If you’ve been drinking heavily and stop drinking suddenly, you’re likely to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can be serious and even life-threatening. When you stop drinking, your body starts the natural detoxification process, ridding itself of alcohol. Because this process can be very dangerous and painful, it should always occur under professional medical supervision. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid the detox process if you want to kick your alcohol addiction. But there’s good news: you can find the help you need to get through detox. At Purpose Healing Center, we’re ready to help you.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
When you stop drinking, your body has to adjust to going without alcohol. While you’re likely to experience a wide range of symptoms during detox, it’s a mandatory first step in your recovery. During alcohol detox, your body eliminates all alcohol from its system. This can be painful and unpleasant since you’ve become chemically accustomed to using alcohol. If you undergo detox in a medically supervised setting, whether inpatient or outpatient, you can go through the difficult process of detox surrounded by safety and support.
The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal and Detox
Alcohol detox brings with it a series of uncomfortable and potentially life-threatening symptoms. When your body loses the alcohol it has been relying on, your central nervous system reacts with both physical and mental symptoms. That’s because abuse of alcohol affects every part of your central nervous system.
Withdrawal symptoms typically reach their peak as your body flushes out the last traces of alcohol. While symptoms may be comparatively mild for some, for others they can be very dangerous and difficult to bear. The difference depends on many factors, including age, gender, current state of health, drinking history, and any co-occurring conditions. You can expect both physical and mental symptoms. Among the most common physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are:
- Increased blood pressure
- Hypersensitivity to sound and light
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Decreased appetite
- Heart palpitations
Mental health symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Emotional distress
- Mood swings
When someone experiences the most severe version of withdrawal, they go through delirium tremens. This condition includes seizures, hallucinations, extreme agitation, confusion and fever. Delirium tremens can be life-threatening. If someone is at risk of this condition because of their extreme drinking, or if they’ve experienced extreme withdrawal symptoms previously, medically supervised detox is absolutely necessary. If this extreme set of symptoms sounds familiar, call us today for help.
Delirium tremens typically start 2 or 3 days after the person has had their last alcoholic drink, but it can take longer. It can affect heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing, and it can decrease the blood flow to the brain. Because of these risks, someone experiencing delirium tremens faces a fatal risk if they try to handle detox on their own.
A Typical Timeline for Alcohol Detox
You can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms about 6 hours after your last alcoholic drink. Symptoms become increasingly worse for 2 to 3 days, then taper off, finally ceasing after about 7 days.
Initial symptoms include sweating, nausea and irritability. Blood pressure and heart rate then start right, with insomnia and shaking beginning within 12 hours. By the end of the second day, delerium tremens may start, continuing up till the fifth day, in some cases. While most people’s physical symptoms start to subside at this point, some people may continue to experience anxiety and insomnia.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s guidelines for alcohol detox break the process into three stages. In the evaluation stage, the level of intoxication is determined, along with any co-occurring mental health disorders. The stabilization stage helps the person through active detox so that all alcohol can leave the body, with treatment for withdrawal symptoms as needed. SAMHSA considers entry into treatment as the final phase, as a long-term plan is put into place.
Why Alcohol Detox on Your Own Is Dangerous
Trying to go through alcohol detox without medical supervision is incredibly dangerous. Under medical supervision, you can receive medications to help you cope with the worst of the withdrawal symptoms. Without that help, you’re likely to relapse and fail at detox. In addition, your medical team monitors your vital signs and keeps an eye open for complications, providing emergency care if necessary.
Without medical supervision, you have to deal with the extreme pain and discomfort of alcohol withdrawal symptoms without any help. You don’t get the medications you need, not to mention basic nutrients. You also have to face the extreme mental health symptoms of depression and anxiety with no support.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that trying to detox on your own brings with it an increased likelihood of relapse. Standing up to the pain and difficulty of withdrawal alone proves impossible for many people. When the pain is removed and support is provided, relapse is far less likely.
Medical supervision is particularly needed with people who experience delirium tremens. About 5 to 10% of people who undergo withdrawal experience delirium tremens, and about 5% of those people die. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know in advance who will experience this extreme set of withdrawal symptoms. Undergoing detox with medical supervision can make all the difference.
Benefits of Medically Supervised Detox
Medically supervised detox, such as we provide at Purpose Healing Center, is the safest possible way to go through alcohol detox. With medical supervision, your co-occurring conditions are taken into account, with appropriate treatment and support provided, and you have a 24/7 team of experts on hand in case something goes wrong.
Safety and health are at the core of medically supervised detox. Your vital signs will be monitored throughout the entire process to prevent or deal with any complications. You can also begin treatment for various withdrawal symptoms before they get really bad, to ease the process a bit.
In addition, you get the mental health support that’s so profoundly needed during alcohol detox. Your psychological condition is likely to be shaky during detox, and having therapists on hand to deal with mental health issues can help detox your mind as well as your body and start you on the path to wellness.
Having healthcare professionals on hand to help with the specifics of withdrawal symptoms can be the key factor that helps you get through detox successfully. At Purpose Healing Center, professionals know how to mitigate your withdrawal symptoms and get you through to the other side with as much comfort as possible. Because medical staff are available to you 24/7, you get the care you need at any time day or night, regardless of when the toughest symptoms set in. You also get dietary support to keep your physical strength up, and in the restricted environment of our facility, you’re removed from outside dangers (including access to alcohol) and allowed to focus solely on yourself and your recovery.
There’s also a real benefit in knowing that you don’t have to face detox and recovery on your own. Within a comforting and encouraging atmosphere, you’ll be surrounded by people who understand what you’re going through and don’t bring any judgment to the process. Instead, they’re here to support you at every stage. That support continues into rehab and aftercare, where you can get the help you need, including therapy and medical treatment, to help you reach long-term sobriety and well-being.
Help Awaits You at Purpose Healing Center
There is help and hope if you’re facing alcohol detox and withdrawal. If you or a loved one are ready to beat your alcohol addiction, contact us now to learn how we can help. At Purpose Healing Center, we’re here to make the difference you need.