Addiction Treatment

Medical Detox for Alcohol: Do I Need It and How Long Does It Take?

Medical detox for alcohol abuse and addiction allows you or your loved one to safely and comfortably overcome the worst of your alcohol withdrawal symptoms. People tend to think alcohol is less dangerous than other “illicit” drugs like heroin or cocaine because it’s legally regulated and has become an integral part of the social culture; in reality, the effects of alcohol withdrawal can be just as arduous and even more deadly than other drugs. If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcoholism or chronic binge drinking, here is why you need medical detox for alcohol and what it looks like.

It All Starts with the Brain: Why Am I Addicted to Alcohol?

The idea that someone may need medical detox for alcohol may seem crazy to them. After all, isn’t it just a matter of choosing not to drink? No, it’s not. There is a lot more to alcohol abuse and addiction than meets the eye. Alcohol use disorder is a complex chronic medical condition that requires expert ongoing care for the physical and behavioral changes brought about by prolonged and untreated excessive drinking.

A pattern of excessive alcohol consumption creates lasting changes in the brain’s chemistry that cause neurotransmitters to malfunction, giving way to often extreme cravings, as well as sickening and painful physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol has a heavily depressive effect, to which the brain is exposed on a continuous basis during heavy drinking.

Over time, the brains of chronic binge drinkers and alcoholics produce an excess of stimulating neurotransmitters, like serotonin or norepinephrine, to counteract the changes in neurochemistry. When drinking suddenly stops or even lessens more than the brain has become used to, withdrawal symptoms start to manifest and can last from mild to moderate to severe to life-threatening, depending upon the scope of drinking and other underlying factors.

Not Just A Hangover: Alcohol Withdrawal Is Dangerous and Unpredictable

It’s important to realize that alcohol withdrawal is more than just the cartoonish depictions of hangovers we see in popular culture. Chronic binge drinking leads to alcoholism and it takes more than dry food to “soak up the booze” or “hair of the dog” to get through your symptoms. While they’re an inevitable part of alcohol addiction recovery, withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and even life-threatening, and it’s important that you get the right kind of help. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal go way beyond unpleasant headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Severe symptoms require expert medical alcohol detox and can include:

  • Shaking and Tremors – Around five to ten hours after your last drink, you may begin to experience severe trembling, which may get progressively worse for the next one to two days. This trembling is often accompanied by an accelerated pulse, a spike in blood pressure, excessive sweating, severe nausea, rapid breathing, irritability, muscle and joint pain, and other unpleasant symptoms. These effects are usually at their worst within 24-48 hours.
  • Hallucinosis – Alcohol-induced hallucinations are another common element of severe withdrawal. Their onset usually begins within 12-24 hours after your last drink, and they can last for up to 48 hours. It’s common for those experiencing alcohol hallucinosis to see imaginary small, rapidly moving objects like bugs crawling. Hallucinations are often incredibly vivid and detailed during their peak.
  • Seizures – One of the most serious and urgent alcohol withdrawal symptoms is seizures. These can range in levels of intensity for up to 24 hours, the first usually occurring around six hours after alcohol consumption. It’s important to realize that just one seizure can significantly impair brain function and place you or your loved one in serious danger if they’re not monitored and properly managed. This is another reason why medical detox for alcohol is so important.

Many who are in the throes of alcohol withdrawal also experience what is called delirium tremens. This condition manifests through serious and dramatic fluctuations in body temperature, respiratory function, and circulation. Delirium tremens often include severe changes in blood pressure and can cause serious neurobiological issues because it restricts blood flow to the brain. Some of its additional effects can include confusion and disorientation, anxiety and irritability, nervousness, loss of consciousness, and much more. Data published in the New England Journal of Medicine puts death rates from delirium tremens as high as four percent or 1 in 25, making it critically important that it’s managed properly and with the care of a doctor.

What Does Medical Detox for Alcohol Involve?

The duration of medical alcohol detox can vary greatly depending on individual factors and the severity of the addiction, and it may extend beyond seven days in some cases. During this time, you or your loved one will be closely monitored by an experienced and qualified team of doctors and nurses who can provide compassionate and effective relief of symptoms and intervene in the event of a medical emergency. You will stay in a comfortable, hospital-like setting where you can get the care and support you need for the totality of your symptoms during the acute withdrawal process.

Medical detox is the process by which your body and brain chemistry are stabilized and rebalanced so you can move on to the next phase of treatment. It’s a fundamental part of the overall care process and should be treated by an experienced professional. While it’s common to think of alcohol use disorder as primarily a behavioral health issue, the condition is connected to a variety of short- and long-term medical issues, as well.

Medical Alcohol Detox at Recovery Unplugged

Recovery Unplugged offers medical alcohol detox in Lake Worth, FL; Austin, TX; and Nashville, TN. Alcohol detox is covered by insurance and we offer a discreet and compassionate inpatient environment for you or your loved one to heal. When you’re taking the courageous first step toward treatment for alcohol addiction, you deserve the benefit of privacy, comfort, dignity, and quality of care. Our admissions representatives are standing by 24-7 to help you take back your life from alcohol use disorder order for good. Call us now for full insurance verification and to start your alcohol detox and treatment today.

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