What is Alcohol Detox?

While struggling with an alcohol use disorder, you might get to a point where you realize that the only way to overcome it is through a professional rehabilitation program. Often, this program will start with an intense alcohol detox process. The goal of detox is to help you manage your withdrawal symptoms and alcohol cravings.

Recovering from Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Alcohol use disorder, also known as alcoholism, is now recognized as a medical and mental health disorder. Understanding this fact is essential before you can get started on the road to recovery.

Often, this road is not easy. In fact, overcoming your alcoholism could be the most difficult experience that you have to go through. This is particularly true if you have been abusing alcohol for a long time or if you have a severe alcohol use disorder.

However, there are many ways in which you can overcome this condition. As long as you have the right type of help, you should be able to deal with your addiction and defeat it over the long term.

Understanding Alcohol Detox

The NIAAA - the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - reports that alcoholism is one of the most widespread conditions reported in the United States. This is probably because alcohol is legally and widely available across the country. It is also socially accepted, even though it can cause you to develop many mental and physical health complications.

If you have been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, you will have to enroll in a professional alcohol detox program to be able to overcome it. This is often the first step to recovery.

However, you should not confuse alcohol detox with rehabilitation. The latter involves getting rid of the toxic effects of alcohol - as well as its remaining traces - from your body and mind.

When you get started on alcohol detox, your body will often go through withdrawal as it tried to overcome its dependence on this intoxicating and mind altering substances. This process might be accompanied by a wide variety of adverse effects, known as alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Since some of these symptoms might prove to be severe or even life-threatening, it is recommended that you go through alcohol detox in a medically managed and supervised program. By so doing, your symptoms will be adequately managed to ensure that you do not suffer too much.

On the other hand, rehabilitation refers to the continuum of care that you will have to undertake. Through alcohol rehabilitation, you will learn how to overcome your psychological, emotional, and behavioral dependence on this substance. Rehab can also help you deal with the effects and causes of your addiction.

Although alcohol detox is offered as a temporary program - and one that will only last as long as your withdrawal symptoms - rehabilitation should take place over the long term. Combining both of these treatments can help you achieve a state of sustainable sobriety, recovery, and health.

Alcohol Withdrawal

When you get started on alcohol detox, you will go through withdrawal. This condition develops because your body and brain would have forgotten how to act and function without alcohol being present in your system.

When you stop abusing alcohol, to this end, your body and brain will start working to get rid of the toxins arising from alcohol. They will also try to establish the chemical balance of your brain.

Often, this process will result in several painful and uncomfortable symptoms, some of which might even prove to be life-threatening or even fatal. For instance, you might develop delirium tremens, a serious condition that could lead to death.

According to research studies, about 15 percent of people with alcohol use disorders who stop drinking often suffer delirium tremens. If this condition is not managed properly through a medically supervised alcohol detox program, it could lead to death.

For this reason, it is recommended that you only stop drinking after you have checked into a medical facility. This way, you will be able to receive ongoing medical services from highly qualified addiction treatment professionals during your alcohol withdrawal.

How Alcohol Withdrawal Works

If you have been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, you will typically drink anywhere between 4 and 10 alcohol drinks on a daily basis. This effectively means that your body would rarely get the opportunity to get rid of the toxins that accompany this intoxicating and mind altering substance.

When you suddenly stop drinking or significantly reduce your typical dose of alcohol, there is a high risk that your body would go into a state of chaos and confusion. This is because it would no longer be able to function as it used to do when you were not drinking.

Additionally, your brain would have become accustomed to the excitatory chemicals that it creates when you drink alcohol. At the same time, there will be no sedative neurotransmitters in your brain to balance these chemicals out.

As a result of this imbalance, you will experience the emotional and psychological symptoms that arise from alcohol withdrawal. For instance, you might suffer mood swings, seizures, insomnia, anxiety, and muddled thoughts.

At the same time, your body would no longer have the pain relief effects of alcohol to soothe these adverse psychological effects. To this end, it is highly likely that your stomach and esophagus will start aching as a response to alcohol's corrosive effects.

Withdrawal will also affect the functioning of some of your essential organs, including but not limited to your kidneys and liver. This is because these organs will have to work extra hard to get rid of the toxins of alcohol from your tissues, blood, and other organs.

Due to this process, you will often experience pains and aches, heart palpitations, headaches, vomiting, and heavy sweating. However, these are not the only adverse effects that develop during alcohol detox.

Although this might seem like a painful and harrowing experience, it is essential to overcoming your alcohol use disorder. Without going through this process, you may never be able to kick your alcohol habit.

Dangers of Home Detox

You might also be tempted to go through withdrawal at home, either because you cannot or you do not want to enroll in a professionally managed detoxification program. Although this is a possibility, there is a high risk that it could lead to many medical complications.

Undertaking alcohol detox at home can often prove to be more difficult and unpleasant than you anticipated. Further, you might be in so much pain that you will try to relieve your pain by resorting to alcohol. This, as you can well imagine, is counterproductive and it cannot help you overcome your addiction.

Apart from the temptation to continue drinking, at home alcohol detox could also prove to be dangerous. This is because:

  • If you have previous experience suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression in the past, there is a high risk that at home detox could lead to the recurrence of these mental health disorders
  • It is highly likely that you will relapse
  • You may develop delirium tremens that could lead to heart failure, seizures, or even death
  • You will experience hallucinations, anxiety, and mental confusion that could give rise to dangerous behavior and bad decisions
  • You won't have any medical assistant at hand to provide you with medications that can relieve your withdrawal symptoms, especially if they turn out to be severe or life-threatening

Types of Alcohol Detox Programs

It would be far better if you were able to enroll in a medically managed and supervised alcohol detox program. Today, there are many options to choose from. Your choice will, however, largely depend on the intensity of your withdrawal symptoms, the severity of your alcohol use disorder, and your financial limitations, among others. These options include:

a) Outpatient Alcohol Detox

When you choose to detox on an outpatient basis, you will be required to spend anywhere between 3 and 5 hours receiving treatment and therapy every week. Outpatient treatment might be ideal if you are a functional alcohol or you have a limited treatment budget.

In such a program, you can continue meeting your regular responsibilities at work, home, and school. You will only check into the treatment program for medically managed alcohol detox services before going back to your everyday life at the end of the therapy session.

b) Inpatient Alcohol Detox

You can also check into an inpatient treatment center for alcohol detox services. This option is considered to be the best and it might work well especially if you are struggling with a severe alcohol use disorder.

The program will take you out of your everyday environment - which is one of the reasons why it might success. Additionally, it will provide you with round the clock medical support and care. This could prove useful during your alcohol withdrawal.

The main advantage with inpatient alcohol detox is that you won't be able to access alcohol unless the program uses a tapering or weaning process. As such, there is a low risk that you will relapse during your treatment.

Getting Help

If you have been struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction, it is recommended that you look for an appropriate alcohol detox program to help you overcome your addiction. As long as you enroll for medically managed detox services, you should be able to deal with your withdrawal symptoms and reduce your risk of relapse. Once the alcohol detox process is done, you should receive further treatment through inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation.

CITATIONS

https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/36/6/577/132467

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0022994

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arp2-1/38-43.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3860472/

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