For most, overcoming an alcohol addiction means completing an alcohol detox in the first instance. However, it is often the thought of detox that prevents many affected individuals from reaching out for help in the first place. Most people believe that the detox process is going to be extremely painful and that they will struggle to make it through to the end. But with the right programme and supportive people in attendance, detox does not have to be something to fear. But, what does alcohol detox involve?
What You Should Know Before You Detox?
Alcohol abuse is dangerous, and it can lead to many physical, mental, and social problems. It can also develop into an addiction, at which point you will have no control over your alcohol use. You will have a physical and psychological need for alcohol and your body will crave it whenever its effects wear off. As dangerous as it is to abuse alcohol, at this point it can be equally dangerous to just suddenly stop by yourself, without any professional help.
It is therefore vital that you know what is ahead before you attempt any kind of alcohol detox. You will need to find out things such as the type of help that you might need, whether it is best to detox in a dedicated facility or at home, and why you will need to be under constant supervision if you do decide to detox at home.
You should also be aware that a detox is not enough to help you fully overcome your addiction. You must complete a detox and then follow it with a rehabilitation treatment programme as detox only deals with the physical side of the illness. It does not tackle any of the underlying issues associated with addiction and is just the first step on the road to recovery.
What Is a Detox?
We understand that you may be interested in knowing the answer to the question of ‘what does alcohol detox involve’. However, before we look more closely at alcohol detox in detail, it is important that you know a bit more about what the process is and why it happens.
Detox is short for detoxification and is a process that occurs when you stop taking chemical substances such as alcohol or drugs. Your body will have adjusted to the alcohol that was coming in regular supplies, so when you cut off that supply abruptly, your body will have to adjust once more.
This typically results in a few withdrawal symptoms occurring. You should know that every detox is different and as such it is impossible to currently predict the exact symptoms that one will experience, if any.
What you should know though is that you may only have one or two mild symptoms, or you could experience a whole range of symptoms that will vary in intensity from mild to severe. You should also know that you are likely to feel worse before you feel better, but you will feel better once the main symptoms have subsided.
What Is an Alcohol Detox Like?
As alcohol is classed as a depressant drug, it slows down certain functions in the body. It has a sedative effect on the central nervous system, which is that which causes you to feel drowsy when under the influence. Nevertheless, when you suddenly stop drinking alcohol, your body is likely to race in response. You might feel sweaty and shaky and you may notice a rapid heartbeat and raised temperature. Other symptoms such as restlessness, headaches, anxiety, and mood swings may follow in the early days.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms tend to begin around six hours after the last drink, but it may take up to twelve hours before you notice the first symptoms. You might still have a large amount of alcohol in your blood at this stage.
As your body races in response to the withdrawal of alcohol, you could experience slight flutters, or you may find that you are shaking so bad that you are unable to function properly. You might lose your appetite and suffer from nausea or vomiting.
Disorientation, irritability, and agitation can also affect you at this point, and while you may feel that you desperately need to sleep, you will be unable to do so. The good news is that most of these symptoms will pass after a few days. The bad news is that you might now begin experiencing other symptoms, such as hallucinations.
While hallucinations are not dangerous in and of themselves, they can make you feel frightened and may appear quite scary to others in attendance, particularly if detoxing at home with a family member or friend supervising.
What Are Major Alcohol Withdrawals Like?
You might have heard of the DTs before but may not know too much about it. Some people believe it is the name given to severe shaking during alcohol detox, but it is actually the name given to a set of complex changes within the body. Most going through an alcohol detox will not suffer from DTs – this usually occurs in severe alcohol addictions and who have been addicted for many years.
The DTs, or delirium tremens, which is the correct name for this condition, usually set in around two to three days after your last drink (although some individuals do not experience them until the second week, particularly if they have also been abusing other substances such as drugs).
During the DTs, minor symptoms such as shaking, sweating and hallucinations can become much more intense. You might begin to experience paranoid delusions and lose touch with reality. In extreme cases, DTs can lead to symptoms so severe that they result in fatal consequences. It is for this reason that they should always be treated as a medical emergency.
Treatment During an Alcohol Detox
Where you complete an alcohol detox will determine how the process progresses. Detoxing in a dedicated detox clinic will mean being under the care and supervision of fully trained professionals and medical staff who can administer appropriate treatment when necessary.
It may be decided, for example, that you would benefit from certain medications such as sedative replacement drugs to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. Vitamin supplements can also help to prevent some of the worst symptoms from occurring.
You should know that in a detox clinic, you will be at virtually no risk. The environment will be safe and secure, and you will be monitored at all times.
Where Should You Detox from Alcohol?
Now the question of ‘what does alcohol detox involve’ has been answered, you might be wondering where the best place is to complete the process. Some people like the idea of detoxing at home. Until, that is, they find out what is involved and realise that it may be safer to detox in a dedicated facility with staff who are experienced and knowledgeable about the process. If you are still undecided about whether to detox at home or in a detox facility, there are certain things to consider. Moreover, there are certain circumstances where a home detox should be avoided altogether. These include:
- If you have been drinking heavily for a long time and are middle-aged or older
- If you have been experiencing extreme low self-worth and feel as though your life is not worth living
- If you have already experienced severe withdrawal symptoms when in need of alcohol
- If you have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, hepatitis C, chronic lung problems, or liver disease
- If you have a history of mental health problems
- If you have a history of becoming violent or aggressive when under the influence of alcohol
- If you have experienced convulsions or seizures in the past
- If you have also been abusing other substances such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates.
If you would like more information about alcohol detox and what it involves, please contact us here at Oasis Recovery Communities. If you are ready to get started on your journey to sobriety and would like information about our detox programmes, we are more than happy to help. Please call today to find out more.