Alcohol detox treatment

Detox from alcohol includes assessment for dependence, use of medications (when necessary) and medical supervision to address symptoms of withdrawal. More on the protocols and treatments during alcohol detox here.

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Abstinence is a prerequisite for recovery from problem drinking. But how do you get there? And what kinds of treatments can help?

Alcohol detoxification treatment is a series of medical and behavioral interventions performed in a controlled environment, during which you are closely monitored.  Vital signs and symptoms of alcohol detox are under surveillance. Medications are used when necessary. More here on the protocols used during alcohol detox, with a section for your questions at the end.

Alcohol detox: What to expect

Detox is the process during which the body becomes alcohol free. It is a necessary process that the body goes through when it is dependent on a substance.  What’s a common alcohol detox timeline? The process of detoxification from alcohol takes three to seven days, after which dependency on alcohol (physical or chemical) resolves. Some basic ideas for what to expect include:

1. Setting

The preferred setting for detoxification, based on principles of safety and humanitarian concerns is hospitalization, or another form of 24-7 medical care.  At the least, a setting that provides a high level of nursing and medical backup is suggested.

2. Timing

The signs and symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal generally start 6 -24 hours after the last drink. Alcohol withdrawal may begin when significant blood alcohol concentrations are present. Uncomplicated alcohol withdrawal is generally completed within five days. Furthermore, symptoms generally peak within 24-36 hours after the last drink. Withdrawal seizures can occur at various times during alcohol withdrawal, but generally begin within 48 hours of the last drink. Withdrawal delirium, “delirium tremens,” usually begins 48–72 hours after the last drink making medical observation of detox critical in order to avoid complications.

3. Screening

As the initial step in diagnosing alcohol use disorders, all people entering alcohol detox treatments should be screened for a history of alcohol use. In addition, a patient medical history and physical exam and usually performed.

The course of alcohol withdrawal is unpredictable. While screening and assessment of alcohol dependency exist, they do not predict who will or will not experience life -threatening complications. This is why continued surveillance is an important part of acute detox.

4. Management of acute complications

During alcohol detox, serious symptoms can manifest. Possible intensive care unit care may be required, which can include administration of anti-psychotic or anti-anxiety medications. Serious, life threatening symptoms during detox include:

  • delirium tremens
  • dysregulation of body temperature, pulse, and blood pressure
  • seizures

5. Stabilization

In addition to addressing serious complications using prescription drugs, other medications may be prescribed during the stabilization period, in order to address alcohol cravings, or underlying mental health disorders. However, young individuals in good health, with no history of previous withdrawal reactions, may be well served by management of withdrawal without medication. Methods of withdrawal management without medication include frequent interpersonal support, provision of adequate fluids and food, attention to hygiene, adequate sleep, and the maintenance of a no-alcohol/no-drug environment.

The main treatments for alcohol detox include:

  • anti-seizure medication
  • Benzodiazepine therapy
  • Carbamazepine for alcohol related seizures
  • Clonidine therapy
  • short term supplementation with a daily multivitamin (containing folate)
  • the use of intravenous fluids, glucose, and electrolytes
  • Thiamine replacement

6. Follow up care

Periodic assessments after acute detox can help detect the development of any psychiatric symptoms such as depression, suicidal thinking, or underlying psychosis.
Follow -up psychological support through group therapy, individual counseling, 12
step recovery meetings, or similar programs provide alternative methods of
coping with the stresses that trigger alcohol abuse. Detox clinic staff can also
determine whether referrals to drug education or to nonresidential or residential drug
treatment programs are helpful.

Rapid alcohol detox treatment

There is no proecudre currently available to “speed up” the process of alcohol detox.  Rapid detoxification and rapid opiate detox are procedures mainly for removing opiates (not alcohol) from the body. While rapid detox is an anesthesia assisted detoxification procedure done in a clinical setting, usually a hospital or rapid detoxification center, its medical benefits remain unclear and the procedure is relatively expensive.

How to detox from alcohol safely

What is the safest way to detox from alcohol? THe safest way to detox from alcohol is UNDER MEDICAL SUPERVISION.  The goals for the treatment of alcohol dependence are to safely bring the body to homeostasis without complications. The best way to do this is in a hospital or medical clinic, with expert advice and supervision.

Treatments for alcohol detox questions

Do you find this article useful? We hope to have answered your questions about the main treatments involved in alcohol detox.  However, if there are some questions about alcohol detox treatment we did not answer, you can submit them at the end of the page. We`ll try to provide you with neccessary information personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: Federal Bureau of Prisons: Detoxification of Chemically Dependent Inmates
NCBI: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment
Treatment4addiction: Detoxification
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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