Why Alcohol Detox Might Not be What You Expect

Most people have their own idea of what detoxing from chemical substances is like. Movies and TV programmes once depicted this process as being a completely agonising experience, and it was not unheard of for scenes of people drying out to show them being tied to a bed to stop them searching for the substance they were craving. This is not how an alcohol detox is. If you are an individual about to embark on a detoxification from alcohol, you might actually be surprised to find that an alcohol detox is not half as bad as you are expecting it to be. In fact, there are many reasons why alcohol detox is never usually as bad as you might think.

An Effectively Managed Detox

You can choose to detox at home or in a facility where staff are on hand to look after you and make sure you are safe at all times. Where you decide to detox is really down to your personal preferences, but there are certain situations where it would be safer for you to detox in a dedicated facility.

What you should be aware of though is that you need to speak to a medical professional before you suddenly quit alcohol, especially if you have been drinking heavily for a long time. Your body has adapted to your use of alcohol, so were to you to suddenly stop, it could have dangerous consequences.

To ensure your safety and comfort, it is recommended that you never attempt to detox from any chemical substance without adequate supervision. In a dedicated detox facility, you will be monitored at all times by fully trained professionals. Your comfort and safety will be paramount, and medication can be administered if it is appropriate to help alleviate any symptoms of discomfort.

What is Alcohol Detox Like?

If the idea of a detox has been preventing you from reaching out for help, you may be keen to learn more about the process. You might also be wondering why alcohol detox is necessary at all and whether you can simply bypass this process altogether.

What you need to realise is that the only way to get your life back on track is to prepare yourself to live it substance-free. Abstinence is the key to success, and when you quit alcohol, you will automatically go through a detox, wherever that happens to be.

However, you can ensure that your detox is much more comfortable by getting help. If you choose to detox at home, you need to make sure that someone is with you constantly. In a detox facility, this goes without saying. So, what is alcohol detox really like though?

Withdrawing from alcohol can be complicated but it does not have to be traumatic. It typically begins around six hours after you have stopped drinking alcohol for the last time. The earliest symptoms to appear include mood swings, headache, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and shaking.

As alcohol is a central nervous system, quitting it will cause your body to speed up certain processes in response. If you experience tremors, for example, they may be nothing more than a light fluttering; alternatively, they may be so bad that they prevent you from functioning properly.

You could also lose your appetite and feel a little nauseous – these are common symptoms and you may have experienced them before when you needed a drink while still on the alcohol. It is common to also feel irritable and agitated and you might be quite tired but unable to sleep.

Other symptoms that can be experienced as your body speeds up include high blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, and flushed skin. The good news though is that after a few days most of these symptoms will have subsided. Nevertheless, some symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, can often continue for a few weeks.

You should also be made aware that around a quarter of those going through alcohol detox will experience hallucinations to some degree. This is one of the main reasons that supervised detox is the recommended choice. While hallucinations are not dangerous in and of themselves, they can be frightening for the person experiencing them as well as for whoever is in attendance at the time. Nonetheless, in a dedicated detox facility, staff will have experience of managing hallucinations so can handle the situation adequately.

Severe Withdrawal Symptoms

Not everyone will experience severe withdrawal symptoms when detoxing from alcohol, but you should be aware that there is a risk. The risk is higher for those who have been drinking heavily for an extended period and for those with a severe addiction.

Other risk factors include underlying mental and physical health problems such as:

  • heart disease
  • chronic lung problems
  • hepatitis C
  • diabetes
  • depression
  • seizures

While having any of these conditions, or having experienced them in the past, does not automatically mean you are going to experience severe withdrawals, the risk is higher, so you should definitely consider a supervised detox in a dedicated facility.

You may have heard about the DTs (delirium tremens). These are a set of sudden changes in the nervous system that can cause a rush of adrenaline and can lead to shock and heart irregularities. The DTs can be fatal if not treated immediately as a medical emergency.

What Happens Once Alcohol Detox is Finished

An alcohol detox will typically last for between one and two weeks, and although it is not a pleasant experience, it should not be an agonising one. Once it is completed, your treatment for addiction can begin. Many people question why alcohol detox must be completed before treatment for addiction can start.

One of the main answers to this is that most rehab providers will not accept patients who have not completed a detox as they know that when alcohol still clouds the mind, it would be almost impossible for the affected person to concentrate on recovery. Moreover, if an individual were to try to tackle the psychological side of his or her illness while also trying to overcome the physical, the process will end up being a disaster.

As alluded to a few times above, an alcohol detox can be a tough and challenging time. While your body is eliminating all the remaining toxins and chemicals that have built up over years of abuse, you are likely to feel unwell. You may be agitated and irritable, and this is not the right time to tackle the emotional issues associated with your illness.

When you have been clean and sober for a period of up to two weeks, you are likely to be feeling much better and ready to get started on the road to recovery. Most of the withdrawal symptoms will have subsided and you will be in the perfect position to tackle rehab.

Rehab programmes for alcohol addiction tend to be either inpatient or outpatient based. Inpatient programmes are much more intense and take place over the course of around six to eight weeks. Outpatient programmes last longer because they incorporate fewer treatment hours per week.

During rehab, the aim will be to help you learn the reasons for your addictive behaviours. You will work closely with a therapist or counsellor to help you identify the cause of your illness and to develop ways of changing your behaviour going forward. With a massive range of techniques at their disposal, rehab providers can create a bespoke treatment plan for you, based on your needs, circumstances, and preferences.

If you would like more information about alcohol detox and rehabilitation, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us here at Recovery Lighthouse. We can provide the information you need to make an informed decision about your future.

Perhaps you have always had an opinion of what a detox would be like, which has stopped you from seeking help thus far. We can provide much more information on why alcohol detox is likely to be nothing like you expected. Call us today for more information.