One of the reasons that many people become so dependent on alcohol is the fact that if they stop drinking, they have symptoms of withdrawal. Powering through these symptoms and detoxing your body from alcohol is the first step to alcohol recovery. However, depending on the addict’s daily alcohol intake, detox can be extremely difficult and potentially dangerous. For this reason, it might be necessary for extreme cases to seek professional assistance in a rehab detox program.

Why is alcohol detox important?

Detoxing from alcohol is the very first step to recovery from alcoholism. When one goes through a detox program, their body is completely free of alcohol by the end of it. The beginning stages of withdrawal are usually tough but they only last for about a week or two – the exact length will depend on the frequency of alcohol intake and duration of alcohol use.

Once detox is complete, a person in recovery can begin to take advantage of all the services available to them: counseling, therapy sessions, different activities, and outpatient support.

When a person regularly consumes alcohol, their body becomes dependent on it to function. It essentially becomes a part of who they are. The brain actually starts to change and stops producing certain chemicals that it needs to function – instead, it receives these chemicals from the alcohol the user is drinking. It’s for this reason that drinking is so much more than a habit, even if the user thinks they aren’t addicted. They might not realize the changes that are happening inside their body.

The biggest indicator that your body is addicted to alcohol and the chemicals it provides the brain with is the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms which are typically headaches, nausea, hallucinations, fever, and irregular heartbeat.

Withdrawal symptoms are a huge reason why many people don’t want to seek help for their alcohol addiction – they are afraid of feeling the symptoms that they know all too well. Those who consume a large amount of alcohol daily are likely to feel withdrawal symptoms that are worse than those who drink less. In either case withdrawal symptoms can affect the brain and body in ways that are unexpected and potentially painful. That’s why it’s important to go through alcohol detox at a facility where there are medical professionals present. They can closely monitor symptoms and pain and help the patient with feeling as comfortable as possible throughout the entire process.

What does alcohol detox look like?

Alcohol detox looks different for everyone and is going to depend on the length and severity of the user’s alcohol intake. Mild cases might exhibit flu-like symptoms while extreme cases can exhibit life threatening symptoms like seizures and delirium tremens.

In mild cases, alcohol detox looks like:

  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches

In serious cases, alcohol detox looks like:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Extreme hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Delirium tremens (rare and serious)

Delirium tremens doesn’t happen in every case of alcohol detox (about 1-4%), but when it does, it needs to be closely monitored by a medical professional because it is potentially life threatening. Delirium tremens typically occurs 2 to 4 days after a person’s last alcoholic beverage and can last for 2 to 3 days.

What does delirium tremens look like?

  • Severe confusion
  • Nervous or angry behavior
  • Extreme hyperactivity
  • Global confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dehydration

Breaking down the detox timeline

While withdrawal and detox look different in everyone, here are is the most common timeline that is seen in those who go through a detox program:

First 6-12 hours:

The first day of detox is usually the mildest but it can get worse quickly. The most common symptoms of withdrawal that are seen on the first day are headache, anxiety, nausea, trembling, and agitation.

Day 1

The first day of detox, symptoms begin to get worse. In addition to the previous symptoms, one may begin to experience disorientation, seizures, and the inability to hold a steady hand.

Day 2

Things continue to get worse as day two approaches. It’s common for a person to have hallucinations or experience panic attacks. The body is beginning to flush itself free of alcohol.

Days 3-7

Symptoms in the second half of the first seven days in detox tend to ebb and flow. Some will subside while others may still be present or get worse. The end of the first week is usually when patients are the most susceptible to life-threatening symptoms like seizures and delirium tremens.

The second week

After a week has passed, patients are usually able to feel the most serious symptoms of withdrawal subside. It’s true that some symptoms may last for longer as the brain and body learn how to function without chemicals from alcohol, but they are usually much less painful in the second week and the days after that. If symptoms are painful or unmanageable after the first week, they can usually be treated with medication or closely monitored doses of sedatives.

Seeking help at Chapel Hill Detox

If you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism and is ready to get help, Chapel Hill Detox is ready to help. Out facility is staffed with medical professionals that know the ins and outs of drug and alcohol detox programs and they will design one that it best-suited for the needs of each and every patient.

One detox is complete, our patients will then be referred to an in-patient or out-patient program. Upon completion of the program, those who are in recovery are welcome to use our 24/7 support system so that they know that help is never too far away.

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