Alcohol use disorders affect each individual differently. They range from mild to severe and require specialized treatment that takes into account your unique background and circumstances. If you need alcohol to feel normal, it’s likely you’ve developed physical dependence. This isn’t the same as addiction, but the two go hand in hand. In case of dependency, you’ll need to go through a detoxification program to purge alcohol from your system and begin the recovery process.
What Is Detox?
It’s vital to understand that detoxification doesn’t cure alcoholism; it’s the necessary first step along the journey to recovery. Detox removes all traces of alcohol from your body, which puts your mind in a better place to receive treatment. The word itself refers to the natural process of your body, removing toxins and poisons, such as ethanol, that accumulate after the sustained use of alcohol.
Medication, medical supervision and group and individual counseling sessions are usually provided during this process, which lasts between 10 and 14 days.
Who Needs to Detox?
If you’ve frequently been drinking for a prolonged amount of time, stopping drinking suddenly can be dangerous. It causes a host of withdrawal symptoms that range in intensity from person to person. The longer you’ve been drinking, the more likely you are to experience adverse effects. In these cases, the best course of treatment is in a residential rehabilitation center with round-the-clock support from medical professionals.
The Detox Process
You go through this process in preparation for a more extended treatment program. In most cases, there are three stages to detox:
- When you check into the clinic, you’ll go through intake first. This usually involves a medical examination as well as an interview to determine your medical history and requirements. The doctor will do your blood work, discuss your drinking patterns and check your mental and physical health.
- Medication is often given to those with chronic alcohol use disorders. These pills mimic some of the effects of alcohol without making you inebriated to minimize withdrawal symptoms. They can also help to ease issues surrounding mental health and general discomfort.
- The third stage provides further treatment that helps you to address the causes of your illness and aims to teach you new coping mechanisms so you can rebuild your future.
These symptoms occur within 24 hours of your last drink. Most of them are significantly reduced by the medication administered during medical detox. Severe withdrawal symptoms can last between three days and several weeks and include:
- Sleep disturbances
This is the second phase of withdrawal and can last for several months as the brain resumes normal functioning. This stage also takes into account that your lifestyle and day-to-day habits will need to change significantly to overcome alcohol use disorder. Continuing with rehab after detox arms you with strategies to prevent the following symptoms from overwhelming you and tempting you to drink again:
- Sleep disturbances
- Diminished appetite
- Mood swings
- Sense of hopelessness
What Are the Dangers of Detoxing Alone?
If you’ve been using alcohol for a prolonged amount of time, we wouldn’t recommend trying to quit cold turkey. Although rare, some serious medical consequences can arise when you go from drinking heavily to not drinking at all. These include:
- Heart arrhythmia
- Kidney or liver dysfunction
- Intense cravings