications.  This allows you to focus on your recovery and get better.

Symptoms Of Alcoholism

The alcohol detox phase can involve withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild intensity to life-threatening.  The longevity and severity of your alcohol use disorder (AUD) will often 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 severe withdrawal symptoms like seizures or delirium tremens.  Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may vary significantly from one person to another but may include any of the following physical and psychological symptoms: 

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Shaky hands
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Shakiness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Appetite loss
  • Pale skin
  • Tremor
  • Seizures

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Feeling irritable
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling wiped out and tired
  • Not being able to think clearly
  • Having nightmares
  • Extreme agitation
  • Hallucinations (feeling, seeing, or hearing things that aren’t there)

Treatable Withdrawal Symptoms

Treatable can mitigate withdrawal symptoms with a team of professionals. However, the withdrawal symptoms that you may suffer from without help include:

  • Seizures
  • Physical tremors
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased agitation and anxiety
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Mood swings
  • Increased heartbeat

Although uncommon, the most severe effect of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens. It can start within two to five days after your last drink and can be life-threatening.  However, less than five percent of people will develop delirium tremens when quitting drinking.

Alcohol Withdrawal is one of the most dangerous alcohol detox processes.
Alcohol Withdrawal is one of the most dangerous alcohol detox processes.

Due to the severity of some withdrawal symptoms, alcohol detox should be monitored by a medical professional.  This is especially true for those with a history of lung or heart diseases, or other medical conditions, as withdrawal symptoms can quickly worsen.  Your treatment specialist will be able to track your blood pressure and heart rate to make sure your situation doesn’t worsen.  You can also talk with them about the symptoms you are experiencing and 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 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.  Unfortunately, there is no exact timeline for when or what withdrawal symptoms you will experience; however, there’s a general outline of what to expect.

Process Of Alcohol Detox

Stage 1:

6-12 hоurѕ аftеr thе lаѕt drink:  You will begin feeling іrrіtаtіng symptoms, enough to be bothersome and noticeable: аnxіеtу, insomnia, nаuѕеа, lоѕѕ оf арреtіtе, ѕwеаtіng, hеаdасhе, аnd іnсrеаѕеd оr іrrеgulаr heartbeat. Sometimes agitation and mood swings are also experienced.

Stage 2:

12-24 hоurѕ аftеr thе lаѕt drіnk:  This stage is often аѕѕосіаtеd wіth assorted types of hаlluсіnаtіоnѕ: tасtіlе, аudіtоrу, аnd vіѕuаl.  You may experience a ѕеnѕе оf іtсhіng, burnіng, оr numbnеѕѕ, hear ѕоundѕ which dо nоt еxіѕt or see things which aren’t there.

Stage 3: 

Thе uѕеr ѕtаrtѕ еxреrіеnсіng wіthdrаwаl ѕеіzurеѕ and dеlіrіum trеmеnѕ. This is the most dangerous stage of withdrawal, and intensity will depend on the client and their use of alcohol.  If not treated by a professional medical staff, аlсоhоl dеtоxіfісаtіоn mау rеѕult іn coma or dеаth.

Delerium Tremens

Refers to the onset of confusion and severe hallucinations brought about during withdrawal from alcohol.  It usually takes place during the second stage of alcohol detox, or three days since the last alcohol consumption and can last up to three more days. 

It is common for people to hallucinate and have physical symptoms such as irregular heart rate, high blood pressure, shaking, shivering, sweating.  These conditions can lead to increased body temperature and seizures, which can be fatal. 

Alcohol Detox Timeline

Thе wіthdrаwаl may іnvоlvе a lоt оf аgоnу аnd раіn if done without medical detox supervision.  Untrеаtеd аnd unmаnаgеd ѕуmрtоmѕ саn bе lіfе-thrеаtеnіng.  Alcohol Detox should not rush the treatment process as each person’s symptoms subside at their rate.  In general, inpatient detox ranges from 3-7 days before transition into inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Medications Used During Alcohol Detox

Medications can also help keep a person’s body chemicals in balance, lowering the risk of severe complications.  In rehab, a medical professional will administer the medication and monitor its effects.  In addition, alcohol detox can use another remedy if the drug begins to cause unwanted side effects or interferes with the detox process.

Several Medications Commonly Administered During The Detox Phase

Benzodiazepines

The most frequently used to treat withdrawal symptoms during the alcohol detox phase.  In addition, 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. 

Naltrexone

It helps reduce alcohol cravings during the detox stage.  However, 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 for seven to 10 days before taking naltrexone.  It comes in two forms: a tablet and an injectable.  The pill form of naltrexone is sold under the brand name ReVia and Depade, while the injectable form is 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 acamprosate helps reduce PAWS symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness.  It also reduces 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 adverse 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.

Alcohol Detox Treatment

Treatments can take multiple approaches to treat alcohol detox.  This can vary from a medicalized approach to a more alternative approach.  With a holistic view of addiction treatment, our detox facilities provide various therapies from one end of the spectrum to the other.  This allows us to provide each client with the best treatment possible.

Medically Assisted Detox

There are medication-based options available for clients who face severe detox symptoms or are open to a more medicalized approach to managing their comfort.  Benzodiazepines and sedatives are examples of 2 types of medications sometimes used to help relax the brain and body when at the peak of detox.  In addition, naltrexone is one of the few medications that drugs can give to help curb the cravings accompanied by alcohol detox. 

Additionally, prescription medications are not the only means of beneficial medical interventions during detox.  For instance, heavy sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting can lead to severe dehydration and further complications.  The use of an IV drip can quickly solve this issue and help keep fluid levels up.  Additionally, detox facilities typically provide nutritional supplements that carry numerous benefits for a healing body.

Alternative Therapies

Yoga, Chiropractors, Massage, and Acupuncture are a few of the alternative therapies offered at We Level Up.  These are evidence-based practices that have been shown to progress detox faster and provide much-needed comfort for individuals in withdrawal.  Not only do these therapies help with detox, but they also promote overall health and wellbeing.  Many clients take these practices with them into their everyday life as a tool to maintain their sobriety.

As any withdrawal symptoms subside and a client’s detox stay comes to a close, the last detox stage is aftercare.  Again, an individualized treatment plan is progressing to help provide support, education, and therapy for relapse prevention.

Alcohol Detox And Safety

Alcohol detox can be dangerous, especially if it is finished without the help of a professional. Delirium Tremens and other withdrawal symptoms that may afflict the detoxing client are hazardous and may even be fatal.  It is advisable to detox in a rehab center where you have access to experienced professionals who can manage alcohol detox and withdrawal complications.  The medically supervised detox processes allow the body to process the alcohol that is still in the system and gently wean the body off its dependence.  It is the first stage of alcohol treatment and one you should seek before your addiction gets worse.

Those suffering from addiction for long periods at high rates of use usually experience more severe withdrawal symptoms, making the process more difficult for them.  The symptoms may seem to get worse through the detox process.  They need constant care and attention to help manage the symptoms.  Alcohol Addiction Treatment is within your reach to ensure your recovery starts on a comfortable and safe step.

 When the use of alcohol ends, the withdrawals begin. Medical alcohol detox is critical in ensuring the withdrawal is manageable and reaches completion as well as that it does not become dangerous and life-threatening.
When the use of alcohol ends, the withdrawals begin. Medical alcohol detox is critical in ensuring the withdrawal is manageable and reaches completion as well as that it does not become dangerous and life-threatening.

At We Level Up Treatment Center, we provide world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope.  We work as an integrated team providing support through alcohol detox and other aspects of treatment.  Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life.  Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists.  Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

Sources:

[1] Alcohol Detox – We Level Up NJ – Alcohol Detox – We Level Up Fl