What Is Alcohol Detox?
People who suffer from alcoholism often find that the first step in their road to recovery is detoxification, or detox. This refers to the stopping of all use of alcohol immediately and managing the symptoms of withdrawal. While this alone doesn’t guarantee life-long abstinence, alcohol detox can provide the first step in living cleanly when followed up with medical assistance or therapy.
Why Should I Avoid Alcohol Detox at Home?
If someone has been heavily drinking for a long time and stops abruptly, they can experience withdrawal symptoms within 48 hours due to the absence of the familiar feelings of alcohol running through their system.
Withdrawal symptoms can be very painful and dangerous and could result in:
- Heart Palpitations
- Physical Tremors
- Kidney or liver dysfunction
- Delirium tremens
Alcohol detox under professional supervision can drastically reduce withdrawal symptoms by providing a suitable environment, proper medical attention, and even medications to reduce the pain. The intense pain that comes with alcohol withdrawal could reduce motivation to continue the detox at home and could result in a spiraling cycle back into addiction. Detoxing at home is a serious decision, and if not done properly, could result in death.
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How Long Does Alcohol Detox Take?
The amount of time needed to complete alcohol detox depends on how long the person has been drinking, how heavily they drink, and their size. It can take a couple hours to a couple days, depending on the circumstances, to go through withdrawal and cravings. However, it may take weeks or months for the body to fully heal from the dependence and start to accept life without alcohol.
Women tend to have a longer withdrawal period due to their bodies taking a longer time to process alcohol than men. The liver also plays an important role in the length of withdrawal. If the addiction has severely damaged the liver, it could take much longer for it to process the alcohol out of the system and therefore take much longer to heal.
The Alcohol Detox Process
While the process of alcohol detox can vary depending upon severity of the addiction, amount of alcohol regularly consumed, allergies, and co-occurring disorders, most can be broken down into four stages.
- Withdrawal and detox begin as early as two hours after the last drink.
- Symptoms are generally mild.
- Medication is not typically required.
- Generally, the worst stage for most addictions.
- Nearly all of the alcohol has left the body.
- Relapse is most likely.
- This is when medication and therapy are most crucial.
- The body is growing accustomed to the absence of alcohol.
- Symptoms begin to subside.
- Medication can be weaned off or ceased at this stage.
- Other forms of therapy may be introduced.
- Rarely, when the most intense and severe symptoms (delirium tremens) set in.
- This stage lasts between 5 to 14 days after detox begins.
- Inpatients are capable of leaving detox and entering residential treatment.
- Medication will end.
Medication Used for Alcohol Detox
Alcohol withdrawal can have significant physical effects on the body. It can produce very uncomfortable side effects and intense pain. To get through the pain and ensure a much higher success rate, doctors prescribe certain medications to balance out the effects.
Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed drugs to help with the negative side effects of alcohol withdrawal as well as reduce possible seizures. The purpose of Benzodiazepines is to slow down the central nervous system, thus providing a calming sensation, blocking pain in the process.
Studies show that symptom-trigger therapy can also shorten the length of alcohol detox without any medication. Therapy can help understand the underlying causes of addiction by realizing triggers and how to overcome them. Thus, reducing the ultimate reasons for drinking and developing new habits to replace giving into these triggers.
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Where Can I Safely Detox?
Depending on the level of your dependency and the facilities you are considering, both inpatient and outpatient programs can help you safely detox. For those who have a higher dependency, it is recommended to admit to an inpatient program for round the clock observation and help in efficiently succeeding in alcohol detox. If you are struggling with alcohol abuse, it is so important to detox under professional help due to the extreme risks involved with detoxing at home. Contact a specialist today, and get started in overcoming your dependence on alcohol.
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