More than 21 million people suffer from addiction in the United States. Of that 21 million, a startling 15 million are struggling with alcohol addiction which may require an alcohol detox.
Alcohol addiction is defined by several factors including, but not limited to, the following:
- Being unable to stop drinking despite wanting to
- Continuing to drink even if drinking has lead to negative consequences
- Having powerful cravings for alcohol
- Lacking the ability to control how much alcohol is consumed
People who are addicted to alcohol may also engage in deceptive behavior, isolate themselves from others, and spend the majority of their time drinking, thinking about drinking or obtaining alcohol to drink. Some alcoholics are functional, meaning that they can maintain their job, responsibilities at home, and continue on with their lives with little to no disruption, while others experience complete destruction of everything around them. Regardless of how functional an alcoholic is, the potential for dependence to develop becomes greater the longer that use occurs. Most alcoholics need alcohol detox when they decide to get sober.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
When someone abuses alcohol repeatedly, they risk developing a dependence on it. Dependence refers to the physical need for alcohol in order to prevent unfavorable and distressing withdrawal symptoms to occur. Many alcoholics experience small bouts of withdrawal almost on a regular basis because symptoms can develop within as little as six hours after one’s last drink. For example, someone who drank the night before can start to have mild withdrawal symptoms the next day at work. Those symptoms won’t go away until they are able to drink again.
The onset of mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin, as previously stated, within six hours of one’s last drink. However, moderate withdrawal symptoms can begin 12 hours after the last drink and the onset of severe symptoms can start at 48 hours after the last drink. So, in as little as two days without alcohol, a person who is dependent on it can be in a severe stage of withdrawal.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually include a combination of the following:
- Mild symptoms:
- No appetite
- Minor tremors (usually in hands)
- Moderate symptoms:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Problems breathing
- Severe symptoms:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Excessive sweating
- Fast heartbeat
Many people who are in alcohol withdrawal also experience delirium tremens, or “DT’s”. Symptoms of the DT’s include the above listed severe symptoms, as well as intense shaking, anxiety, and insomnia.
The majority of alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin to ease after 5-7 days after the drinking has ceased. Some withdrawal symptoms can continue for months or even years after you stop drinking. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). The most common symptoms associated with PAWS are depression and anxiety. Continued therapeutic care can help treat these and other symptoms of PAWS.
Dangers of Alcohol Withdrawal
There is always danger associated with any type of withdrawal, as untreated symptoms can lead to more serious problems. However, those who are withdrawing from alcohol are at especially high risk for experiencing complications and possibly even death. Consider the following symptoms and their dangers:
- High blood pressure — can cause stroke, heart attack, and aneurysms, all of which can cause permanent physical and psychological damage as well as death
- Fever — can cause dizziness (and subsequent falls), muscle cramps, excessive sweating, dehydration, problems breathing, and vomiting
- Seizures — can be dangerous during the actual event, where the person is at the greatest risk for falling which can cause head trauma, burns, cuts, concussions, bleeding in the brain, and death resulting from the fall itself
There is no way of determining exactly what withdrawal symptoms a person will experience when they stop drinking. Therefore, it is always recommended that people who are dependent on alcohol seek professional help from an alcohol detox in order to safely and effectively detox.
Before beginning alcohol detox, a doctor will examine each and review a complete medical history of his or her alcohol use. The doctor may also ask a series of questions regarding the individual’s history with alcohol consumption and if he or she has been through an alcohol withdrawal process before. During an intake physical, the doctor will check for medical conditions that may be a result of alcohol addiction, as well as any other medical conditions that may complicate the detox process.
- Coronary artery disease
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Liver disease
- Nervous system impairments
After the complete medical exam has been completed, the doctor will be able to inform the individual of the severity of his or her alcohol addiction and begin preparations for detox.
Preventing Alcohol Relapse
The unfortunate reality is that relapse is common during the alcohol recovery process. As with most any other addiction, several warning signs may be experienced or exhibited by a recovering alcoholic that may be indicators of an impending relapse.
- Change in attitude about the importance of one’s involvement in a recovery-based support program or group
- Increased stress without resolution
- Feelings of being overwhelmed with stress
- Periods of poor decision-making and judgment that can easily lead to more chronic and severe impulse control
- Withdrawal from social events and loved ones in a heightened state of isolation
- Loosening or wholly excluding daily sobriety routines and structure
- Anger and agitation can occur easily and frequently
- Misplaced sense of confidence, believing one has enough control to consume just one drink
- Depression and feelings of hopelessness
One, or a full progression, of these signs, can be dangerous for a recovering alcoholic, and if a single sign is exhibited, especially in early recovery, help should be sought immediately.
What to Expect in Alcohol Detox
If you decide to enroll in a detoxification program, you are making the best possible decision for your health and wellbeing. You may feel uneasy, overwhelmed, and scared, but you are making the right decision. The thought of never drinking again can be extremely upsetting, especially when you have an alcohol addiction. However, the benefits of receiving professional services from a detoxification program far outweigh any doubts or insecurities that you may be experiencing.
Since alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin so quickly after your last drink, chances are by the time you begin alcohol detox, you are already beginning to feel uncomfortable. So, one of the first things you will do is get settled in a safe, comfortable space. The medical professionals on staff can help assess your current state and provide care for you based on your needs. Part of that care is usually prescribing medications to help ease the pain caused by your alcohol withdrawal. Medications can include over-the-counter ones such as Motrin and Pepto Bismol, as well as prescription ones like Zofran for nausea or benzodiazepines to help stop tremors and seizures. Additionally, FDA-approved medications like acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone are clinically proven to help ease the distress associated with alcohol withdrawal and cravings.
As mentioned before, the majority of withdrawal symptoms usually only last for about one week before they start tapering off. During alcohol detox, you will receive medical and psychological care based on your specific needs. When you are able to manage your symptoms on your own or they have stopped entirely, you can transition into the therapeutic portion of addiction treatment. Depending on the facility you are detoxing in, you may be able to seamlessly move into this phase if services are offered on-site.
Do You Have an Alcohol Addiction and Can Benefit From a Detoxification Program?
Having an alcohol addiction is nothing to be ashamed of. Although you can’t cure this disease, you can certainly treat it. If you are ready to stop drinking once and for all, reach out to A Forever Recovery right now. We can help you get your life back.
Do not wait. Call us today to learn more about our alcohol detox program in Battle Creek, MI.