Alcohol detox is the process of managing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol withdrawal occurs when someone who has been drinking alcohol regularly stops or severely cuts back on their drinking suddenly.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can occur while someone is detoxing from alcohol, especially if that person has been drinking heavily for a long time or has an alcohol use disorder.
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal range from mild to severe. In particularly severe cases, the symptoms can be deadly if left untreated.
The safest way to detox from alcohol is under the supervision of medical professionals at an inpatient detox center.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detox is the process of managing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Because alcohol withdrawal is so uncomfortable, most people are not able to go through it on their own without relapsing.
The more severe someone’s alcohol abuse has been, the worse their withdrawal symptoms will be.
A particularly severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens (DTs) can be life-threatening without proper medical advice and help from healthcare professionals.
What Is Included In Alcohol Detox?
When you visit a detox center at an addiction treatment facility, you will be supported and monitored in a medical setting. Your care will include the following.
Management of alcohol withdrawal symptoms requires medical support.
Aside from intense cravings, alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:
- anxiety or depression
- mood swings
- rapid heart rate
- high blood pressure
- intense cravings for alcohol
Since some of these symptoms can lead to serious complications, it is important that you receive medical support and monitoring while you are detoxing.
Medical support during detox helps you stay comfortable and safe as your body adjusts to not having alcohol consumption.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol is sometimes used during detox to manage withdrawal symptoms and keep the body in balance.
Benzodiazepines are a class of drug that are among the most common to use during alcohol detox.
These drugs are used to calm the central nervous system during withdrawal. They can also help prevent seizures, which are one of the most common causes of death during alcohol withdrawal.
Diazepam and chlordiazepoxide are two of the most common benzodiazepine drugs used during alcohol detox.
Other drugs like naltrexone might be used later in treatment to help curb alcohol cravings and ultimately reduce alcohol dependence.
Vitamins And Supplements
Taking vitamins and supplements during alcohol detox can also help ease the symptoms of withdrawal.
As the body adjusts to functioning without alcohol in its system, different vitamins, minerals, and dietary supplements can help bring physical, emotional, and mental balance.
One popular vitamin to take during detox is vitamin B, because heavy drinking tends to lead to a deficiency of this essential vitamin.
Eating healthy foods is one of the most important ways to support your body during detox.
The right foods can help your body in every way imaginable, from supporting a strained liver, to feeding your brain for improved mental health.
- fruits and vegetables, which include essential nutrients and support digestive health
- lean proteins like chicken breast and white fish, which support recovery without leading to weight gain
- omega-3 fatty acids (foods like salmon, chia, walnuts, and flaxseed)
- foods with vitamin B like poultry, dairy, leafy greens, and lentils
- probiotic foods which support gut health and healthy bacteria
Types Of Alcohol Detox Programs
If you or a loved one need alcohol detox, you will need to figure out what type of program is best for you.
Inpatient Alcohol Detox
Inpatient alcohol detox programs take place in a medical setting similar to a hospital. These programs are best for people who are at risk for severe withdrawal symptoms.
As a person undergoes the symptoms of withdrawal, an inpatient detox program helps them by constantly monitoring vital signs and giving treatment as necessary.
If you aren’t sure what kind of detox you or a family member needs, an inpatient detox program is the safest choice.
Outpatient Alcohol Detox
Outpatient alcohol detox is best for people with a stable and supportive home environment who are unlikely to have severe withdrawal symptoms.
In this type of detox program, people are sent home with a detox plan to follow. This may include drug prescriptions and suggestions on food and monitoring symptoms.
Stages Of Alcohol Detox
Alcohol detox usually takes between two to seven days. The length and severity of withdrawal symptoms vary a lot.
The duration of withdrawal might be affected by the presence of medical conditions, how heavy the drinking was, and many more factors.
Typical stages of alcohol detox may look like:
- 6-12 hours after the last drink: This is when the first stages of withdrawal usually show. Symptoms will be mild during this stage.
- 12-72 hours after the last drink: This is usually the stage when people experience the most severe withdrawal symptoms.
- 3-7 days after last drink: Withdrawal symptoms may continue during this stage. Delirium Tremens and severe symptoms may also happen during this stage.
- 1 week after last drink: Usually, only mild symptoms continue after the first week. Some symptoms can persist for weeks or even months.
Is It Safe To Detox From Alcohol At Home?
You should always consult with a medical provider before going through alcohol detox. Trying to detox from alcohol at home without medical advice could be very dangerous.
Sometimes, your doctor or treatment professionals will suggest that you go through an outpatient detox program at home. This is only safe when you follow their advice strictly.
When in doubt, visit an inpatient detox center to begin alcohol recovery.
How Long It Takes To Detox From Alcohol
It is hard to predict how long it will take for withdrawal symptoms from alcohol to end. Some people complete detox in a few days, while others need several weeks.
Factors like how heavy the substance use was and whether any other health conditions are present can affect the length of withdrawal.
Learn more about the timeline of alcohol detox.
Treatment Options For Alcohol Addiction
If you or a loved one has an alcohol addiction, it’s important to seek professional treatment. Detox is only the start of recovering from alcohol addiction.
Detox should be followed by inpatient and/or outpatient care. Alcohol treatment programs combine behavioral health adjustments with mental and physical interventions to help people recover from addiction.
Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
Bedrock Recovery Center is a state-of-the-art addiction treatment center located outside of Boston, MA.
We specialize in helping our clients recover from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our services include inpatient detox and inpatient addiction programs.
Are you ready to begin the road to alcohol recovery? Call our helpline today.
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.