Alcohol Withdrawal and Detoxification

Some people get anxious when it comes to quitting alcohol because withdrawal symptoms can be severe. However, to treat alcoholism, one has to go through detoxification. Alcohol detox is a natural process that happens in the body in its attempt to remove toxins and waste products from the long-term consumption of alcohol. In a rehab facility, detoxification is usually combined with medication, observation, and counseling. 

Individuals that have been drinking excessively and for longer are likely to experience many severe effects of detoxification. Abusing alcohol for a long time leads to tolerance and other biological changes, causing false homeostasis. That false balance must be disrupted to restore a user to a healthy state, which is a delicate and essential process. 

The Process of Detoxification

The process of detoxification can be performed safely on individuals in both inpatient and outpatient facilities. However, constant monitoring is recommended if one is a heavy user. Usually, the detox process involves the steps below:

  • Intake. The medical staff at the facility does an extensive review of the patient’s medical, drug, and psychiatric history to understand their situation.
  • Medication. Most detoxification processes are accompanied by drugs that imitate the effects of alcohol to lessen withdrawal symptoms. The drugs given might also target discomfort or co-occurring disorders.
  • Stabilization. The individual will then undergo psychological and medical therapy to help them achieve mind and body balance. 
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Side Effects of Alcohol Detox

Alcohol detox comes with withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild to intense and life-threatening. Most of the time, the amount of time one has been drinking will affect the withdrawal symptoms one experiences. For instance, patients that have been drinking excessively for years will experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Also, a detox monitored by health professionals limits some of these negative withdrawal symptoms.

Mild Symptoms of Detoxification include;

  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings

Severe Side Effects Include:

  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Heart failure
  • Convulsions
  • Disorientation
  • Extreme Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens

One of the most severe side effects of withdrawal is delirium tremens. It is, however, uncommon, and it affects about five percent only of people trying to quit alcohol. It usually starts within the first five days after you stop drinking. 

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The Dangers of Detoxing Yourself

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are usually severe, and a health professional should monitor individuals in recovery. This is especially important for anyone with a history of heart or lung disease and other medical conditions. A medical professional will monitor your heart rate and blood pressure, ensuring your condition does not become severe. In addition, you can talk to about how you are feeling and whether you are in pain. 

A Detoxification Timeline

The side effects of withdrawal can start surfacing even two hours after the last drink, especially if you were a heavy user. And while there is no exact timeline as to what side effects you will experience, here is a simple outline. 

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The First 24 Hours

Initially, the symptoms can be mild, such as headaches and anxiety. As you are about to finish those first 24 hours, symptoms might start getting severe. You can experience hand tremors, disorientation, and seizures.

Day Two

The symptoms may be similar to the first day, but more symptoms will exhibit themselves on the second day. You can also experience panic attacks and hallucinations as the body tries to eliminate the alcohol in your system.

Day Three to one Week

During this time, you will experience varying withdrawal symptoms that come and go. This is also the time one is at risk of experiencing delirium tremens.

By the time you are finishing a week, most withdrawal symptoms may start waning off while others persist for a few weeks. The whole process of detoxification is challenging. That is why you need medical monitoring to help manage the symptoms. Having the proper support can help reduce the risk of a relapse.

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