alcohol detox

What to Expect When You Are Going Through Alcohol Detox

Chronic or frequent use of alcohol can lead to dependence that makes it difficult to stop. What may have started as a social activity or a way to ease the stresses of the day can eventually spiral into a full-blown addiction. As the addiction intensifies, physical symptoms of withdrawal will be experienced during the times that the individual is not consuming alcohol. 

Withdrawal symptoms are more than just uncomfortable, they have the potential to cause permanent damage or even death. Sana Lake Recovery Center has trained professionals who are experienced at guiding and monitoring those going through the withdrawal stage. Our detox program ensures a safe and thorough detox to give our clients a strong foundation for their recovery. 

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

The process of detoxification refers to the body filtering out harmful substances and toxins. Alcohol detox is the initial period of time where the body stops consuming alcohol and experiences the symptoms associated with withdrawal. Since the human body becomes physically dependent on alcohol,  detox is crucial for allowing the body to learn how to function without it. 

Alcohol is a depressant and has a slowing and sedating effect on bodily functions. The brains of those who have been drinking intensity over long periods of time have adjusted to the continual exposure to alcohol and its effects. The human brain is smart and always tries to re-balance itself. In the case of alcohol, the brain adjusts its own chemistry by highly stimulating chemicals like serotonin or norepinephrine in high quantities. 

When the individual stops drinking, these chemicals are still being produced. This sends the brain and body into overdrive and causes severe confusion for the body’s organ systems. 

What are the Symptoms of Withdrawal?

The symptoms and intensity of withdrawal will look different for everyone depending on how long and how heavily they have been drinking. Some of the more common symptoms that should be expected include:

  • Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or intense nightmares.
  • Severe nausea and/or vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Tremors.
  • Profound sweating.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Fever.
  • Irritability.
  • Agitation

These symptoms can be alarming and uncomfortable, but don’t typically result in life-threatening conditions. There are however some more serious side effects that can cause permanent damage or even death, and these should be closely monitored. Some of these include:

Tremors

Tremors usually present themselves within a few hours after the last alcoholic drink and are most intense after 24 to 48 hours. Trembling is often accompanied by a spike in blood pressure and difficulty regulating heartbeat and temperature. 

Hallucination 

This symptom can be quite alarming and usually begins within 12 to 24 hours after your last drink. Hallucinations can last up to three days into detox. Hallucinating can be seeing objects, movement, colors, lights, or even people that are not really there. Other versions of hallucinations that are experienced are feelings on bugs or moving sensations on the skin. alcohol withdrawal hallucination can be an extremely vivid imaginative vision.

Alcohol withdrawal seizures 

Seizures tend to occur 24 hours after the last drink and can range from moderate to severe. If not monitored, seizures can create 

Delirium tremens 

This condition describes a severe and drastic change in one’s breathing, oxygen levels, circulation and temperature control. These changes all affect the central nervous system resulting in confusion, disorientation, irrational beliefs, sweats, sleep disturbances, and hallucinations. This is one of the most serious side effects of alcohol detox and can cause permanent damage or even lead to death. Professional monitoring and care will allow for preventive measures if delirium tremens are suspected. 

How Long Will Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal on average last 5 days. They can prolong into a week or more for some, but detox programs typically cap at  7 days. The severity and duration of alcohol withdrawal symptoms will depend on how long the individual drank, how heavily they drank, and their personal medical history. Co-occurring health conditions could also cause withdrawal symptoms to prolong. 

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

This potential phase commonly referred to as PAWS refers to the experience of withdrawal even after detox is completed. Typically, once alcohol is out of the system, withdrawals will subside even if emotional cravings persist. In the even of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, individuals experience intense physical cravings and symptoms for extended lengths of time. Although rare, it can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year.

Symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Mood Swings 
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Memory problems
  • Dizziness
  • Increased accident proneness
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Intense cravings
  • Severe Fatigue

Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal 

Detox will allow the individual to successfully rid their body of any alcohol so they can start their rehabilitation program on a clean slate. It will also give them access to medical professionals who will ensure their safety and care throughout the entire process. Detox can be more strenuous than one would expect, and a lot of difficult physical and emotional challenges will present themselves. 

Sana lake provides a space with employees who know what they’re doing and take pride and passion in their efforts to help those struggling with alcohol addiction. We offer a variety of services to help our clients get through detox as smoothly as possible. Some of the services we offer include:

Evaluation

During the initial evaluation, licensed professionals will check your current health status, go over personal and family health history, and address any co-occurring mental health conditions. The evaluation allows the staff to have a solid understanding of your needs so they can offer the best possible services for the detoxification phase. 

Medicated Assistance

Since Alcohol detox is so physically and emotionally demanding, oftentimes medication is needed to help subside the side effects such as headaches, fevers, nausea, seizures or tremors. Some medications used include:  

  • Antipsychotics – these will help with the emotional side effects as well as addressing any co-occurring mental health conditions
  • Benzodiazepines – This class of drug is FDA approved to treat alcohol withdrawal
  • Barbiturates -These are used when individuals are resistant to Benzodiazepines
  • Beta-blockers- Beta-blockers help alleviate the nervous system effects of alcohol withdrawal  
  • Anticonvulsants – This class of medication helps aid in reducing seizure and tremor symptoms 

Counseling 

Both individuals and group therapy are offered in detox programs to provide a space to verbally work through the challenges of addiction recovery. Licensed therapists will be able to help patients learn new methods of looking at their struggles, and help build healthy coping mechanisms that will be useful throughout the entire length of rehabilitation. 

Counseling sessions with a psychiatrist or therapist will help address both mental illness and alcohol addiction and aid in discovering the root causes of their development. Unresolved childhood trauma, insecurities, genetics, and effects from past experiences can be a major factor in alcoholism and if left untreated, sobriety will be harder to maintain. 

Talking with a professional will enable you to learn how to accept and let go of whatever experiences are triggering your anxiety and addiction.  

What Happens After Detox?

Detox may be a crucial step in alcohol recovery, but the work doesn’t stop there. Clients will move on to a long term rehabilitation program to ensure they are both physically and mentally. Alcohol Recovery programs can last anywhere from 30-90 or more days. These are more intense and focus on staying sober long term. 

Depending on personal circumstances, there are options for both inpatient and outpatient rehab. Additionally, most clients find that attending regular talk therapy aids them in staying sober and working through triggers. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to address every aspect of alcohol addiction and learn to work through it so you can carry healthy coping skills throughout the rest of your life. 

Get Help Now 

At Sana Lake Recovery Center in Dittmer, Missouri, our trained professionals are passionate and ready to give you the smoothest possible alcohol detox experience. We understand the physical and emotional challenges you face when you decide to stop drinking, and we believe everyone is capable of a successful recovery. 

We take our pride in our ability to personalize treatments for every one of our client’s individual needs and give them the tools to succeed under our care and after reintegration. While it starts with you, we will be here every step of the way. Contact us to find out more information or enroll in our detox program! 

References: 

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments

https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/alcohol-withdrawal-a-to-z

https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/alcohol