Alcoholism is a serious disease that can tear apart a person’s life, from physical and mental health to finances, close relationships and hobbies. Although it might feel like there’s no way out of alcohol addiction, getting treatment at rehab is the best way to turn your life around. This article explains what to expect when detoxing from alcohol, including withdrawal symptoms and treatment.
What Is Detox?
Detox treatment is a highly subjective process in which you stop using substances and the toxins and chemicals in your body are purged. Some people can experience extreme withdrawal symptoms during detoxification, while others might barely notice any. In general, if you’ve been using alcohol longer and in higher quantities, symptoms are likely to be more pronounced.
No matter how long alcohol abuse has been part of your life, trying to go through detox alone is a bad idea. Not only can it be dangerous, but it’s so difficult without the support of a health care team that many people give up. Giving up often leads to feelings of shame, guilt and inadequacy that drive you to drink more and make you feel unable to overcome the addiction.
In an addiction treatment center, you have 24-hour support from a team of addiction experts. What’s more, they can offer you treatments such as medication and nutritional support, which we’ll explain in more detail later on. In short, the team at a rehab center can minimize the discomfort associated with withdrawal, and the environment itself is designed to make the process as straightforward and painless as possible.
What to Expect When Detoxing From Alcohol
Let’s take a look at the timeline for alcohol withdrawal. Although it can differ significantly from person to person, this gives you a general idea of what to expect if you try to quit alcohol without medical assistance.
6 to 8 Hours
Minor symptoms usually occur between six and eight hours after the last drink. If you have a long history of heavy alcohol intake, a seizure might occur at this stage.
12 to 24 Hours
Tremors, digestive discomfort, irritation and anxiety are common during this stage — and some people might experience hallucinations. While seeing things that aren’t there is scary, it’s not generally considered to be a cause for alarm.
24 to 48 Hours
Headache, upset stomach and mild symptoms usually continue throughout this time. If the alcohol addiction isn’t long-standing, withdrawal is usually at its worst by 24 hours and starts to diminish around three to four days later.
48 to 72 Hours
If alcohol withdrawal is severe, the peak usually begins at around the 48 hour mark. In extreme cases, delirium tremens may occur. Signs of DTs include fever, seizures, confusion, hallucinations and a very high heart rate.
72 Hours to 1 Week
For people with long-term alcohol addiction, the worst withdrawal symptoms usually start easing between 72 hours and one week after the last drink.
1 Week to 3 Months
While the most uncomfortable symptoms usually ease after a week or so, mild to moderate symptoms are often felt for a few months. The lifestyle shift alone is enough to make some people feel disoriented, while others might continue to experience mental and physical symptoms. If symptoms are serious, this is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS.
It’s important to remember that alcohol addiction is a chronic disease. As such, it’s like diabetes or high blood pressure, requiring constant monitoring and ongoing treatment.
Rather than thinking of yourself as cured when you’ve gone for two months, six months or even two years sober, always remember that you’re in recovery. Take extra care of your mental and physical health by ensuring your lifestyle is aligned with maintaining sobriety.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
People who’ve been drinking on a daily basis or drinking heavily several times a week might experience one or more symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The severity depends on your genetics and how long you’ve been abusing alcohol. Some of the symptoms you might experience include:
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Irritation or rage
- A sense of hopelessness
- Extreme fatigue
- Insomnia despite being very tired
- Feeling like you can’t think clearly
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- increased heart rate
Risk Factors for Delirium Tremens
Not everyone gets serious withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. It’s estimated that around 50% of people get them to some extent, while between 3% and 5% of individuals experience DTs. Risk factors for developing the most serious form of withdrawal include:
- History of experiencing seizures during withdrawal
- Liver problems
- History of DTs
- Low sodium
- Low potassium
- Low platelet counts
- Older age
- Presence of brain lesions
- Presence of other substances
Some people don’t need any medication for alcohol withdrawal because they get few to no symptoms. Practically everyone who goes through the process can benefit from interventions such as gentle group therapy sessions, meditation and yoga. Below are some examples of treatments used during alcohol detox:
- Medication assisted treatment — usually benzodiazepines such as diazepam, alprazolam and lorazepam
- Nutritional support such as thiamine, magnesium and folic acid
- Group therapy sessions
Get Help for Alcohol Use Disorder Today
Withdrawal is one of the major reasons people struggling with alcoholism hesitate to seek treatment. At our drug rehab in Kentucky, we’re kind, understanding and experienced, so you can rest assured that we’ll do all we can to minimize your discomfort while going through the withdrawal process. Call us today at 606-342-7089 for information about how to get started on the road to recovery.