Alcohol is a powerful drug that can cause deep dependency in those who rely on it for escape and for stress relief. Many people who use alcohol regularly develop deep cravings for it, and can fall into a pattern of drinking without having any awareness of the need to stop. The ongoing loss of control in the face of cravings for alcohol can lead to serious dependence and alcoholism. Long term abuse of alcohol can lead to serious social and health problems as well. Alcoholics may lose their social networks, their family and friends due to the behavioral problems alcohol abuse can bring on. Ongoing alcoholism can also lead to damage to the liver, brain and other major organs. Accidents, like drunk driving accidents when a driver is intoxicated, can be very serious or even fatal for the driver and those they endanger.
Recovering From Alcoholism
For people who have been drinking too much for too long, and who are encountering problems due to their alcohol abuse, the first stage of recovery is in realizing there is a problem and deciding to face it. When a person decides to stop drinking, they may need to seek help for recovery and get help with committing to alcohol detox.
The Issue of Going “Cold Turkey”
When a person is ready to stop drinking, and has a great desire to recover and lead a life without alcohol, they may want to stop drinking “cold turkey,” and let their body recover from their alcohol abuse without any outside help. Though this is an admirable instinct, the problem is that, unlike with some other drugs, alcohol detox can bring on dangerous withdrawal symptoms, and it is actually thought to be one of the most dangerous drugs to detox from without any professional supervision.
The Detox Process
When a person begins the alcohol detox process in a detox center, they will be given a medical evaluation to assess their particular situation. This is very important, as some alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be very serious, even life-threatening, which is why it can be so dangerous to go “cold turkey” without any medical supervision. During a one-on-one assessment with a treatment counselor, the person undergoing detox may also be evaluated for any other psychological factors that accompany the alcohol dependence. People with associated problems like depression or Bi-Polar disorder may need addictional support during detox to avoid serious issues.
Facing the Facts of Detox
One thing that needs to be faced before going through detox is the reality of the discomfort the process will bring on. A patient who is counseled and assessed in a detox center by a healthcare professional will need to confront the reality that the process is not easy. As the detoxing of the body progresses, the withdrawal symptoms can be very hard to deal with, and it’s important that the client knows all of this and is ready to face those facts.
As detox gets underway and the body rids itself of alcohol (which for many alcoholics, has been a constant in the system), many symptoms may occur that will be challenging to go through. These can include sweating, confused thoughts, extreme anxiety, headaches, fevers, elevated blood pressure levels, agitation, racing heart beat, extreme mood swings, and seizures.
Obviously, none of these symptoms are easy to deal with, to say the least. Seizures are a very serious side effect of alcohol withdrawal. These come about because the brain of an alcoholic is accustomed to feeling sedated on a regular basis. When the alcohol sedation is removed abruptly, the neurons in the brain sometimes can’t immediately deal with the new, higher level of brain activity, and the body may go into seizures.
What to Look For During Detox
The more severe the alcoholic’s drinking problem, the more severe the symptoms can be. It is essential, though, for the alcoholic to commit and go through a full course of detox before beginning the counseling and treatment aspect of recovery, in order to have the best chance for a full recovery.
Stage One of Detox
During the first few hours of detox, the client may experience cravings for alcohol (which means the detox is working). As time goes on, symptoms of anxiety, depression, body tremor, and physical illness may also occur. Many people will have frightening nightmares during detox too.
As the detox continues, during the first couple of days without alcohol, the client may also experience hallucinations and seizures. In severe cases, a client may have delirium tremens, (with tremors, fevers and hallucinations) which is a very serious withdrawal symptom which calls for medical supervision due to its severity.
After the first two days of detox, the risk of experiencing seizures will lessen. The client may still suffer from confusion and may be at risk for a heart attack or stroke for the next 7 to 10 days after withdrawing from alcohol use, so they must be monitored by medical professionals during that time.
Finally, when symptoms have subsided, the client can begin the work of recovery by taking part in counseling with experienced professionals.
There’s no doubt that undergoing detox is a serious and difficult process, but it’s the first step in what can be the beginning of a successful, alcohol free new life.