Alcohol use and substance abuse can take a toll on your physical and psychological health. It can also impair your relationships with friends and family members and put pressure on your body.
Binge drinking and frequent drug abuse through alcohol consumption may indicate that you suffer from an alcohol use disorder (AUD). If this sounds like you, you may need to consider your treatment options. Luckily, many sources of help are available via American addiction centers.
We know that feelings of shame can stop you from seeking treatment. However, it is essential to remember that addiction is a disease that can impact anyone. If you have developed a substance addiction, it is not your fault.
Deciding to undergo alcohol addiction treatment takes a lot of courage and strength, so well done for choosing to get help. Committing to substance abuse treatment will be one of the best decisions you ever make.
When the time comes for you to enter a rehab center, one of the first treatment options you encounter will include detox. Find out more about the detox process here, or contact us for guidance.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
When you become mentally and physically dependent on alcohol, an addiction will gradually arise. As noted above, alcohol addiction can happen to anyone, with multiple factors contributing to its development. These factors include:
- The home environment
- Cognitive functioning
- Pre-existing personality disorders
To break the bonds of addiction, alcohol detox is needed to begin the recovery process. Though a challenging first step, it is vital and empowering. Alcohol detox involves removing alcohol from your body to overcome the physical dependency so that you can focus on breaking the psychological addiction.
What Is Medical Detox?
When it comes to withdrawing from alcohol and recovering from addiction, medical detox is provided by alcohol rehab centers. Essentially, medical detox is the process of ridding the body of alcohol under the guidance of licensed medical professionals. With support and care from experts, this treatment is a safe and effective option that ensures you receive the help you need at all times.
Due to the dangers of quitting cold turkey, detox usually involves tapering your dosage. Medication may be administered to help make the process as comfortable as possible and decrease alcohol cravings. Mental health support will also help ease the emotional effects of alcohol withdrawal, with therapists on hand to guide you.
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During medical detox, you will be given a personalized recovery plan that considers your individual needs. This plan will include withdrawal management to ensure you can manage your symptoms and minimize the chance of relapse.
If you have a milder addiction, a natural detox could be an option. Natural detox is the process of detoxing your body from alcohol without medication. Remember that natural detox does not mean going through the process alone; you will still require mental health support and professional help via a rehab center.
Why Do Withdrawal Symptoms Happen?
Despite alcohol's widespread popularity and the fact that it is legal in the US, it is one of the most complex substances to quit. This is due to the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.
Alcohol abuse is harmful due to the way alcohol interacts with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the chemical messenger in the central nervous system. Frequent and heavy drinking can affect the production of GABA, which functions to produce feelings of relaxation. As you detox from alcohol, your GABA levels will reduce as you no longer have alcohol to stimulate its production, causing withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on different factors such as:
- Quantity of alcohol consumption
- Length of alcohol addiction
- Family history
- Your mental health
- Your physical health
What Are the Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is the name given to the symptoms that occur when you suddenly stop drinking alcohol or dramatically reduce your alcohol consumption. If you experience relatively mild symptoms, the detox process will be uncomfortable, but it is unlikely to be fatal.
However, severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome may occur if you have a long and heavy alcohol dependence. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms can be scary and intense, which is why it is vital to undergo alcohol detox with medical supervision.
Some physical withdrawal symptoms include:
- Stomach upset
- Sleep disturbances
Some psychological symptoms may include:
- Mild anxiety
- Severe anxiety
In some cases, severe, life-threatening symptoms will occur. However, these are more likely to arise when alcohol is consumed frequently in large quantities.
Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Delirium Tremens (DTs) - One of the most severe symptoms, DTs can result in a stroke, heart attack, or death when left untreated. Affecting between three and five percent of people who experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, symptoms can include tremors, vomiting, impaired consciousness, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, fever, nightmares, disorientation, delusions, and delirium.
Other severe withdrawal symptoms can include high blood pressure, seizures, and hallucinations. If you experience these severe symptoms, you must access medical support.
What Is the Timeline for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
If you experience withdrawal symptoms, it is common to question how long symptoms of alcohol withdrawal will last. However, as the process affects everyone differently, it is impossible to determine how long you experience them. Below, we have shared a general guide for when to expect alcohol withdrawal symptoms during detox.
Six to Twelve Hours
Around six hours after your last drink, initial withdrawal symptoms will develop. These symptoms are usually mild, but they can be uncomfortable. If you have a history of long-term alcohol abuse, it is possible to encounter seizures at this stage.
Twelve to Forty-Eight Hours
This withdrawal stage includes moderate withdrawal symptoms, which can become severe. Here, you may experience hallucinations twelve to twenty-four hours after your last drink. However, if you experience minor withdrawal, symptoms typically peak at eighteen to twenty-four hours, and they usually start to decrease after four to five days.
Forty-Eight to Seventy-Two Hours
Forty-eight to seventy-two hours after your last drink, you may experience DTs. These symptoms may persist for up to two weeks and typically peak after seventy-two hours.
Occasionally, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can last for one month, but this is rare. If you detox via treatment centers and secure support from a healthcare professional, medications such as benzodiazepines may be administered to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Addiction recovery is a lifelong process, and alcohol detox is just the beginning. Once your physical dependence is overcome, you can start to work on the psychological symptoms through therapy, support groups, and counseling. These treatments will help you address underlying mental health issues and equip you with practical strategies to tackle alcohol abuse and progress positively in your addiction treatment.
Detox from alcohol is an intimidating prospect, but accepting the challenge will pave the way for a happy and healthy future. It will be one of the most rewarding achievements of your life, and with appropriate support, substance abuse can be tackled for good.