Alcohol has played a consistent role in society, religion, and socialization for as long as can be remembered. In fact, one chemical analysis found that it was between 7000-6600 B.C. that alcohol was first believed to be consumed. During that time there was no research on how long-term consumption of alcohol and alcohol abuse could impact the human body. Thankfully, today is much different. Researchers and doctors now know that alcohol addiction is a disease that can be treated. Not only do we know more about alcohol and its effects on the mind and the body, but we are also familiar with what to expect when detoxing from alcohol.
What is a Detox?
Detoxification, or “detox”, is the process of allowing all mind-altering substances to fully clear the body. It is one of the first parts of recovery from alcohol use disorder and it can be extremely dangerous if not performed under clinical management by a medical professional in a dedicated treatment facility or rehab facility. Alcohol is one of the only substances which has a detoxification process that has the potential to be deadly.
During the detox process, someone who has an alcohol dependence will no longer use, which, depending on their history of alcohol or drug abuse, will cause mild to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Medical professionals will need to be close by to monitor mild symptoms and severe symptoms alike. and provide medical care if necessary. Certain factors play a role in the intensity and length of one’s detox, such as what substance was being abused, how often, and in what capacity. In most cases, detoxing from drugs or alcohol can take anywhere from a few days to a week or two.
Who is Detox For?
The intensity, duration, and severity of detox symptoms depend on many factors. If someone has been using substances for any extended period of time, attending a detox or stabilization program can be extremely helpful, and often is medically necessary for safety and comfort.
Some of the telltale signs that a medical detox is necessary include:
- Long-term substance abuse. The longer an individual has been using a substance, the more likely a medical detox will be necessary. It is important to remember, however, that with substances like benzodiazepines, alcohol, and opiates, someone does not need to have been using for a long time to benefit from a stabilization period.
- Withdrawal symptoms. These can be more or less severe depending on the substances used and depending on the length of use, but regardless of where they fall on the scale, having withdrawal symptoms managed under medical supervision makes them much more tolerable.
- History of seizures or other adverse physical reactions when discontinuing alcohol or drug use.
- Any other medical complications or issues that could make discontinuing substance use independently dangerous.
Detox is also imperative for those who are detoxing from substances that can cause life-threatening symptoms, including alcohol.
What to Expect When Detoxing From Alcohol
If you are addicted to alcohol, you are likely already familiar with what to expect from the alcohol detoxification process. You may have already attempted to detox before or have even felt the onset of withdrawal symptoms setting in when you were unable to drink. Treatment centers will provide you with all the information you need, but, when seeking treatment, it’s important to be prepared. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to deadly, so, let’s discuss what to expect when you detox from alcohol.
First thing is first — how do you know if you are going to go into withdrawal when you stop drinking? Will you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms? How severe are the most severe symptoms? Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to answer these questions, but there are a few guidelines you can follow to help determine if detox will be part of your recovery journey.
Consider your past history with alcohol. How long have you been drinking? How much do you drink in a day? How often are you consuming alcohol? It is common for those who have abused alcohol for long periods of time and/or in high amounts and frequently to develop withdrawal symptoms that require assistance from professionals. It is less common for those who do not drink lots of alcohol at a time and for long periods of time to need detox services, but it is possible and it does happen. Your best bet is to reach out to your primary care physician or a treatment specialist who can help you determine if detox is for you.
If you do find that you require detox services, there are a number of things that you can expect. It is no secret that the first part of your experience in detox will likely be related to the withdrawal symptoms you develop. These symptoms can start to kick in within hours after your last drink. Again, chances are you may have some experience with the onset of symptoms if you have not been able to access alcohol when you needed to in the past. You might be thinking that you are aware of what to expect when detoxing from alcohol because you already know that you will have withdrawal symptoms.
Potential Dangers of Detoxing From Alcohol
Alcohol detox can be very dangerous without medical support if an individual has been drinking extensively or for an extended period of time. Professional detox or stabilization programs are an important part of the recovery process. They allow individuals to safely and comfortably step away from the substances they have been using.
If you are dependent on alcohol, meaning that you cannot stop using without developing withdrawal symptoms, it is imperative to be in the right hands when detoxing. The first day or so of your detox will be filled with developing symptoms that range in intensity levels. By a few days in, you can begin to develop what is known as delirium tremens, or the DT’s. The DT’s are a set of symptoms that include confusion, high blood pressure, shaking, fever, and hallucinations. The greatest concern during this time is fever and high blood pressure, both of which can trigger strokes, seizures, and other life-threatening medical events. When in a detox program, however, these symptoms can be carefully monitored and better managed, helping you to avoid suffering long-term damage or death.
It is important to understand that, without support and monitoring during detox, withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and even life-threatening. Clear Residential’s individualized and professional detoxification care helps safely alleviate the physical symptoms of withdrawal.
Alcohol Detoxification Timeline
Within the first 8 hours, a person can expect to experience the first signs of withdrawal. These symptoms will likely include feeling shaky, weak, or restless. Between 8 hours and 36 hours, a person who is detoxing from alcohol can expect to experience a loss in appetite, headaches, sweating, mood swings, heart palpitations, anxiety, and sleep problems. Between 48 to 72 hours, symptoms can include hallucinations, confusion, increased blood pressure, or even cardiac arrest. After 5-7 days, the worst of the detoxification symptoms should be over, although some symptoms can persist for several weeks.
Medical Detoxification From Alcohol
If you are still unsure about what to expect when detoxing from alcohol, do not hesitate to reach out to Clear Recovery Center. Our knowledgeable and compassionate admissions specialists can answer all of your questions and help get you started on the path of recovery, and our medical team can help you detox safely.
Last Updated on January 19, 2023