Unfortunately, alcohol is one of the most frequently abused drugs in the entire world. In the majority of places around the world, drinking is an integral part of society. Because alcohol has been used by humans for thousands of years, it has developed a central role in gatherings, parties and celebrations. Unfortunately, this role has continued despite the widespread research and knowledge that alcohol is extremely unhealthy and addictive.
An estimated 43 percent of men have engaged in binge drinking according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Over time, alcohol can lead to severe physical, mental, social and professional effects. It can end up taking over the alcoholic’s life and make it impossible for a “normal” life to be enjoyed. If you or a loved one suffers from alcoholism, the first step is to detox from the drug.
What Occurs During Alcohol Detox Treatment?
Over the months or years of severe alcohol abuse, your body develops a dependency on this drug. It has rewired your mind and body so that your body has come to need alcohol in order to to feel normal. If you suddenly stop using alcohol, it can cause withdrawal symptoms to develop. In some cases, these withdrawal symptoms can even be life-threatening.
Detox works to remove the physical dependency that your body has to alcohol. You enter a treatment facility where doctors and medical staff members provide constant supervision. This means that someone is always available to manage withdrawal symptoms and alleviate the detox process.
Can I Quit Cold Turkey?
While it is possible to quit cold turkey, it is not the best option. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be extremely severe. You may develop delirium tremens, seizures, convulsions or life-threatening side effects like a heart attack.
If you are trying to quit cold turkey at home, there is no one there to alleviate the symptoms and prevent dangerous side effects from occurring. Because of this, it is important that you only go through detox with proper medical supervision available. In addition, you will want to detox at a treatment center because it prevents your chances of relapsing during the physically arduous detox phase. Since you are constantly under medical supervision, it is impossible for you to access any more alcohol until you have left the treatment center.
The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Every person has a unique physical chemistry, so two people may experience alcohol detox in unique ways. People who have had a longer or more intense addiction are more likely to experience more severe withdrawal effects. Some of these side effects include:
– Delirium tremens
– Increased blood pressure
– Racing heart beat
– Mood swings
Seizures and heart-related side effects are some of the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Your brain actually changed because it was used to having alcohol constantly present. When you suddenly quit drinking, your brain struggles to readjust to life without the constant stimulation of alcohol. This can cause seizures and other symptoms to occur. The risk of having a seizure tends to be highest for the first several days after you quit. Because of this, it is important to detox in the safety of a professional detox center.
How Long Does It Take to Detox From Alcohol in Mild Cases?
The length of withdrawal symptoms depends on the intensity of your addiction. If you have been drinking heavily for a long time, you are more likely to have severe symptoms. Someone who experiences mild symptoms of withdrawal may have most symptoms disappear within the first week. For mild cases, alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically reach their peak in the first few days.
Someone who has a co-occurring mental or physical disorder may need longer to detox from alcohol. Typically, symptoms will start to appear within hours of your last drink. During the initial one to two days, minor withdrawal symptoms will occur. People may experience agitation, mild confusion, insomnia, dilated pupils, sweating, headaches, nightmares, fatigue and depression. Often, individuals may feel jumpy or irritable as they go through withdrawal symptoms. Other symptoms like nausea, heart palpitations and a poor appetite are also possible in mild cases.
How Long Does It Take to Detox From Alcohol in Severe Cases?
An estimated one out of four heavy drinkers will end up experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. This is especially true if the individual drinks half or more of a 750 ml bottle of hard liquor each day or if they are over the age of 30. In these cases, individuals are more likely to experience delirium tremens.
Delirium tremens will typically start roughly 12 hours to four days after the last drink. This symptom can last for minutes, days or even weeks. The majority of acute cases will end up resolving within about five days. During delirium tremens, the individual may experience a fever, trembling, major confusion, agitation and anxiety. It is also common to experience auditory or visual hallucinations. Most patients compare the confusion of delirium tremens to feelings of thinking within a heavy mental fog or cloud. Since delirium tremens is a serious condition, it is important to seek professional care. Delirium tremens can be fatal if it is not treated, but most people who receive treatment can go on to make a full recovery.
What You Can Expect During Alcohol Detox
The severity of your addiction, co-occurring disorders and your physical chemistry will determine how difficult detox will be. Your experience is likely to be different from what other people experience, although are many common symptoms that people will go through.
In the first few hours after you enter detox, you may experience physical sickness, nausea and vomiting. At night, you may suffer from nightmares and insomnia. You may also experience a higher blood pressure, depression, a rapid heart rate, irritability or anxiety. Physical tremors are also extremely common during this stage.
During the first two days of detox, some people may experience seizures and hallucinations. As alcohol leaves the body, this stage in detox can be potentially life-threatening. Seizures, in particular, are the most common in the first 12 to 48 hours since your last drink. You may experience chest pains, a rapid heart rate or delirium tremens.
Unfortunately, withdrawal symptoms may not be over with yet. For someone with a long-term, severe addiction, it may take up to a week for the majority of symptoms to subside. It is extremely important that individuals with a severe addiction are closely monitored during their initial days in detox.
After the first two days have passed, detox will continue to remove any chemical remnants of alcohol from the body. While most of these symptoms occur in the first 48 to 96 hours after a final drink, the onset may occasionally be delayed to 7 to 10 days after your last drink. After 48 hours, the risk of seizure tends to drop significantly. It is still important to be medically supervised at this point to prevent potential cardiovascular events like a heart attack or stroke.
What Happens During Delirium Tremens?
Many people experience delirium tremens as they go through detox. Some of the most common symptoms include:
– Extreme confusion
– Body tremors
– Rapid mood changes
Untreated cases of delirium tremens are more likely to cause life-threatening consequences. As a result, supportive care and medical supervision is extremely important over the first few days.
What Are the Risk Factors for Delirium Tremens?
Some individuals in recovery will never experience delirium tremens. Since this condition can be dangerous, it is important to get help as you start treatment. Your doctor or an addiction specialist can help you assess your risks of experiencing delirium tremens. Some of the risk factors for delirium tremens include:
– Not eating enough food during heavy or chronic drinking episodes
– A history of alcohol withdrawal experiences
– Stopping drinking after a period of especially heavy drinking
– Drinking high amounts or drinking for longer than ten years
– An illness, head injury or infection if you also have a history of heavy drinking
Going through detox and dealing withdrawal symptoms is not always easy. It can be mentally and physically challenging to handle. While the symptoms are not always comfortable, they will ultimately go away. Most withdrawal symptoms will leave within the first week. For the majority of people, the most severe symptoms will be gone within the first four days.
Detox facilities are available to support you or a loved one throughout all the stages of recovery. Medical professionals are always on hand to prevent severe symptoms and alleviate side effects when necessary. In addition, the detox center can provide rehabilitation options after treatment. Through group support, therapy and other programs, you can conquer your addiction. No one deserves to live with an addiction, and you can take your first step toward a healthier, happier recovery by going through detox.