What is Alcohol Detoxification?

An alcohol detox (detoxification) is the natural process that occurs when the body starts to attempt to rid the system of waste products such as toxins from excessive, long-term alcohol consumption. The treatment settings and alcohol detox process will usually be accompanied by medical observation, medication, and counseling. The detoxification process is a medical treatment that takes place at a medical rehab facility or treatment center that helps individuals overcome their physical and psychological dependence on alcohol.

Individuals who have been drinking heavily for an extended period are very likely to experience the adverse side effects during the detox process in which sometimes can be dangerous or fatal.

Prolonged alcohol abuse may lead to tolerance and dependence in which creates biological changes that will generate false stability. The disruption of this balance and restoring the individual to a healthy state is a critical process; it is essential and also delicate.

Detoxing from excessive alcohol use is dangerous and shouldn’t be attempted without medical supervision. Alcohol withdrawal happens when someone abruptly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol consumption. 

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can vary widely from mild anxiety and shakiness to severe complications, like seizures and delirium tremens. Delirium tremens can be life-threatening and are characterized by confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fever. 

Because of the severe effects of alcohol withdrawal, it’s important to seek medical attention even if symptoms are mild. An alcohol detox center can effectively reduce the risk of developing withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens.

Alcohol Detox Process

Alcohol detox is the preparatory step involved before an extended treatment program. Detoxification may be performed safely at both an inpatient and outpatient facility. It is highly suggested, though, that round the clock medical monitoring is recommended for heavy users to keep them comfortable during the withdrawal process. In most common cases, the detoxification process will involve three steps: 

  1. Intake: The medical professional team will do a comprehensive review of the drug, pharmaceutical, and psychiatric history’s of the new patient to get a full understanding of each situation.
  2. Medication: Most detox programs will include medications that will mimic the effects of alcohol in which to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms. The medications may also target the current disorders or the general discomfort of the withdrawal process.
  3. Stabilization: The patient will undergo medical and psychological therapies to help them reach a balanced mind, body, and soul. 

Every individual going through alcohol detox will have different with drawl symptoms. There’s not a one size fits all program. Each program will be customized for individual needs to get them through the withdrawal process, and the symptoms that come in undergoing alcohol detox. 

Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal

Excessive daily drinking disrupts the brain’s neurotransmitters.

An example of daily drinking affecting the brain’s neurotransmitters– alcohol at first enhances GABA (GABA is a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of relaxation) but after a while the same alcohol use that helped GABA no longer does, requiring you to drink more alcohol to get the same relaxed feeling you did at first.

Heavy alcohol intake also suppresses glutamate, the neurotransmitter, which produces feelings of excitement. To maintain balance, the glutamate system responds by functioning at a higher level than it does in moderate drinkers and nondrinkers.

When chronic drinkers stop or significantly reduce their alcohol consumption, the neurotransmitters previously suppressed by alcohol are no longer suppressed. They rebound, resulting in a phenomenon known as brain hyperexcitability. So, the effects related to alcohol withdrawal– anxiety, irritability, agitation, tremors, seizures, and delirium tremens– are the opposite of those related to alcohol consumption.

Alcohol Detox Side Effects

Although a medically assisted detox will limit some of the adverse side effects individuals experience during withdrawal, some are still unavoidable. Generally, different side effects will come about during the two phases of alcohol detoxification.

Phase 1: During Acute Withdrawal From Alcohol

Phase 1 will occur within a few hours of an alcohol addict seizing alcohol consumption for days or weeks. This time will generally be when the most severe side effects may occur in which include:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Whole-body tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Visual and audio hallucinations
  • Hypertension
  • Heart failure
  • Profuse sweating
  • Shaking

Phase 2: During Early Abstinence From Alcohol

Phase 2 of alcohol detox will occur over the first few months of seizing alcohol In which the brain will slowly begin to regulate and get back to functioning normally. This is called Post Acute Withdrawal Symptom (PAWS) that’s causes symptoms in which include:

  • Diminished appetite
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Depending on how long and how heavily an individual has been drinking will determine if they need medical assistance during the quitting stage. For some, it is easy, but for most, the withdrawal symptoms become som unbearable that relapsing becomes the only choice to get back to comfort. This is where the help of a medical professional team can assist in having a successful detox and in educating the individual with the necessary tools to live a lifetime of sobriety

a woman entering an alcohol detox center

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Generally, the severity of someone’s alcohol withdrawal symptoms depends on how much and for how long a person has been drinking.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually show up 6 to 12 hours after a person stops drinking. Symptoms include:

  • Shaky hands
  • Sweating
  • Mild anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Insomnia

12-24 hours after they stop drinking, some people may experience visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations. These normally end within 48 hours.

Withdrawal seizures normally appear between 24 to 48 hours after someone stops drinking, though they can appear as early as 2 hours after drinking stops. The chances of seizures are significantly higher in people who have previously detoxed multiple times.

Alcohol Detox Withdrawal Treatment Options

If you have moderate withdrawal symptoms, your doctor may choose to treat you in an outpatient setting, especially if you have supportive family and friends. Outpatient detox is safe, effective, and less costly than inpatient detox.

However, you may require inpatient treatment if you don’t have a reliable social network, are pregnant, or have a history of any of the following:

  • Severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Withdrawal seizures or DTs
  • Multiple previous detoxifications
  • Certain medical or psychiatric illnesses

To help alcohol withdrawal complications, your doctor may consider adding other drugs to a benzodiazepine regimen. These may include:

  • An antipsychotic drug, which can help relieve agitation and hallucinations
  • A beta-blocker, which may help curb a fast heart rate and elevated blood pressure related to withdrawal and reduce the strain of alcohol withdrawal in people with coronary artery disease
  • Clonidine (Catapres), another blood pressure drug
  • Phenytoin (Dilantin), an anticonvulsant which doesn’t treat withdrawal seizures but may be useful in people with an underlying seizure disorder

No two individuals will recover the same, so it is crucial to enlist the help of a professional medical alcohol addiction treatment specialist and see which option is best for you. You must never go about diagnosing yourself or detoxing without a professional to diagnose and guide you through this uncomfortable process. 

Alcohol Detox Medications

A part of the detox process will include keeping the patient’s system balanced to avoid any significant physiological upsets. Sometimes medications are necessary to achieve this. Benzodiazepines, including Valium, Librium, and Ativan, will be commonly used for alcohol treatment because of their ability to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms and prevent alcohol withdrawal seizures. Seizures are the most common causes of fatality during alcohol withdrawal, so additional anticonvulsant drugs, such as Keppra, will often be used.

Dangers Involved with Detoxing Alone

Especially with individuals who are long term alcohol abuse or’s, to detox, cold turkey may be extremely dangerous and possibly fatal. Although it is rare, some of the severe side effects of alcohol detox may include:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Heart arrhythmias 
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Kidney or liver dysfunction
  • Extreme nausea
  • Hallucinations
  • Intense cravings

It is highly recommended for individuals to seek professional medical attention for an alcohol detox to mitigate the harsh side effects.

Life After Alcohol Detox

Detox is only the first step to treat individuals trying to overcome their alcohol addiction. To rid the body of alcohol will not entirely clear alcoholism. The effects of going a full week without drinking will clear the mind and heal the body so that a person suffering from alcohol addiction may pursue full treatment. The best way to find out about alcohol detox and all of your treatment options is to contact a dedicated professional medical treatment specialist.

Alcohol Withdrawal Prevention Through Detox Center

Because successful treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome doesn’t address the underlying disease of addiction, it should be followed by treatment for alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.

Relatively brief outpatient interventions can be effective for alcohol abuse, but more intensive therapy may be required for alcohol dependence. If you have alcohol dependence, your doctor may prescribe other medications to help you stop drinking. He or she also may recommend joining a 12-step group — such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous — or staying at a comprehensive treatment facility that offers a combination of a 12-step model, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and family therapy

An alcohol detox center can be your springboard towards lasting recovery. Find out more information today and contact LA Detox today!