This whole situation is foreign to you, which is why we’ll be lifting the curtain on alcohol detox to help you feel more prepared for your visit to rehab.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
Simply put, alcohol detox is the process of ridding your body of all toxic substances – including alcohol. During alcohol detox, you’ll be counselled and supported as your body is slowly weaned off alcohol, helping you break your physical and psychological dependence on booze.
Can You Detox at Home?
Quitting cold turkey might seem like the fastest solution, but detoxing at home comes with its own dangers and is not always recommended by medical professionals, but is possible. Detox can cause severe withdrawal symptoms and impact your mental health, especially if you’re going through it alone. As well as battling physical withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and nausea, detoxing at home can also make it easier to slip back into old habits and relapse.
If complications do happen, you’ll have no medical support to back you up. This is why it’s so important to do a medical detox if recommended to do so. As well as being supervised, it also gives you access to 24/7 support and care. Doctors will be able to monitor your condition and intervene if necessary, and they can also answer any questions you might have.
Stages of Medical Detox
Medical detox usually consists of four main stages: medical assessment, withdrawal, medication, and aftercare. There’s no set time for each stage – it will all depend on your individual circumstances, medical history, and severity of your alcohol addiction.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the four stages of medical detox.
The first step of medical detox is a medical assessment. During this stage, a doctor will evaluate your physical and mental health, and will also look into your medical history. This information is used to paint a picture of your medical needs and, in addition, will be used to personalise your detox treatment program.
Detox and Withdrawal
During this stage, a doctor will slowly wean your body off alcohol one step at a time. As the level of alcohol in your system is reduced, you’ll begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. Though these can be uncomfortable, it’s just your body’s natural reaction to coming off alcohol. The severity of symptoms will also depend on the length and severity of your addiction.
Though detox presents similar withdrawal symptoms, no two cases are the same and everybody’s experience will be unique to them. There are, however, a few common withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Shivers, chills, and shakes
- Nausea and vomiting
- High temperature
- Increased heart-rate
- High blood pressure
- Stomach aches and pain
- Body aches
- Bone pain
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams
As well as physical symptoms, withdrawal can also have an impact on your psychological state. Some of the most common psychological symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Irritability and agitation
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Intense cravings
Alongside these mild to moderate symptoms, you can also experience more severe withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- Delirium tremens (DTs)
Delirium tremens is one of the most serious withdrawal symptoms and can potentially be life-threatening – another reason why it’s so important to access proper medical care and get a detox done in a supervised setting. DTs usually last between 2-3 days but can cause severe symptoms such as changes in body temperature, circulation, and breathing; all can lead to complications like sepsis, seizures, and irregular heartbeat.
If you’re experiencing DTs, it’s important that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Though withdrawal symptoms can’t be prevented or stopped in their tracks, they can be managed with proper medication. This is one of the biggest benefits of choosing a medical detox over an at-home detox. You’ll be given medication to help ease and relieve symptoms, making it easier to sleep and continue on your recovery journey.
Some of the most common medications used to aid alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anticonvulsant medications
You’ll also constantly be monitored as you take this medication, to ensure you’re not experiencing any negative side effects. If you do happen to experience negative side effects, your doctor will be able to recommend an alternative that better suits you.
Support and compassionate care are very important to the recovery journey, and can have a significant impact on the outcome of detox. That’s why most rehab clinics will provide ongoing aftercare to patients once they’ve completed detox. Aftercare is important as it can help prevent relapse and ensure you’re getting the support and care you need to continue on your recovery journey.
How Long Does Detox Last?
It’s important to remember that the length and duration of alcohol detox will differ from person to person. Though everybody’s experience will be unique, the average length of time in detox is between seven to ten days. Factors that influence this include:
- The severity of your alcohol addiction
- How long you’ve been drinking
- The severity of your withdrawal symptoms
- Your physical health
- Your mental health
Once you’ve completed rehab, you’ll have the chance to continue your recovery journey by embarking on psychological treatment – i.e., therapy and counselling. This is a vital step in your journey to sobriety and will help build up your mental strength, giving you the tools you need to create healthy coping mechanisms when faced with triggers, cravings, or stressful situations.