There are countless reasons people with alcoholism are reluctant to get the help required to recover. One reason is that the affected person might be unable to see the seriousness of their situation and is living in denial about the problem.
Others are fully aware that they need help but are afraid of what recovery might mean for them. Some are so scared at the thoughts of what alcohol detox feels like that they would rather continue with their destructive behaviour than reach out for help.
If you are struggling with an addiction to alcohol, knowing what alcohol detox feels like might make it easier for you to get started on the road to recovery.
What to Expect from Alcohol Detox
Most people assume that alcohol is safe because it is a legal substance and one that is widely accepted in modern western society. What most people fail to realise is that alcohol is actually a central nervous system depressant that can have a detrimental effect on mental and physical health. It is also highly addictive when abused and is capable of destroying lives. Those who do suffer from addiction will almost certainly need professional help to get their life back on track, and this help usually begins with a detox.
Detox is a natural process that begins when you stop drinking alcohol. However, you should be aware that suddenly quitting alcohol after drinking heavily for a long time can also be dangerous and potentially result in the onset of severe symptoms. It is for this reason that detoxing from alcohol should almost always take place in a dedicated detox clinic.
When you quit alcohol, your body will respond by trying to get back to normal. As your brain and body begin the healing process, you are likely to experience a range of symptoms that could end up being mild, moderate, or severe in intensity.
It is not possible to predict how the detox will progress exactly because there are many factors that can influence the type and severity of the symptoms that occur. In general, though, alcohol detox programmes last for around one to two weeks and most people will experience mild to moderate symptoms.
Alcohol Detox Timeline
Although you cannot foresee the way in which your detox will progress, the following will give you a general idea of what to expect.
The first symptoms usually appear around six to twelve hours after the last drink. At this point, there may still be quite a bit of alcohol in your bloodstream, but your body will have realised that the usual dose of alcohol is not forthcoming and will start to expel any remaining traces of chemicals that have accumulated in your system over time.
The first symptoms that appear tend to be mild and may resemble those that you have experienced in the past when in need of alcohol. You may notice headaches, sweating, trembling, nausea, and vomiting. You might also be prone to mood swings.
As alcohol is a depressant substance, your body may begin to race when the substance is withdrawn. This could result in symptoms such as flushed skin, a racing pulse, and a raised temperature.
Over the next few days, you might notice a loss of appetite, a need to sleep but an inability to do so, anxiety, fear, confusion, and depression. The good news though is that most of these symptoms tend to ease up after a few days.
If you are one of the approximately 25 percent of people who experience hallucinations during an alcohol detox, you can expect these to occur around twenty-four to forty-eight hours after your last drink. You might notice fleeing shadows or hear things that are not there. Hallucinations tend to be more vivid and intense at night, and although not life-threatening in and of themselves, can be quite frightening.
Not everyone going through an alcohol detox will experience severe symptoms, but if these do occur, they tend to appear anywhere from six to seventy-two hours after the last alcoholic drink. Nevertheless, for those who have been abusing alcohol with other drugs, these symptoms may not appear until the second week.
Severe symptoms can include seizures, convulsions, and the DTs (delirium tremens). The DTs are a sudden set of changes to the central nervous system that can be extremely dangerous, especially if not treated immediately. They could even be fatal when severe; it is thought that a combination of shock, dehydration, and heart irregularities caused by a surge of adrenaline contribute to a shutdown of various functions.
Why You Should Not Fear Alcohol Detox
If you have been worried about what alcohol detox feels like, you may have been avoiding getting help. From reading the above, you may be scared of what lies ahead, but it is important to realise that severe symptoms do not occur in every detox. Moreover, when you complete the process in a dedicated clinic, the risk of complications will be very low.
It is natural to be fearful of alcohol detox, but there is really no need. In a detox facility, you will be monitored at all times but staff with the experience and knowledge to ensure your safety. Medical staff may be able to administer medication to ease the symptoms and to relieve any discomfort that you are experiencing. They may even be able to prevent the worst symptoms from occurring.
Is Detoxing at Home an Option?
Some individuals prefer to detox in their own homes rather than in a secure facility and while this is certainly possible for some, it is not recommended for everyone. Alcohol is one of the most difficult substances to withdraw from because of the risk of complications and severe symptoms.
If you do wish to detox at home, it is important that you seek medical advice first. You should be aware that you will need to have someone with you throughout the process. Furthermore, because your attendant will need to be awake at all times, it is likely that more than one person will need to agree to supervise and take it in turns to do shifts.
You should also be aware that there are certain situations where a home detox is inadvisable. For example, if you have suffered withdrawal symptoms in the past when trying to quit or cut back on alcohol, then you will be more likely to experience them again.
You are also at higher risk of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms if you have been drinking heavily for a long time and you have underlying mental or physical health problems. A history of seizures or convulsions is another factor to consider, as this could increase your risk of suffering them during your detox.
What Happens After Detox
An alcohol detox should take between one and two weeks to complete, after which time you will be ready to get started on the rest of your journey. Once your mind and body are free from alcohol, you will be in a position to tackle the job of learning how to live without alcohol going forward. With a series of counselling and therapy sessions, you will gain the skills needed to avoid a return to addictive behaviour in the future and can learn how to get your life back on track.
If you would like to know more about overcoming an alcohol addiction or what alcohol detox feels like, call us here at Oasis Recovery Communities. We have a team of fully trained advisors who can take your call and answer your questions. We will also provide relevant information about the procedure for putting alcohol abuse behind you once and for all.