Alcohol abuse depresses your system. It slows your brain function down, and your body has to work harder to keep your brain alert when it gets used to having alcohol in your system. After you stop drinking alcohol your brain is hyper alert, and this causes the symptoms that are known as alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Our team is standing by to assist you as you begin your detox program. You will be assessed on admission in our clinical institute withdrawal assessment, in order to establish the most supportive program for your needs. While an alcohol detox is not pleasant, many clients find it reminds them why they do not want to drink again, and say it helps them avoid relapse when they remember what they went through.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
The more alcohol you are used to drinking, and the longer you have been drinking heavily for, the more intense your alcohol withdrawal symptoms will be. Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are likely to begin within six hours of your last drink.
Heavy or prolonged alcohol consumption causes changes to your brain, by changing the way GABA receptors, and some glutamate receptors, function. In response, your brain releases less GABA and increases glutamate as compensation for the lower levels caused by alcohol. This is the development of a ‘tolerance’.
When you suddenly stop drinking or reduce your intake considerably, it causes your brain to go into a state of hyperarousal. As such more than 80% of people with an alcohol use disorder will develop severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal
The American Academy of Family Physicians says that withdrawal occurs in three stages: mild, moderate and severe.
In Stage 1, approximately six hours after your last drink, you may experience shaky hands, anxiety, nausea, headache, vomiting, sweating, insomnia.
By Stage 2, approximately 12 to 24 hours after your last unit of alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms become more serious and you may hallucinate. Seizures can occur within two days, and you may hear, see, feel or imagine things that aren’t there. A professional intervention is usually required to stop you from progressing from stage two to stage three.
Stage 3 occurs 48 to 72 hours later, and it is in this stage that delirium tremens could develop. This is a serious condition typified by vivid hallucinations and delusion. Approximately 5% of people who are going through withdrawal may develop delirium tremens. This is a medical emergency and you must call 911 straight away. The condition may be accompanied by the symptoms from stage 1, as well as, an elevated heart rate, confusion or disorientation, fever, excessive sweating, stomach disturbance, hypertension
Medically supervised detoxes are the safest way to manage alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Having an action plan and realistic expectations can make your alcohol detox safer and more comfortable. At-home detoxes have a low success rate because it is harder to avoid relapsing from alcohol abuse without counseling and medical attention, and alcohol is readily available. There is always a risk of life-threatening symptoms developing should you try to detox at home.
Having a first aid kit on hand, staying well hydrated with water and electrolytes, and having someone available to check on you, may assist you to detox safely. Being completely transparent about your alcohol consumption gives your medical team a more accurate context for your risks and enables us to help you to achieve your sobriety goals to recover from alcohol addiction.
To get rid of your alcohol dependence, at-home detoxification from alcohol is generally not recommended.
A medically supervised detox is better for most clients, however if your symptoms are mild and your home environment is stable and trigger-free, you may be able to detox at home or through an out-patient program. If you participate in an out-patient program you will stay at home and go to a rehab center on a daily basis to treat your alcohol addiction and monitor the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
If you do detox at home, you need to set time aside in your schedule to be focused on the process of alcohol withdrawal. You must also remove alcohol from your home to avoid any relapse temptation and have a close friend or family member available to monitor the alcohol withdrawal process.
Can I Quit Alcohol ‘Cold Turkey’
We recommend that you taper off your alcohol consumption rather than quitting ‘cold turkey’. While this will make the detox period last longer, it can make your withdrawal less intense.
Quitting ‘cold turkey’ poses significant medical risks to your health, especially if you have been drinking heavily. For some people, quitting abruptly can induce severe withdrawal symptoms, including heart palpitations, hallucinations, seizures and delirium tremens.
Having medical supervision is recommended for long term, successful recovery. If you have been drinking for a long time, your early-stage sobriety puts you at risk for medical complications and relapse from alcohol abuse.
Another important consideration is the number of times you have tried to detox from alcohol and been through withdrawal, because the process of withdrawal causes chemical changes to your brain. Every time you go through alcohol withdrawal, your risk for serious complications and side effects goes up. This is a risk factor that should be discussed with your medical team before you attempt a detox.
In a Residential Setting
Withdrawal from alcohol can be potentially life-threatening for some patients. Quitting after a period of heavy or prolonged drinking can lead to delirium tremens, a condition that requires medical intervention and which can be fatal. A detox in our treatment facility allows us to monitor closely any symptoms of alcohol withdrawal you might have.
Within an in-patient detox program, clinical staff provide medical interventions to reduce the severity of your symptoms. Calming medication may be prescribed to relieve agitation while neuroleptics can help you to avoid seizures. Your nutritional intake may need to be supplemented to address deficiencies caused by excessive drinking and withdrawal, and to reduce the severity of your symptoms.
Clients who have co-occurring illnesses, trauma or dual diagnosis have a safer detox and are at less risk of relapsing in a residential setting. Our alcohol rehab program will take off once all traces of alcohol have been cleansed from the body.
Is a Alcohol Detox Enough to Tackle Addiction?
The objective of an alcohol detox is to break your physical dependency on alcohol. On its own, a detox isn’t an addiction treatment, and you will need to follow through with some therapeutic intervention.
If you were drinking to get a sense of normality in your life or to escape from it, then you will need to go through follow-up therapy to learn new coping strategies.
We provide therapy for mental illness, trauma and stress to help you to understand and confront the root cause of your dependency, as well as holistic therapies to help you rediscover joy in your life.
Research shows that group therapy and support groups provide the most successful prognosis for long-term sobriety. Aftercare programs like support groups give you encouragement, support and multiple perspectives through which to frame your recovery and new life.