Quitting an addiction is one of the hardest choices a person can make. And it’s even harder to make this choice when you don’t know what to expect.
For instance, you may be wondering, how long does it take to detox from alcohol? What are the symptoms and how bad are they? Is detoxing from alcohol really that important?
Such questions become worries and, ultimately, obstacles to your recovery. In fact, this is the reason why thousands of addicts never even begin to seek the help they need.
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about this confusion anymore. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to clear up any questions you have about detoxing from alcohol. Discover everything you need to understand about alcohol detox by reading this guide.
What Happens During Alcohol Detox?
First, let’s look at exactly what alcohol detox is. In order to understand it, you need to know how alcoholism changes your body.
You see, when a behavior or situation becomes a routine, your body considers it to be “normal.” Then, your body adapts to these expected conditions to optimize how you function.
So, when you drink alcohol heavily and consistently, your body adapts to this routine behavior, too. For instance, alcohol affects your brain and nervous system. So, when you make a habit of drinking, your body prepares for this by changing the “normal” way these systems function.
This process of becoming physically dependant on alcohol is called “tolerance.” And it’s why you experience withdrawal symptoms when your break the habit.
For a brief period after quitting, your body still functions as if it’s expecting alcohol. This causes the unpleasant effects we’ll describe further down this list.
However, if you abstain for long enough, your body resets back to the way it was before alcoholism. This resetting process is what alcohol detox really is.
Why Detoxing From Alcohol Is Important
Not everyone who drinks is considered an alcoholic. That is, you can drink in moderation without building up a tolerance.
Also, the process of becoming tolerant to alcohol is temporary. After alcohol detox, this tolerance goes away. However, remaining in an alcohol-tolerant state for several years can cause lasting, irreversible health issues, like liver damage.
Aside from this, drinking too much can result in irresponsible, dangerous behaviors. You yourself might be personally aware of such alcohol-induced behaviors that are wreaking havoc on your life. But the issues of tolerance and withdrawal make it hard to cut back.
Knowing When to Detox From Alcohol
So the question of whether you need alcohol detox is mainly a matter of tolerance. That is, if you drink so often that you experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t drink, you should detox. If you don’t, this will eventually cause serious health problems.
Also, have you tried to abstain or limit your consumption? Do you find that you’re never able to keep your commitments to drink less?
If you consistently fail in these efforts, you should detox. Otherwise, your withdrawal symptoms will incentivize you to keep drinking until it permanently hurts your health.
Finally, if you already have health problems from heavy drinking, you should detox and quit altogether.
How Long Does Alcohol Detox Take?
Most alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur according to a rather predictable timeline. The symptoms will start within 12 hours after the drinking stops. They could start in as little as 2 hours.
Most of the symptoms will cease or start to diminish after one week of detoxing. Usually, any symptoms that remain after this time are much milder. However, these residual symptoms could last for up to a year.
Furthermore, each patient’s detox timeline is unique to their circumstances. Namely, it’s influenced by the severity/duration of their substance abuse habit, any additional health problems they might have, and other factors.
Regardless, here is the general timeline of how alcohol detox symptoms progress.
The First 6-12 Hours
Within 6-12 hours, you’ll start to notice the first symptoms of withdrawal. The most notable are:
These symptoms will start out very mild. But within this period, they will get significantly worse.
It’s acceptable to take certain medications or over-the-counter medicine to combat these symptoms. But you must only do so according to the instructions of your doctor or rehab specialist.
Any severe symptoms experienced during day one of detoxing will continue and possibly worsen in day two. More importantly, though, some more serious symptoms can start during this time. These include hallucinations, seizures, and panic attacks.
These new symptoms are dangerous to the point of being life-threatening. Such symptoms are the reason why it’s not a good idea to detox at home. If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to get medical help right away.
By day three, in addition to your continuing symptoms, you may start to experience:
- A fast heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Excessive sweating
But what you really need to watch out for at this time are delirium tremens or DTs.
DTs are extreme hallucinations/delusions that seem very real. But while DTs are life-threatening, they’re also, fortunately, very rare. It only happens to about 5% of those who are detoxing from alcohol.
Regardless, if you even slightly suspect that you are experiencing DTs (while detoxing outside of a rehab facility), call 911.
The Rest of Week 1
During the rest of your first week of detox, your symptoms will probably start to fade. However, their levels of severity can fluctuate within this time. Also, new symptoms may come and go.
These fluctuations happen because the removal of alcohol has thrown all of your bodily systems out of balance. Now, your body and mind are trying to figure out how to properly operate without alcohol.
Additional Symptoms After Week 1
By the end of the first week, your symptoms might be gone completely. Those that aren’t should be getting weaker every day.
On the other hand, there may be long-term symptoms aside from those above. These are categorized as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. They include:
- Low energy
- Chronic pain
- Slow reflexes
- Sleep problems
PAWS symptoms can last as long as a year. Some of these are actually the underlying problems that led to alcoholism in the first place. Treatment for PAWS includes support groups and counseling.
Do You Have to Quit Cold Turkey?
Cutting back/gradually weaning yourself off of alcohol may lessen the severity of your withdrawal symptoms when you detox. It’s up to you if you choose this method. However, true detoxing doesn’t start until you reach the point where you’re abstaining completely.
Can/Should You Detox From Alcohol on Your Own?
The short answer is, no. Detoxing from alcohol is never something you should attempt without help.
One reason for this is that it can be dangerous. We’ve already mentioned many withdrawal symptoms that can be hazardous to your health.
Secondly, it’s much easier to relapse when detoxing at home. And if you have even one drink, the detox process must be started all over again.
Most importantly, though, you are not an expert in determining case-specific alcohol detox treatment plans. But you definitely need the opinion of someone who is before you start.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the specific help you’ll need and how to get it.
A Professional Assessment
As we just mentioned, your first step in detoxing from alcohol is to consult with rehab facility professionals. Only they can say for sure if at-home detox is an acceptable option for you. Furthermore, they will come up with a personalized treatment plan with all the specific details you need to know.
To get started, check into a rehab facility near you.
Medical Assistance/Inpatient Care
At a rehab facility, you’ll be surrounded by medically trained rehab staff the entire time you’re detoxing. If any complications or dangerous situations arise, they provide immediate aid to keep you safe. Also, there’s no chance of relapsing during inpatient care because there is no alcohol available to you.
Rehab professionals will tell you which medications you can/should take for your detox symptoms. This includes medications you may take during aftercare when you return home.
Support at Home
Whether you detox at home or not, you will eventually return there. So, it’s essential that your life is restructured after detox. Namely, you need supportive individuals in your life to help you avoid relapse.
This includes friends and relatives that live nearby or in your home. You could also benefit from a support group. Typically, these arrangements are made during inpatient detox before you are released to go home.
Counseling might also start during your inpatient detox, once your symptoms have begun to fade. In any case, it will most likely start before you are released and they may continue afterward.
Get Help Now For Alcohol Detox
Now you know how important detoxing from alcohol is and how to get started. Also, you know that treatment centers in your area are ready and waiting to help you with this.
In other words, there’s no excuse to put it off any longer. Contact Recovery Beach now for the confidential, highly qualified help you need.