What Alcohol Detox is Like – An Explanation

The fear of detox often acts as a barrier to recovery when it comes to alcohol addiction. Many people who know that they have a problem will deny that it exists because the idea of having to go through alcohol detoxification fills them with dread. They would rather continue as they are and face the consequences of their illness than seek help and have to complete a detox. But why is this?

When it comes to what alcohol detox is like, most people really don’t know for sure. The way in which drying out was portrayed on TV screens or in the movies many years ago might go some way towards explaining why so many individuals have an intense fear of the process.

Maybe you have seen old movies where alcoholics were tied to a bed and as they went through ‘cold turkey’ were seen shaking and sweating and crying out in agony. If so, it would be completely understandable that you would want to avoid a detox at all costs. However, this is not what alcohol detox is like.

Why is Alcohol Detox Necessary?

Perhaps you were hoping to bypass the detox process and move straight on to rehabilitation? Unfortunately, alcohol recovery does not work in this way. Quitting alcohol means that you will inevitably go through a detox; moreover, to overcome your addiction, you will have to quit alcohol.

So with detox being a natural process that the body uses to get back to normal, there is just no way to avoid it. When you stop drinking alcohol, your body will begin the process of eliminating any remaining toxins, which can be a complicated process.

The reason for this is that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that has affected almost every single cell in your body. Trying to resort to normality can cause a range of symptoms to appear, which can be uncomfortable and make you feel quite unwell.

As this process is going to happen whether you want it to or not, it may be a good idea to consider detoxing in a supervised facility. That way you will be safer and more comfortable. Once the main symptoms have passed, you will be ready to move on to the next stage of the process – rehabilitation. But before you can even consider rehab though, it is important that you know what alcohol detox is like and what to expect.

What to Expect from Alcohol Rehab

Knowing what to expect before your alcohol detox begins will help to prepare you for the worst. You might be lucky and only experience a couple of symptoms, but if you know that there is the potential for much more severe symptoms, it will not come as such a surprise if they appear.

The first thing to be aware of is the fact that the first symptoms usually begin to appear after about six hours, although it may take up to twelve hours before you notice any signs of withdrawal. These symptoms are usually similar to those you may have experienced before when the effects of alcohol began to wear off. They might include mood swings, shakes, sweating, nausea, and vomiting.

You may lose your appetite and feel very tired, even though sleeping becomes a struggle. Your pulse may begin to race, and your face might flush. As you start to feel unwell, you will become irritable and agitated and you may even start to feel depressed.

After a few days, many of these symptoms will have subsided, but it may be at this stage that more moderate or severe symptoms start to appear. Around 25 percent of alcoholics going through a detox will experience hallucinations and although not serious in and of themselves, they can be frightening.

Severe symptoms can be dangerous and can cause complications that could potentially end up being life-threatening. Maybe you have heard of delirium tremens before (the DTs); many people believe that it refers to the intense shakes that alcoholics often get when drying out, but it is much more than that.

It is caused by a sudden and severe set of changes to the nervous system. As well as intense shaking, it can cause severe sweating, paranoid delusions, high blood pressure, and a rapid heartbeat. In extreme cases, the DTs can be fatal due to heart problems. For that reason, it is always treated as an emergency medical situation and those affected tend to require hospitalisation.

What you may not know though is that the DTs can usually be prevented with medical treatment and early intervention. It is for this reason that we advise that you detox in a specialised detox clinic rather than at home.

Where to Detox?

If you have been considering an alcohol detox, you may be wondering where this should take place. Although it is possible to withdraw from alcohol at home, it can be risky due to the potential for complications. Furthermore, there are certain situations where a home detox is just plain inadvisable.

For example, if you have been a heavy drinker for a long time and are middle-aged, you would be at higher risk of complications. Therefore, a detox in a specialised facility is the best and safest option for you. The same is true for those with a history of mental health problems and chronic illness.

In addition, if you have previously had severe withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit alcohol, it is likely that the same will happen again, so detoxing at home is not wise.

The Benefits of a Detox Programme

Many rehabilitation programmes include a medical detox, and there are also dedicated facilities that specialise in detox only. Detoxing in a supervised clinic is, in our opinion, the most appropriate choice for most people. It provides a safe and secure environment with staff on hand who have experience in dealing with the process.

When you choose a detox facility, you know that you will be monitored around-the-clock by individuals who know all about detox and what to expect. This will include a team of nurses, doctors, counsellors, therapists, and support staff.

Medication to ease your discomfort can be prescribed in a detox facility, and there may also be certain ways of preventing the worst symptoms from occurring. You also have the added peace of mind that you will be in safe hands should any emergency arise.

How to Find a Good Detox Provider

Unless you have had treatment for addiction in the past, you might be wondering how to find a detox provider. You can speak to your GP to find out what help is available to you via the NSH or a local charity, or you can use an online treatment database that will provide information about what is available in your area.

Alternatively, contact us here at EATA. We have extensive knowledge of the addiction services industry and work closely with providers of both detox and rehabilitation programmes. If you are interested in learning more about what alcohol detox is like or if you would like to get in touch with a provider, please give us a call and we will help.

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