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Opening April 2019

The First Step Towards Sobriety: The Complete Guide to Alcohol Detoxification

Whether you’ve been struggling with your alcoholism for decades or are just starting to suspect that you may have a problem, the fact is that detox is often the very first step on the road to sobriety.

But beyond that, detoxing from alcohol is also absolutely vital for your successful recovery.

If you’re like most alcoholics though, you might not even consider your drinking habits to be problematic. Maybe you convince yourself that you can stop anytime you want. Or perhaps your friends drink significantly more than you, so certainly you're not the one with the problem.

It’s an easy mistake to make. Alcohol is one of the only recreational drugs that’s actually legal, making it both incredibly accessible and acceptable. You can even buy it in gas stations most of the time. And since it's abuse is so prevalent and also ingrained in our culture, it can be tough to recognize abuse as the problem it really is.

In fact, addiction to alcohol is undeniably one of the most destructive dependency issues in the history of the United States.

To put the problem into perspective, here are a few statistics regarding alcohol abuse according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC):

Excessive alcohol use led to around 88,000 deaths per year on average from 2006 to 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by about 30 years apiece.  

The estimated years of potential life lost each year was about 2.5 million years.

Excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths in U.S. citizens aged 20 to 64 years.

The economic burden of excessive drinking and alcoholism in just 2010 was calculated to be around $249 billion.

Beyond that, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism(NIAAA) reports that alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States trailing tobacco and poor diet/physical inactivity.

And while a birds-eye view of the destruction of alcohol abuse can certainly help you understand the scope of the problem, what may be even more telling is the way alcoholism can lay waste to your life on a personal level.

Your job, your legal record, and your reputation are all at risk if your drinking becomes a problem. Plus, few issues are quite as toxic for both familial and social relationships as a severe addiction. And added to all of that, both your physical and psychological health are all at risk when it comes to alcoholism.

An alcohol use disorder truly can end up ruining your life and the lives of your loved ones.

Luckily, though, there is hope. You don’t have to hit rock bottom before you get better. You don't have to sacrifice your career, your friendships, and your family anymore. And most of all, you don't have to throw your life away because you’re a slave to your addiction. All it takes is getting help.

And detox from alcohol is the place to start.

A Closer Look: What Is Alcohol Detox?

While most people have heard of detox before, the vast majority of people don't understand the process or how crucial it really is.

And to make matters even worse, some people may think that you don't need professional detoxification from alcohol at all.

But the truth is, detox from alcohol is an essential step in your successful recovery because it primes the body for healing itself and expelling all the built-up toxins caused by your addiction. Added to that, it also starts the process of physically adapting to operating without it.

To explain, addiction is often marked by what’s known as a physical dependency. As you probably know, physical dependence is where your body just can't function normally without the substance being in your system. It's caused in part by a phenomenon known as tolerance.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA), tolerance is defined as:

when the person no longer responds to the drug in the way that person initially responded. Stated another way, it takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same level of response achieved initially.

For example, while you may have gotten drunk off of 4 or 5 beers in the past, now you might need 8 or 9 to feel the same way thanks to a higher tolerance.

And as that tolerance builds and builds, your body goes through actual physical changes that make alcohol less effective.

Liver enzymes release more quickly, neurotransmitters become more powerful, and a host of other adaptations all occur with enough use and abuse of alcohol.

When you’ve been drinking for so long and quickly take it away, though, the body has to reverse those physical changes. And that can cause some particularly uncomfortable (and even deadly) symptoms known as withdrawals.

Professional detox, then, is clinical help for treating these painful and possibly lethal side effects so your body can start adapting to an alcohol-free existence.

What Are the Signs of Alcoholism?

Whether you’re worried about your addiction to alcohol or suspect that a friend, spouse,parent, or sibling is struggling with their own alcoholism, the first step towards getting them the professional help they need is learning how to recognize the signs.

With other drugs, spotting a use disorder is substantially easier simply because most drugs are still stigmatized in our daily lives. With alcohol, though, it’s incredibly common for many people to have a few drinks a night and then binge drink all weekend long. And that normalcy can trick many people into thinking that the behaviors they see aren’t a real problem.

That’s why it’s critical for you to know how to spot the signs of abuse and addiction before it’s too late.

There are some hints to be on the lookout for here such as:
  • Physical warning signs like broken capillaries on the face, noticeable weight gain or loss, poor personal hygiene, etc.
  • Behavioral warning signs of alcoholism like drinking alone, cravings, using alcohol to cope with emotional problems, not fulfilling obligations, etc.
  • Always has a reason for drinking (e.g., a good day at work, a bad day at work, a special occasion, blowing off steam, relaxing at home)
  • Multiple DUIs or other trouble with the law
  • Spending an excessive amount of money on alcohol or using funds reserved for other obligations (rent, insurance, school, etc.)
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Forceful denial and even aggression when confronted about their abuse
  • Extreme anxiety when alcohol is unavailable
  • Frequent blackouts
  • Missing work or school or a noticeable decrease in performance
  • You find empty or hidden bottles around the house
  • They carry alcohol with them secretly such as in a flask or thermos
  • You’ve noticed missing money or items from the house they may have used to pay for alcohol
  • Unpaid bills or repossessions

Am I An Alcoholic?

While spotting the need for alcohol detoxification and treatment in others can be tough, it can be even harder to come to terms with addiction when you’re the one that might be addicted.

That’s because if there’s one thing that nearly all alcoholics and drug addicts have in common, it's that they're likely going to be in denial about their problem at one point or another. You see, an addict isn't just physically dependent on a substance – they're also mentally dependent. And when the brain is faced with losing something it thinks is so necessary to functioning normally, it can be almost impossible for that person to recognize their addiction on their own.

In fact, denial is so typical among addicts that it's highly documented. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA's) 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health(NSDUH), of the 13.9 million adults that met the criteria for needing professional help, only about 457,000felt they needed treatment.  

That means about 96.7% of alcoholics are in complete denial about their addiction.

And if you think you don’t need professional detox and treatment for your alcoholism, you just might be one of them.

As a result, it’s incredibly important that you take an objective and rational look at your behaviors before discounting an addiction entirely. And there are a couple of ways you can do so.

Alcoholism Quiz– You can take a quick online alcoholism quiz to help you get a better idea of your level of addiction. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to complete and can end up being an invaluable first step in tackling your addiction.

NIDA Tools– You can also use the numerous NIDA addiction self-assessment tools to help dive even deeper into your addiction habits. There are 10 evidence-based tools you can choose from that vary in complexity and test duration.

DSM-V– You can also see if your behaviors meet the clinical criteria for a substance use disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These standards are used by practicing psychiatrists and physicians around the world. If you’ve experienced at least 2 of these 11 scenarios (as listed by NIDA) in the past year, you have a problematic pattern of alcohol abuse and should find professional help as soon as possible.

Is Going Cold Turkey A Bad Idea for Detox from Alcohol?

There is undoubtedly a certain appeal to stopping your alcohol abuse all at once without any help – a.k.a. going "cold turkey." It may sound like a much cleaner break, and if you're avoiding detox due to financial or other reasons and are planning on detoxifying at home, cold turkey might be your only option.

Alcohol Detox Information

However, going cold turkey can have some pretty serious and even deadly consequences. To explain, alcohol (believe it or not) is one of the only addictive substances that carries with it potentially lethal withdrawal symptoms.

It’s true – while many people imagine that withdrawals from heavy hitters like crack cocaine or crystal meth would be the most dangerous, the truth is that alcohol along with benzodiazepines and opioids (to an extent) are the only drugs with withdrawals that can directly kill you.

When it comes to alcohol, the main dangers are the risks of experiencing grand mal seizures and a set of deadly symptoms known as delirium tremens.

How Do Alcohol Detox Seizures Happen?

When you go through detox from alcohol cold turkey and without proper professional help, you might be at risk of developing grand mal seizures. Not only can these seizures cause permanent damage to your brain, but they might also even end up costing you your life.

But how do these seizures happen? And why is alcohol, one of the only legal drugs on the market, associated with deadly withdrawals while nearly every other substance of abuse isn’t?

It all comes down to how alcohol affects the brain on a molecular level.

As you may know, alcohol is considered a depressant. That means that it tends to calm down various parts of your brain which results in sedation, reduced inhibitions, and a degree of euphoria. It’s these effects that make drinking so pleasurable for many people.

Alcohol creates these effects by impacting two systems in particular: the GABA system and the glutamate system. Both GABA and glutamate are chemicals in the brain that influence whether or not a nerve becomes electrically excited.

GABA – The primary inhibitory chemical, higher levels of GABA means nerve cells are less likely to fire. Alcohol increases the potency of this brain chemical, making it easier to keep certain nerve cells from firing.

Glutamate – One of the brain’s main excitatory chemicals, glutamate's potency is diminished by alcohol. As a result, the mind becomes less stimulated in certain areas over time.  

When an addict goes through alcohol detox, though, the potency of these two systems switch in a sense. GABA becomes less powerful, and glutamate gets even stronger. Consequently, the supercharged glutamate and weaker GABA can lead to over-excitation in the brain’s nerve cells which can end up causing dangerous seizures.

And without proper professional help, these seizures could be fatal.

As you can imagine, detoxing from alcohol and the risk of seizures is not something to be taken lightly, especially if you’re a particularly heavy drinker. But how common are they really?

According to the NIAAA, these seizures occur within more than 5% of untreated patients experiencing acute alcohol withdrawal. However, the risk of suffering these seizures increases with each past withdrawal. As such, if you unsuccessfully detox from alcohol, you’re making it more likely that you’ll experience seizures next time you try to quit.

This is what's known as the Kindling Effect, and it's a well-documented phenomenon in sedative-hypnotic drugs like alcohol and benzodiazepines like Xanax.

The timeline involved with experiencing seizures during alcohol detox is usually concentrated to the first 48 hours after having your last drink. In fact, 90% of these seizures occur during this time.

However, it's worth noting that it is possible seizures can strike up to 20 days after your last drink. The NIAAA indicates that 3% of seizures related to alcohol detox occur 5 to 20 days after you've stopped drinking.

And without proper medical attention during this period (like the kind of care offered by professional alcohol detoxification), these seizures may end up costing you your life.

Another deadly side effect of going through detox is a set of symptoms that are collectively known as delirium tremens, also known as the DTs. This severe withdrawal syndrome is both terrifying and deadly.

According to the NIAAA, patients who exhibit signs of the DTs may have a mortality rate of up to 25%. These rates were as high as 35% at one time, but with proper medical care during detox from alcohol, the modern mortality rate is closer to around 5 to 10%.

This high death rate is mostly due to the seizures that often occur alongside delirium tremens. However, other complications can also occur such as life-threatening respiratory depression or failure and cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).

As MedlinePlus points out, the symptoms associated with this condition are both extensive and frightening. They include:

  • Delirium, or sudden severe confusion
  • Body tremors
  • Changes in mental function
  • Agitation, irritability
  • Deep sleep that lasts for a day or longer
  • Excitement or fear
  • Hallucinations
  • Bursts of energy
  • Quick mood changes
  • Restlessness, excitement
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, touch
  • Stupor, sleepiness, fatigue

Studies have shown that there are many risk factors involved in developing delirium tremens including:

  • Prior ethanol withdrawal seizures
  • History of DTs
  • Concurrent illness and more medical comorbidities
  • Greater number of days since last drink
  • Prior detoxification
  • Older age
  • Hypokalemia (low potassium)
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms at presentation
  • Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count)
  • Elevated blood level of homocysteine (an amino acid)
  • Presence of structural brain lesions

In general, though, delirium tremens is most common among patients that have been drinking for heavily for long periods of time. MedlinePlus says that it's especially common "in those who drink 4 to 5 pints (1.8 to 2.4 liters) of wine, 7 to 8 pints (3.3 to 3.8 liters) of beer, or 1 pint (1/2 liter) of "hard" alcohol every day for several months. Delirium tremens also commonly affects people who have used alcohol for more than 10 years.”

What Kinds of Alcohol Detox Programs Are There?

In general, alcohol withdrawals are treated using one of two types of programs – either an inpatient alcohol detox program or an outpatient one. And each of these program types has their own specific benefits and detriments.  

But detox from alcohol is a different experience for everyone. Some people may, for example, require more medical attention throughout the process, may have a co-occurring disorder, or might even need additional treatment for poly drug abuse. It depends on the individual.

As a result, no one program 's going to meet the specific needs of every patient. And that’s why it’s so important to recognize the differences between these programs: so you can see which works best for you.

Inpatient Detox from Alcohol – An inpatient program for treating your alcohol withdrawals is largely considered to be the “gold standard” for detoxification, especially when it comes to alcohol. That’s because patients are required to stay on the campus grounds throughout the entire program.

These stricter conditions allow for 24/7 access to medical staff while also reducing the likelihood that a patient will relapse and turn back to drinking during their alcohol detox.

Pros

  • More immediate medical attention and care
  • Drastically reduced relapse risk
  • Alcohol withdrawals can be treated in-house, making them much more manageable
  • Less chance of severe complications

Cons

  • Can be more expensive than an outpatient program
  • Requires a dedicated time commitment

Outpatient Alcohol Detox– In contrast to an inpatient program, outpatient alcohol detox allows recovering addicts to come into a facility once a day for staff to check medical signs and prescribe medication that can make the detoxification process easier.

An outpatient program for treating withdrawals allows for greater flexibility, but since patients are freely able to return to drinking on their own, it isn't recommended in most cases. Beyond that, since detox can be deadly, an outpatient program simply might not be safe for some alcoholics.

Pros

  • Much more flexibility – patients don’t need to take time off of school or work and can attend to other obligations throughout the program
  • Due to the less intensive care, outpatient is often cheaper than inpatient

Cons

  • A higher risk of relapse due to more opportunities for relapsing
  • No 24/7 medical oversight which can make alcohol withdrawals more difficult
  • Unsuitable for severe alcoholics as the high risk of seizures and the DTs requires heavy drinkers to be under constant medical care

Do I Need to Go Through Alcohol Detox Before Outpatient Treatment?

The short answer here is YES.

Detox from alcohol is an essential part of any comprehensive treatment program. According to NIDA, incorporating medically assisted detoxification is considered to be one of the 13 principles for effective drug addiction treatment.

There are two of main reasons behind why cleansing your body is so important: it reduces the risk of relapsing during withdrawal, and it can be instrumental in preventing and treating some of the deadly complications.

Throughout your alcohol detoxification, you’ll experience a range of withdrawal symptoms that can end up being incredibly uncomfortable. From physical symptoms like tremors, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea to psychological ones like anxiety, irritability, depression, and confusion, alcohol withdrawal can be quite taxing.

And no matter how strong or resilient you think you may be, when you’re battered by the full gamut of these symptoms for days on end, you’ll likely be tempted to turn back to alcohol simply to stop these effects from occurring.

But with the help of a professional, you’ll have around the clock care to stop you from giving in to that temptation.

It isn’t just avoiding relapse that makes detoxification so important though. In fact, when it comes to alcoholism, one of the biggest benefits of detox is having proper medical care to treat life-threatening alcohol withdrawals.

Grand mal seizures, delirium tremens, and a wide range of complications that may pop up throughout the process can make detoxing from alcohol incredibly dangerous. But with proper medical care, you can be sure that your safety won't be at risk while you get sober.

So, even if you do decide to check into outpatient treatment for your alcoholism, partnering with a professional alcohol detox facility beforehand is still an essential part of the recovery process.

Medicated Detox vs Holistic Detox

Within inpatient and outpatient facilities, another characteristic you’ll want to be on the lookout for when choosing a program for treating your alcohol withdrawals is whether it’s medicated or holistic.

In general, these programs tend to follow differing philosophies on how to most effectively treat your symptoms during detoxification from alcohol addiction. Medicated, as you probably suspect, tends to rely heavily on pharmaceuticals. Holistic, on the other hand, focuses on supporting your body naturally as it detoxifies on its own.

Though programs will typically fall into one of these two categories, many of these programs will end up using a combination of these two philosophies.

And just like inpatient and outpatient, each of these types of programs has their own set of benefits and downfalls.

Medicated Detox – The medicated approach uses prescription medications to treat your alcohol withdrawals. Whether it’s physical symptoms like nausea and fatigue or mental ones like anxiety or depression, a medicated approach will usually rely on pharmaceutical drugs to decrease their severity.

This might sound like the ideal approach for most people. After all, what can be easier than popping a few pills? However, the truth is that many dangers and discomforts might come about as a result of using a purely medicated approach to detox from alcohol.

First, these medications often come with an extensive list of side effects, some of which can be quite inconvenient. For example, Librium, one of the most common medicines prescribed during alcohol withdrawal, can cause side effects like:
  • Fainting
  • Mood or mental changes
  • Chills
  • Itching
  • Dizziness
  • Lower back pain
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Cough

And when you add those effects to the already long list of withdrawal symptoms you’ll be experiencing, it just might end up being more than you can handle.

Added to that, many of these medications are addictive in their own right. Benzodiazepines like Ativan, for example, are often used in a medicated alcohol detoxification. These kinds of benzos are not only incredibly habit-forming, but they're also associated with one of the worst withdrawal syndromes out of any other drug– and that includes substances like heroin or meth.

With a medicated detox from alcohol, then, you may just be trading in one addiction for another.

In the end, taking these kinds of drugs for your withdrawals might not be worth the trouble after all.

Holistic Detox – While a medicated approach uses drugs to help you get through alcohol withdrawals, a holistic detox program is more about naturally supporting your body as it detoxifies on its own. As it turns out, the body is already surprisingly good at clearing itself of harmful substances. The trick is giving it the support it needs to do so.

And this support comes in many forms: nutritional programs,exercise activities, and psychological support workshops.

Nutritional Programs – Addiction can be a strain on the body. Not only is the inherent toxicity of too much alcohol destructive for your internal organs on its own, the lack of nutrition from too many skipped meals and so-called "liquid lunches" can even further degrade your body's ability to heal itself.  

A holistic detox program will help reduce the severity and duration of your alcohol withdrawals by incorporating a unique nutrition-rich meal plan that will help support your body while it heals itself from addiction.

Exercise Activities – Research has shown that incorporating exercise into your daily routine can help reduce the buildup of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Reducing the amount of stress that recovering addicts are going through can be critical when it comes to managing alcohol withdrawals during detoxification. Beyond that, it can also be a healthy distraction to keep the mind occupied rather than focusing solely on the addiction.

Psychological Support Workshops – Finally, your holistic alcohol detox program will also likely have numerous workshops and classes that focus on treating the mental symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Depression,anxiety, and irritability are all common during recovery.

But with classes on mindful meditation, art therapy, and even yoga, you can learn how to control your mind better to help you treat those withdrawals from alcohol. What’s more, the strategies you learn here will also be invaluable in coping with overwhelming cravings that might have otherwise sent you right back to the bottle.

Can I Detox on My Own? – Alcohol Detox at Home

You may be wondering, why can’t I just go through alcohol detox on my own? Do you really need to check into a professional program to get through the worst withdrawals? Can't you just hunker down and push through till the end?

And it's true that there are a few benefits to doing so. Detoxification from alcohol at home is free, it lets you avoid the stigma attached to alcohol detox and addiction, and you can do it purely on your terms. What's so bad about that?

But the truth is home alcohol detox can be deadly. With the numerous complications like respiratory failure and abnormal heart function that can come about during alcohol withdrawal, making sure you have medical expertise on your side just might end up saving your life.

Beyond that, the risk of grand mal seizures and the potentially fatal physical effects of delirium tremens all add up to home detox being an incredibly bad idea, even if you think your addiction isn’t that severe. And when you add on the devastating psychological effects of the DTs as well which have been associated with suicide.

There’s one more aspect of home alcohol detox that makes it such an unviable alternative to professional programs: The Kindling Effect. This phenomenon makes it harder and more dangerous to detox after each unsuccessful attempt.

Essentially, then, an alcoholic of any stage should only use detox methods that have been proven to work, like professional addiction treatment.  

What Is the Kindling Effect? – A Closer Look

The Kindling Effect is a phenomenon that occurs after repeated instances of withdrawal. Because of the Kindling Effect, the more times you unsuccessfully try to quit, the harder the following alcohol detoxifications will be.

For instance, if an individual goes through detox from alcohol twice, the second round of withdrawals will likely be more intense than the first.

The danger here comes from the fact that this effect doesn’t just apply to the severity of certain symptoms like agitation and nausea – it also applies to the likelihood of developing grand mal seizures during detoxification.

One study found that 48% of inpatient alcoholics that had experienced seizures had already been through five or more withdrawals. Comparatively, only about 12% of hospitalized alcoholics with the same history didn’t experience any seizures.

The clinical evidence, then, shows that recurring episodes of alcoholism and relapsing contribute to a more dangerous alcohol detoxification process further down the line.

As the NIAAA puts it, then:

Both clinical and experimental evidence supports the existence of a kindling mechanism during alcohol withdrawal… The presence of kindling during withdrawal suggests that even patients experiencing mild withdrawal should be treated aggressively to prevent an increase in the severity of subsequent withdrawal episodes.

Ultimately, then, even patients who do not suffer from an especially severe case of alcoholism should receive aggressive alcohol detox and rehabilitation treatment.

At-home detox, then, may not only be immediately life-threatening, but it can also make kicking your alcohol addiction even harder (and more dangerous) in the future.

What Are the Risks & Disadvantages of At-Home Detox from Alcohol?

Deciding to forgo professional alcohol detoxification can be dangerous – that much is obvious. With the threat of seizures, delirium tremens, and the long-term effects brought on by the Kindling Effect, physical safety alone is enough to make detoxing without professional help sound like a terrible mistake.

But there’s more to detox than just getting you safely through alcohol withdrawals. Below are just some of the major disadvantages of choosing at-home alcohol detoxification over seeking out professional help.

An Alcohol-Free Environment – The physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be overpowering and even unbearable in some cases. And in moments of weakness, recovering alcoholics often find it difficult if not impossible to abstain from drinking if a bottle is within reach.

Detoxing from at home can make it difficult to push past that temptation to have a drink because alcohol is so readily available. In a professional inpatient detox program, however, you'll be living in an alcohol-free environment throughout the extent of your stay. So even if you get to the point of losing all control, you still won't be able to use again.

Lack of Motivational - Emotional Support – Getting through withdrawals isn't just about personal willpower. In fact, the brain chemistry of alcoholics has become so fundamentally altered by their addiction that they often aren’t able to control themselves at all anymore. And even if they can, if they don’t receive the emotional and motivational support to keep on going, they’re likely not going to stay sober for very long.

With an alcohol detoxification program, you’ll have all the support you so desperately need throughout the entire process. Rest assured, if you partner with a professional facility, you’ll never feel like no one is cheering you on towards sobriety.

No Helping Hand – Withdrawal from alcohol addiction can be debilitating. You may not be able to care for yourself very well throughout the process. Adequate sleep, nutritious meals, and exercise will all likely take a back seat to during your at-home alcohol detox. As a result, you may end up making the severity and duration of your symptoms even worse.

Professional alcohol detox, on the other hand, provides everything you'll need to make the process as smooth as possible. Your meals are provided, your activities planned, and help is available 24/7 in most cases. You’ll be in far better hands compared to if you were all on your own.

Missing Out on Expert Advice – One of the most notable benefits of a professional alcohol detox program is that you’ll have access to the expert knowledge of trained specialists.

Beyond just knowing how to make your alcohol withdrawals less painful and far shorter than they would be otherwise, these experts are also equipped with the experience to know if something is going wrong and how to deal with it.

Won’t Benefit from Numerous Therapies - Workshops – Detox from alcohol in a professional setting will also expose you to many therapies and tools that can prove to be instrumental for long-term sobriety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (or CBT), for example, can help you learn proven strategies for coping with cravings, anticipating triggers, and help you regain control over your actions. There are numerous other behavioral therapies just like CBT that can put the odds in your favor when it comes to recovery. And a program for detox from alcohol is one of the best places to find them.

Detoxing from Alcohol at Home: Where to Begin

Despite the overwhelming evidence that a professional program for detoxing from alcohol is far safer, more effective, less painful, and all around smarter than alcohol detox at home, some people may still choose to bypass professional help.

And while it certainly isn’t advised, it is possible. However, it’s worth remembering that all but the mildest of alcohol addictions need to be medically treated during detoxification. Otherwise, you will be at risk of developing potentially fatal seizures and delirium tremens.   

That being said, there are a couple of things you can do to make your detox from alcohol at home less painful and more successful. And the very first step is obviously getting rid of any alcohol in the house. Don’t hide it; don’t keep it in the back of the cupboard; throw it out completely.

After that, you’ll want to free yourself up from any obligations that you may have coming up for the next week or so. Take time off work, reschedule social engagements, cancel any trips – essentially, you want to have your schedule completely cleared so that you can focus on one thing and one thing only: getting through alcohol withdrawals and getting sober.

And finally, ask for help from any willing friends or family members. Getting through alcohol withdrawals can be incredibly hard if you're on your own. With a proper support net, though, the people you care about can help keep you from relapsing, motivate you, and even simply give you a few warm meals while you focus solely on the alcohol detoxification.  

Following these steps will help ensure your home detox from alcohol is safe and successful.

Now that you're ready to begin your home detox from alcohol, it's time to stock up on supplies. There are many different medications, vitamins, and natural supplements that may make your alcohol withdrawals much more manageable.

When it comes, MedlinePlus points out the most common vitamin deficiency in alcoholics is of the B vitamins which include B1, B6, and folic acid. As such, be sure you are taking these vitamins either separately or in a multivitamin supplement throughout your home detox.

L-glutamine supplements may also help reduce cravings, anxiety, and other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal as well according to some studies. Incorporating it into your vitamin regimen during detox, then, can end up being quite helpful.

There are also many over-the-counter medications that can help treat the milder symptoms of withdrawal. These include:

  • Imodium (for diarrhea)
  • Nauzene (for nausea)
  • Advil/ibuprofen for joint pain and aches (avoid Tylenol/acetaminophen since it can damage the liver even further)
  • Melatonin (for insomnia)

Finally, some recovering alcoholics have found that taking certain natural supplements for alcohol withdrawal can help ease their symptoms as well. It’s worth remembering here, however, that research is particularly scarce when it comes to whether or not these supplements are effective so be sure to take them with a grain of salt.

The most common natural supplements for alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Milk thistle (may be helpful in regenerating the liver)
  • Kudzu (may be useful for restoring the liver)
  • Angelica extract (may reduce inflammation)
  • Passionflower and valerian root (may help with insomnia)

Lavender and St. Johns-wort (may help with anxiety)

What Can I Expect During Alcohol Withdrawals?

Not everyone has the same risk of becoming addicted. Some people may have a genetic makeup that makes it easier for them to drink frequently without ever building up a dependency. Others may live in a society and culture that promotes heavy drinking and consequently makes it more likely that they’ll develop an addiction.

And just as each individual has a different experience with addiction, so too does the alcohol withdrawal experience vary from person to person. As a result, accurately predicting just how you are going to react to detox from alcohol and what kinds of symptoms you’ll experience along the way is practically impossible.

Some of the major factors that influence just what you’ll be experiencing during your detox from alcohol include:
  • Unique physiology and body type
  • Individual genetic makeup
  • Duration and severity of addiction
  • Poly drug abuse or other co-occurring disorders
  • Strength of your support system
  • Effectiveness of your coping mechanisms
  • Your personal environment
  • Personality type

As you can see, there’s quite a bit at play here. That’s why it’s so important that you find a professional detox for alcohol that caters its treatment methods to your personal needs. A cookie-cutter approach to detoxification is not only ineffective, but it may also actually be unsafe in the end.

Despite just how different individual experiences with alcohol withdrawal can be, some symptoms are more common than others.

In general, these symptoms are caused by the body’s readjustment of the GABA and glutamate systems discussed earlier. However, other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may be due to vitamin deficiencies that you've developed throughout your addiction.  

According to Mental Health Daily, the most common symptoms you'll likely experience during detox from alcohol include:
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Blood pressure increases
  • Concentration problems
  • Crying spells
  • Depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irritability
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nightmares
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea
  • Mood swings
  • Itching
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Depersonalization
  • Cravings
  • Confusion
  • Appetite loss
  • Anger

As you can see, the list of withdrawal symptoms is particularly extensive. And when you add to the fact that seizures, delirium tremens, and a host of other complications like respiratory failure and irregular heart behaviors are all possible as well, detoxification from alcohol can be quite overwhelming.

But with a professional alcohol detox program, physicians and staff will work with you to create an individualized plan that can help reduce both the severity and duration of these symptoms. Plus, they have the tools and experience needed to keep you safe throughout the process.  

Alcohol Detox Timeline – How Long Does it Last?

Just as the types of withdrawals you’ll experience can’t be predicted with 100% accuracy, the duration of detox is also a bit up in the air as well.

Some individuals may only have to weather the intense symptoms for just a couple of days until they start feeling better. Others, however, may feel out of sorts for well over a week's time.

It just depends. In general, though, you can expect to stay in alcohol detoxification for around 5 to 7 days in most cases. More severe cases will require longer periods of detox.

Beyond that, some alcoholics may undergo what’s known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. This syndrome has been particularly well documented when it comes to alcohol but may also occur among other drug users as well.

The condition is characterized by an especially long alcohol withdrawal period that may end up lasting for as long as 2 years in some cases.

According to SAMHSA, symptoms of protracted withdrawal from alcohol include:
  • Anxiety
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Mood instability
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulties concentrating and thinking
  • Reduced interest in sex
  • Unexplained physical complaints

As you can imagine, many people going through PAWS often end up falling back into the cycle of addiction simply due to just how long these symptoms can last.

With proper treatment from an alcohol detoxification facility though, you can reduce the risk of developing PAWS and find ways of treating these symptoms to improve your likelihood of a full recovery.

What Are the 3 Stages of Detox from Alcohol?

For most people, the timeline for detoxing from alcohol consists of three stages. In each of these stages, you’ll likely experience a range of alcohol withdrawals

Stage 1– The first stage of withdrawal typically begins around 8 hours after your last drink. The most noticeable symptoms that you’ll likely experience during this stage are nausea, stomach pain, irritability, anxiety, and possibly tremors, a.k.a. “the shakes.” Stage 1 most often lasts for around 24 hours.

Stage 2– This stage of detox usually lasts for around 2 days and is marked by the onset of symptoms like increased blood pressure, higher body temperature, fever, and intense cravings.

Stage 3– The final stage of detox (not counting PAWS) usually begins around 3 or 4 days after your last drink. In most cases, this stage lasts for about 4 to 6 days. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal during this phase may include those of delirium tremens (confusion, over-excitation, irritability, etc.) as well as insomnia, depersonalization, and severe mood instability.

More serious alcohol withdrawals like seizures and delirium tremens may follow a different timeline.

The highest risk of seizures is within the first 48 hours of detoxification from alcohol (i.e., Stage 1 and Stage 2). After that period, the probability of experiencing a seizure drops significantly, but they are still possible up to 20 days after you stop drinking.

Delirium tremens most commonly occurs within 48 to 96 hours after your last drink, but the onset of symptoms may be delayed as far as 7 to 10 days after you quit drinking. While transient hallucinations associated with the condition will generally start within the first 48 hours, the confusion and disordered sensory perceptions will likely begin around day 3 of your detox from alcohol.

As you can see, the deadliest effects of alcohol withdrawal can often appear several days into detoxification. It’s vital, then, that you decide to partner with a professional program so that they can monitor your health throughout the entire process.

How to Stay Sober

Once you've made it through detox, you'll likely feel far better than you have for quite some time. And if you've used a holistic program, your body might be healthier than ever thanks to the nutritional meals and exercise regimens used in these programs.

In fact, you may even be tempted to stop the recovery process right then and there since you’re feeling so refreshed and revitalized. However, this would be an enormous mistake.

Research has shown that while detoxification can be invaluable for starting you down the path to sobriety, it is only the first step in the process. In fact, NIDA even states in their principles of effective addiction treatment that:

Although medically assisted detoxification can safely manage the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal and can, for some, pave the way for effective long-term addiction treatment, detoxification alone is rarely sufficient to help addicted individuals achieve long-term abstinence. Thus, patients should be encouraged to continue drug treatment following detoxification.

As such, you simply must enter into an alcohol rehabilitation program to ensure the best chances of staying sober for the long run. Rehab will give you the tools you need to get to the root of your addiction problem, tackle cravings, and find healthier life strategies to replace your substance abuse.  

Beyond that, you may also want to look into joining an Alcoholics Anonymous group in your area. These groups can be vital in giving you the continuing support and guidance you’ll need to stay clean long after your rehab program is complete.

Recovery from alcoholism isn't a one-step process. You can't expect to stay sober if all you've done is gone through detox. But with a complete recovery program, you ensure the very best chances of success and sobriety.

How Much Does Detox Cost?

There are a variety of factors that play into the final costs of your detox from alcohol. The severity and duration of your addiction, the extent of your necessary amenities and treatment, any additional medications or therapies, and more will all play a role here.

Consequently, everyone’s detoxification from alcohol is bound to be priced a little bit differently. And that means estimating your particular costs is impossible.

That being said, most alcohol detoxification programs will end up costing around $250 to $500 per day of detox.

And while that might seem like a bit outside of your price range, the truth is that alcohol detox facilities are more than willing to work with you directly to find a payment plan that works. Financing, monthly payment plans, and even sliding scale costs are extremely common among facilities so don't be too scared off by the price.

Beyond that, there is also insurance which, as we’ll see, can end up making detox from alcohol not only surprisingly affordable but even free in some cases.

But more than anything else, remember that your stay in an alcohol detox facility is an investment in your future.

Does Insurance Cover Alcohol Detox?

One of the biggest problems people face when getting the help they need for their alcoholism is that they often think they can’t afford treatment. In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health by SAMHSA, almost one-third of all alcoholics who need help and don't receive it blame it on not being able to afford the costs.  

However, recent changes in the U.S. legislature (the Affordable Care Act) have now forced insurance providers to offer addiction treatment services to their customers. What’s more, some of these companies will cover the full costs of treatment.

As a result, many patients will end up paying little more than a copay for services ranging from alcohol detoxification through rehabilitation.

However, it’s important to verify your insurance coverage before deciding to partner with a particular program for detoxing from alcohol.

What’s more, it’s also important to make sure your insurance provider is considered to be in-network. Out-of-network providers may only be able to provide rebates rather than up-front payments which can be a problem for some.

What Do I Look for When in an Alcohol Detox Facility?

Choosing an alcohol detox facility that can meet your individual needs is essential when it comes to your long-term recovery. But actually finding such a facility can be a bit tough.

That’s why we’ve put together this short list of qualities to be on the lookout for when deciding on an alcohol detox program for you. So, be sure to seek out programs that have each of the qualities below to ensure that your detoxification from alcohol is as safe, successful, and comfortable as possible.
  • Qualified staff and accredited facility
  • Uses evidence-based protocols to treat alcohol withdrawals
  • Has a high staff-to-patient ratio
  • Can treat co-occurring disorders during alcohol withdrawal
  • Has a variety of rehabilitation and aftercare connections
  • Offers individualized plans rather than a one-size-fits-all approach
  • Numerous activities throughout the detox from alcohol program
  • Various support options including counseling
  • Nutritional programs to help your body heal during alcohol detox
  • 24/7 nursing care

A clean and inviting treatment facility

Amytal Addiction Treatment

Where Can I Find Help for My Detox from Alcohol? – Northpoint Washington

As you might imagine, finding a facility that has every one of the qualities above isn't easy. There may be hundreds of options out there, true, but do they really stack up? And most importantly, are you going to risk something as valuable as your sobriety on the wrong kind of facility?

If you’re struggling with alcoholism, the best place to turn for professional detox from alcohol is Northpoint Washington. Our upscale and comfortable facilities provide the absolute best detoxification and rehabilitation services in the state. And our clinic is staffed by only the most qualified physicians, nurses, and caretakers that have one thing and one thing only on their minds – your successful recovery.

Below are just some of the reasons Northpoint Washington is the best choice in detox from alcohol.
  • Our empirical program is built around evidence-based protocols
  • We offer individualized treatment plans tailored to meet your needs
  • We have an excellent staff-to-patient ratio
  • Our physicians, nurses, counselors, and staff members are all highly qualified so you can be sure you’re in good hands
  • We offer nutrition-rich meal plans and exercise activities to keep your body healthy throughout recovery
  • Caretakers are available around the clock to ensure both safety and comfort during your alcohol withdrawals
  • Programs consist of a variety of therapies and treatments including counseling, behavioral therapies, and more

As you can see, we at Northpoint Washington take great pride in providing only the best alcohol detox services in the area. But we’re also dedicated to helping the country as a whole recover from the current addiction epidemic. That’s why even if our facilities in Edmonds, WA are too far out of your reach, we’d love to help you find the right program to detox from alcohol that will meet your specific needs – no matter where you are.

Give us a call today, and we can refer you to one of our affiliate programs near you.

Addiction to alcohol can end up ruining your life. It can sabotage your career, alienate you from friends and family, taint your record with the law, and ultimately put your physical and psychological safety in jeopardy.

But sobriety is possible. And at Northpoint Washington, we can help.

For a free addiction assessment or to learn more about us and what our alcohol detox program has to offer, give us a call. You don’t have to be a slave to alcohol forever. Let us help you down the road to recovery today.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist Today

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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