Alcohol Detox: What to Expect When Detoxing from Alcohol

Woman in depressed mood in need of alcohol detox at summit detox

Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive, and fatal disease if left untreated. People struggling with alcoholism experience incessant cravings for, increased tolerance of, and physical dependence on alcohol. Alcoholics continue to drink despite the many negative consequences their drinking has caused them and their loved ones. Alcohol addiction is medically defined as a treatable disease. Fortunately, with help and support, it is possible to manage alcoholism and live a happy, fulfilling life in sobriety. The thought of detoxing from alcohol can be a scary one, particularly if you drink heavily or have been drinking for an extended period of time. You may fear the intense cravings or uncomfortability that will come with alcohol withdrawal. We are here to tell you that you can make it through an alcohol detox safely and comfortably. There are certain things you can expect while detoxing from alcohol.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The more a person drinks, the more tolerant to alcohol the body becomes. When alcohol’s effects wear off, a person who is dependent on it may experience withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to life-threatening. Alcohol withdrawal can be broken down into three stages:

  1. Stage 1 (Mild): Symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and abdominal pain. Typically begins eight hours after the last drink.
  2. Stage 2 (Moderate): Typically begins 24-72 hours after the last drink. Symptoms include high blood pressure, increased body temperature, unusual heart rate, and confusion.
  3. Stage 3 (Severe): Symptoms include fever, hallucinations, agitation, and seizures. This stage typically begins 72+ hours after the last drink.

Alcohol withdrawal is a highly individualized process and it depends on several factors, such as history of alcohol abuse, medical history, family history of addiction, and stress levels. The use of drugs along with alcohol can also influence withdrawal symptoms and increase the potential side effects and dangers. The most serious potential side effect of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens (DTs), which, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, occurs in 3-5% of individuals experiencing alcohol withdrawal. DTs can be fatal without treatment, which is why alcohol withdrawal should be closely supervised by a medical professional.

Why You Should Go to Detox

Quitting drinking “cold turkey” is not recommended without medical supervision. Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, as both the brain and central nervous system go through a rebound period after being repeatedly suppressed by alcohol for an extended period of time. Sudden removal of alcohol, a central nervous system depressant, can in fact be fatal. In most cases, detoxification is necessary before an individual can benefit from rehabilitation. Another benefit of attending a detox program is the emotional support you will receive while you are there. Withdrawal symptoms include emotional and psychological side effects, as well as physical ones. Having the extra support from addiction professionals can help prevent relapse during this challenging time.

What to Expect at Alcohol Detox

By attending a medically-supervised alcohol detox program, you can be sure that your detox from alcohol will be safe and comfortable. During detox, medical professionals will ensure that your physical symptoms are controlled and that you reach a medically stable level. This is typically accomplished by using medications to treat withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, insomnia, dehydration, and seizures. Benzodiazepines are commonly used during alcohol detox. In a medical detox, your blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature will be closely monitored to ensure that they remain at safe levels.

After the physical symptoms have been controlled, most detoxes have mental health professionals to help manage some of the more complex emotional side effects of alcohol withdrawal. Anxiety, depression, and cravings may start to surface as you detox from alcohol. Even after most of the acute physical symptoms have subsided, psychological discomfort in the forms of elevated anxiety and depression may continue. A detox center will provide you with therapy, group counseling, and 12-step meetings to address and process these challenging emotions.

Alcohol withdrawal should not be attempted without professional help, as symptoms can appear and worsen very rapidly. After the physical effects of alcohol withdrawal are managed, emotional symptoms and cravings may continue without the proper treatment and support. When a person is discharged from a detox center, he or she is at a high risk of relapse. Many detox centers provide discharge planning to help transition a person from detox to rehab. Discharge planning is an important part of the detox process.

Let Summit Detox Guide You

At Summit Detox, we help our patients detox safely and comfortably, teach them about their addiction, and help them transition to an addiction treatment program that best suits their needs and recovery goals. Our medically-supervised detox program involves professional health monitoring during your alcohol detox to ensure your safety throughout the process. At Summit Detox, we understand the physical and emotional challenges that accompany detoxing from alcohol, and we are here to support you every step of the way. If you are struggling with alcoholism and wish to start your new life in recovery, call Summit Detox today. Our compassionate and experienced staff of medical and addiction professionals is committed to helping you safely detox from alcohol and begin your journey of sobriety. Call us today at (888) 995-5265.

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