Alcohol Withdrawal & Detox

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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.

Home Detox

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.

Learn More About Our Rehab Program

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Alcohol detox dangerous?

Yes, alcohol detox can be potentially dangerous, especially if you have been drinking excessively for a long time, if you have co-occurring illnesses or dual diagnosis. There is a wide range of physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal you may experience, which will require symptomatic treatment provided by medical professionals. Around 5% of patients will potentially experience life-threatening symptoms, the most dangerous being called delirium tremens, which requires medical intervention.

Does my insurance cover Alcohol detox?

Most health insurance policies will cover alcohol detox, either in part or fully. The amount of cover you are entitled to is specific to your policy and will also depend on the specific program you want to enroll for. We recommend that you speak to your insurance provider about your benefits prior to booking your detox with us so you are aware of any co-payments that you need to make.

How long does Alcohol detox take?

The duration of your alcohol detox program is relative to how long you have been drinking for, your age, weight, and any co-occurring illnesses. On average we find it takes between five and 14 days, but your process could take longer, depending on the variables above defining your level of alcohol dependence. Once you have completed your alcohol detox, you should enter a rehabilitation program to support your long-term sobriety, that will allow us to monitor more efficiently any alcohol withdrawal symptoms caused by stopping your alcohol intake.

Can I die during detox?

An estimated 3% of people who experience seizures due to alcohol withdrawal will experience a more severe type of seizure affecting their central nervous system that can result in death or disability. For patients who experience delirium tremens, an estimated one in 25, or 4%, will die from complications of these severe symptoms. However, these statistics are markedly lower than the number of people who die from alcohol-related deaths. This is one of the many reasons that a medically supervised detox process should be followed, provided by medical professionals that are familiar with the alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Please do not allow your fears to stop you from entering a detox program in one of our treatment centers for alcoholism treatment.

Can I detox from Alcohol at home?

It is generally not recommended to try an alcohol detox at home. We know that it might be difficult to admit to your physician, but not being completely accurate or honest about your alcohol intake from your alcohol use disorder could result in serious consequences. Detoxing in a medically supervised facility like our substance abuse treatment centers is the safest choice for your health and wellbeing, and knowledge empowers your medical team to make the most effective choices for your long-term sobriety.

Following a residential program for your alcohol dependence detox allows us to provide immediate medical attention if needed, this is the most important difference with doing your detox at home. Being in our treatment facility will allow our treatment providers to respond immediately to any physical or mental health issues caused by the alcohol withdrawal syndrome (from severe withdrawal symptoms like delirium tremens or withdrawal seizures to mild withdrawal symptoms like mild anxiety or blood pressure).