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Alcohol Detox

Alcohol detox can be very uncomfortable. But medical treatment can make withdrawal symptoms less intense. Learn here

minute read

Alcohol Detox = Removing Toxins From The Body

Alcohol dependence and abuse are very common in today’s society. People judge without understanding and are probably wonder ‘why don’t you just quit drinking’. The truth is, even if drinkers want to stop, it can be difficult due to withdrawal symptoms, which occur within 3-8 hours after the last drink. It takes a strong will, persistence, love and support to get yourself or a loved one through alcohol withdrawal.

When addicted to alcohol, the idea of quitting might seem scary, especially when you think about going through withdrawal. One of the first questions that crosses people’s minds is ‘do I need medical detox? Try looking at your fears and concerns this way: If you find it difficult to control your alcohol use and drink alcohol on a daily basis, then you definitely need professional help.

Medical detox is the actual process of systematic and safe alcohol removal from your body. Alcohol detox is most successfully performed at a licensed detox clinic and/or a residential facility. There, professionals trained in alcohol detox will monitor your condition, provide daily care and administer medications to help you easily bear the withdrawal discomfort. The detoxification process is designed to treat the immediate bodily effects of stopping alcohol and to remove toxins left in the body as a result of the chemicals found in alcohol.

But what are the methods of alcohol detox and which one has proven to be the safest and most effective? Which symptoms should you expect after you quit drinking and how long does alcohol detox last? We review these questions here and invite your questions and comments at the end section below.

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The Ultimate Goal Of Alcohol Detox?

‘Detoxification’ or commonly known as ‘drying out’ is a process in which people stop using alcohol by taking prescribed medications which have a similar effect on the nervous system as alcohol. Detox clinics and treatment centers have their health care professionals monitor the individual’s physical and psychological state. According to the person’s condition, they will reduce the prescribed dose over a number of days. The goal is to stop drinking and taking medications altogether.

The medicines prescribed for detox are inexpensive and reasonably safe if taken as prescribed, although they can cause drowsiness. The details of the detox treatment are tailored in accordance to one’s personal needs. This includes the type of medication, the dosage, and the period of time a person will be taking it.

Alcohol Detox Methods: Which One Is Right For You?

There are three main ways to stop drinking. No matter which method you choose, you will probably go through alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal refers to the symptoms that occur when a person suddenly stops drinking after regularly drinking too much alcohol.

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You could quit cold turkey, but there’s a great risk from withdrawal symptoms. However, with a strong motivation and the support from your closest family and friends, you can make it.

If you decide to end alcohol abuse by gradually reducing consumption you may avoid the worst withdrawal symptoms. It is good to slowly taper off alcohol and give your body the chance to adapt and stabilize. Turning to medical professionals for help with alcohol withdrawal is called ‘detoxification’. This method happens under professionals’ supervision by replacing alcohol with prescription medication and lasts only a few days.

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Symptoms Of Alcohol Detox

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually occur 8 hours after you’ve quit your last drink. Symptoms usually peak 24 – 72 hours, but may linger for weeks.

Withdrawal symptoms usually occur as the result of an abrupt alcohol discontinuation, or a significant decrease in the amount of consumed alcohol. People who have been drinking heavily for a prolonged period of time (weeks, months or years) will go through a variety of symptoms after they stop their alcohol intake.

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Physical symptoms:

  • Clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweats
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

Psychological symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Sleeping difficulties

The severity and intensity of these symptoms will vary according to your overall health condition, your age, and the length of time you were drinking alcohol. You may have more severe withdrawal symptoms if you have experienced and/or are currently struggling with other medical problems.

Alcohol Detox Duration

It is important to remember that detox is just the first step of the long recovery path. The detox procedure will flush all the traces of alcohol from your body. The whole detox process usually lasts 7-10 days, while rehab programs last minimum 30days. Some people benefit from 60- 90days or even longer treatment stays at a residential rehab facility. The time spent in detox and alcohol addiction treatment depends on the following factors:

  • A person’s alcohol addiction history.
  • Addiction severity.
  • Presence of co-occurring disorders.
  • A person’s physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual needs.

Types Of Alcohol Detox

The withdrawal symptoms related with alcohol can be more severe than symptoms of illicit drugs withdrawal, and they can last for more than a week. Drinking is dangerous, and even giving up alcohol can be dangerous. So, which type of detox should you consider?

1. Detox clinic with medical supervision
According to many, this is the best and safest way to quit drinking. Especially if a person has been using alcohol for a longer time, he/she will have to endure very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal is a serious condition that may rapidly become life threatening. Doctors’ supervision and medications can be of great help. Very heavy drinkers will start at a higher dose which will be reduced over the following 7-10 days. Less heavy drinkers can start on a lower dose of meds and take them for a shorter period of time.

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2. Alcohol detox at home
With your doctor’s approval you can stay home during your detoxification. However, sufficient professional help should be provided to you. Keep in touch with your family doctor, a nurse, or a social worker during your home-stay detox. Medical help should be available at any time of the day including after working hours, so always keep a list of emergency phone numbers just in case of need.

3. Cold turkey detox
By quitting all at once, you face a greater risk from withdrawal symptoms occurrence. Going cold turkey is not the safest and mostly recommended method of withdrawing from alcohol. If you decide to use this method you must let close family and friends know what you are doing. During this time you should avoid being on your own, especially in the first few days of your withdrawal.

Alcohol Detoxification Questions

If you have any questions or experiences to share, please post them in the section below. We will reply with prompt and personal answers. We can also refer you to other professionals for further help.

Reference Sources:  NIH: An Overview of Outpatient and Inpatient Detoxification
NIH: Rethinking drinking; Alcohol and your health; Tips to try
NIH: Alcohol withdrawal
OK: Addiction (Alcohol and Substance Abuse): Myths and Facts
Medline Plus: Alcohol withdrawal
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