Alcohol detox is the process of which alcohol completely leaves the human body and allows the brain and other physiological systems to readjust to its normal state of being. This process can take days or weeks depending on the person, but alcohol detox treatment is possible.
Withdrawal symptoms present in about half of people with an addiction to alcohol who detox. In fact, the fear of withdrawal symptoms and possible dangers is a reason that many people fear reaching sobriety. Although we cannot tell you that alcohol withdrawal is actually safe and risk-free, we can offer insight and education on what to expect and how to manage symptoms.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Typically, the first signs of alcohol withdrawal are experienced as early as 5-6 hours from the last drink. The peak of these symptoms occurs 1 or 2 days into detox and they last for about 5 days or more. Common, less dangerous symptoms include:
- Nausea & Vomiting
- Elevated heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Sweating & Chills
- Rapid breathing
- Insomnia or sleep difficulties
- Nightmares or unusual dreams
- Tremors or uncontrollable shaking
The more you drink and the longer you have been drinking, the worse these symptoms will be. In severe cases, there are additional symptoms that present around day 2 or 3 of alcohol detox. In order to help you understand the severity of alcohol withdrawal, we will go into each of these symptoms in greater detail.
Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations) is a symptom of alcohol withdrawal that could start about 12 hours after your last drink and may be present up until about 48 hours. There are 3 types of hallucinations that present during alcohol detox. The first is a tactile hallucination where you feel a sensation that isn’t there. Common types of tactile hallucinations include itching, burning, and numbness. Auditory hallucinations are another form of delusion where you hear something that isn’t there. The sound may be that of a voice, beeping, or ringing. The last type of hallucination is visual. Visual hallucinations are when you see something that isn’t actually there, such as a person, shadow, object, etc. All three of these types of hallucinations can be very vivid and details, making them feel extremely real.
Heavy alcohol consumption, in general, makes you more susceptible to seizures, and the risk goes up even more during detox. A person experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms are more likely to have a seizure between 24 and 48 hours following their last drink. Additionally, if you have a history of seizures, this increases your chances of having one during withdrawal.
Delirium tremens (DTs)
The most severe of all withdrawal symptoms, delirium tremens, is one of the biggest dangers of detoxing from alcohol. Delirium tremens is characterized by severe confusion and delirium, accompanied by changes to your heart rate and breathing. Someone experiencing DTs can be difficult to control but needs to be monitored very closely because in the most severe cases death is possible.
Of the 50-60% of people who experience any withdrawal symptoms, about 40% of those people develop delirium tremens. This means that only a fraction of people who detox from alcohol will actually develop delirium tremens. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know for sure whether someone will develop this dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptom, so it is best to be prepared for it just in case. This means having the necessary caregivers and interventions at the ready before the symptoms present.
Treating Withdrawal Symptoms
There are a number of different methods that treatment facilities use to help their clients manage withdrawal symptoms during alcohol detox. Traditional treatment includes medical detox methods and holistic treatment plans include alternative methods such as massage & yoga.
When the symptoms of withdrawal become dangerous or intolerable, medical detox can provide relief as well as prevent possible permanent damage to the detoxing individual. Different medications may be prescribed depending on the symptoms that present and the unique needs of the detoxing person. These medications may include Valium or another form of benzodiazepine to reduce anxiety, anticonvulsants to control seizures, or barbiturates for sedation. Sedation can help manage both psychological and physical symptoms. Additionally, vitamins and supplements are often given to prevent any nutritional deficiencies.
Holistic Detox Methods
A holistic approach to drug rehab does not mean excluding medical interventions, rather using them in conjunction to provide maximum benefits. At Holistic Treatment Centers, we offer a holistic approach at detox and recovery that includes massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic therapy, sound therapy, and yoga. These treatments have been shown to help the alcohol detox process along and provide relief to the detoxing person.
Limiting Alcohol Withdrawal Risks
The first way to limit the risks and dangers of alcohol detoxification is to get treatment now. The longer you drink, the worse and more dangerous the detox process will be.
Another way to minimize risk is to detox at a qualified alcohol detox treatment center that offers a range of therapies and treatment methods. Immediate access to medical professionals, medical detox interventions, and alternative treatment methods will give you the best chance at detoxing safely. As alcohol detox brings some of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms in relation to other drugs, it is in your best interest to get professional help from Holistix Treatment Centers.