Alcoholism Facts: What’s Involved in Alcohol Detox?


Knowing what’s involved in detox from alcohol is important when someone is taking the first steps towards getting help for alcoholism. Naturally, the thing most are concerned about is the severity of withdrawal symptoms, which can vary greatly from person to person depending on how long they have been alcohol dependent or an alcoholic.

What Causes Withdrawal ?

When someone has been using alcohol for a while, they are likely to become progressively more resistant or tolerant to its effects. This generally leads to them drinking in greater volumes to achieve the desired effect. After a while, someone who has become dependent on alcohol will not so much choose to get drunk but they will need to. Alcoholism is an addiction that takes control of a person’s urges to drink because of its depressive effect on the brain which slows down brain function and alters the messages transmitted by neurotransmitters.

Over time, the central nervous system becomes used to receiving stimulus from alcohol so that when someone stops drinking, cravings to consume alcohol begin to increase in intensity, producing withdrawal symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Withdrawal from Alcohol ?

Everyone is different and so will be the intensity of their withdrawal when detoxing from alcohol. Much also depends on whether there are other co-existing health conditions requiring treatment. Because it is impossible to predict the severity of withdrawal, it is always highly recommended to attend a center where detox from alcohol is medically supervised.

Mild symptoms which emerge within around six hours after the last drink include:

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Uncontrollable shaky hands

  • Headache, nausea, and vomiting

  • Insomnia and restlessness

  • Sweating or chills

After 12 to 24 hours, withdrawal symptoms may become more heightened and can be serious including:

  • Delirium tremens or DTs which cause hallucinations and delusions

  • Confusion and vagueness

  • Increased heart rate and high blood pressure

  • Fever and heavy sweating

How Alcohol Withdrawal Is Treated

The majority of people detoxing from alcohol will find that having the right environment is all the support they require. Patients in detox are offered the following to make detox more comfortable for them:

  • A quiet, softly place they can be alone

  • A positive and supportive environment

  • Healthy and nutritional food and plenty of fluids

For patients detoxing from alcohol who are experiencing more serious withdrawal symptoms such as DTs, the medical staff is on hand to treat these symptoms as they present in the patient. This is particularly important in cases where a patient has been abusing alcohol for a prolonged period of time as they are more likely to experience the more distressing symptoms of detox from alcohol than other patients.

After Alcohol Detox

When the detox process has been completed and the patient has no more traces of alcohol in their system, they are ready for the next stage of rehab now that the hardest part is behind them. Rehab will offer several different paths towards recovery in a program that has been personalized for each patient after thorough physical, emotional and psychological assessment and evaluation.

Patients will also learn invaluable coping mechanisms they can use to protect their sobriety when they return home after treatment. Knowing how to face the triggers that are likely to be present in recovery and overcome them empowers and motivates a recovering addict to continue with their eminently more fulfilling lives in sobriety.

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