Alcoholism is estimated to affect over 16 million adults in the United States alone. Its effects can be a loss of employment, loss of income, loss of family, and if left untreated, loss of life. The first step in beginning a life free from alcohol is detox. Unfortunately, ridding the body of alcohol during the detox process can be an uncomfortable experience because of the symptoms that may occur. The best and safest way to detox from alcohol is at a detox facility with trained professionals ready to help make the process a bit less uncomfortable. Withdrawal from alcohol can be a dangerous prospect when attempted at home without medical supervision.
Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive illness. While some recognize their problems with alcohol early on in the disease and are able to stop drinking before the disease progresses, others are unable to do so. Over time, the body’s dependence on alcohol becomes not only a mental addiction but also a physical dependence. When this eventually happens, detoxing from alcohol must never be done without medical supervision. The potential side effects from alcohol withdrawal range from discomfort to death.
When physical dependence on alcohol is present, the body will go through stages while detoxing. There are typically three stages a person goes through during alcohol withdrawal treatment. Stage one includes anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and abdominal pain. This stage can begin as little as eight hours after the last drink.
The second stage of alcohol withdrawal includes more alarming symptoms. These can include high blood pressure, increased body temperature, an irregular heart rate, and confusion. This stage usually begins between twenty-four to seventy-two hours after the last drink.
Stage three symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are the most severe. This stage includes hallucinations, fever, seizures, and marked agitation. These symptoms begin approximately seventy-two hours after the last drink. All of these symptoms will decrease gradually and tend to subside between five and seven days after the last drink.
Delirium Tremens, or DT’s, are the most serious symptom of alcohol withdrawal and occur in three to five percent of people experiencing withdrawal. The onset of DT’s can be sudden and come on with no warning. They can be fatal. It is for this reason that alcohol detox should never be attempted without close medical supervision.
While alcohol withdrawal treatment has three distinct stages for some, it is highly dependent on a number of factors. These factors include, how long the person has been drinking and how much they consume each time they drink. A person’s individual medical history, any mental health issues, family history of alcoholism, trauma, and levels of stress all factor into symptoms of withdrawal.
When alcohol is consumed, levels of dopamine in the brain are increased leading to a feeling of euphoria. It can make the drinker feel good, lower inhibitions, and increase self-confidence. For the moderate drinker, this does not cause a problem and they can limit themselves to one or two drinks a week. For the alcoholic, daily drinking becomes the norm. This increased drinking leads to frequent alterations to the dopamine in the brain. The brain eventually stops producing as much because it expects the alcohol to help it along. When the alcohol stops, that is when withdrawal sets in.
During detox in a rehab facility, clients are monitored during detox. Depending on the severity of the addiction, medications like benzodiazepines may be administered while detoxing in order to lessen the symptoms of withdrawal. Because of the high risk of complications from alcohol withdrawal, clients are assessed periodically and given medications accordingly. In addition to benzodiazepines, vitamins, anti-anxiety medications, and other sedatives may be administered. In severe cases of dehydration, intravenous liquids and medications may need to be used in order to bring the client back to health. For some alcoholics, eating has taken a backseat to drinking alcohol. This can result in malnourishment and so vitamins and supplements may be given to restore the body’s nutritional balance.
When a person is detoxing from alcohol, they need psychological support in addition to medical supervision. Even with medications, withdrawal can be uncomfortable and the pull to “just have one drink” to ease symptoms can be hard to overcome. The staff at the detox facility can help clients get through the detox phase and stick with it so that they can begin the real work of recovery, free from the physical dependence of alcohol.
Alcoholism destroys the life of not only the person with the addiction but their friends and family as well. It seeps into every facet of a person’s life until they have no choice but to face their problem head-on. The first step to living a life free from alcohol is detox. The safest place to begin a life alcohol-free is a detox facility.