what is alcohol detox like?
Alcohol detox centers in Massachusetts enable those struggling with alcohol use disorder to begin their recovery journey. The excruciating and sometimes dangerous symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can make stopping drinking difficult, if not impossible. Fortunately, alcohol detox centers have the medication, therapeutic services, and expertise to help even the heaviest drinkers give up their deadly habit.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline
When someone who is addicted to alcohol abruptly stops drinking, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms occur as the brain and body attempt to reach a state of balance after having alcohol removed from the system.
The primary neurotransmitter that is affected by alcohol abuse is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is responsible for relaxation, mood, and more. Excessive alcohol abuse causes a GABA imbalance, and when this chemical is imbalanced, the brain and body become overactive as they try to reach a state of normalcy. Alcohol abuse also impacts the way dopamine and serotonin function – two additional feel-good chemicals. The lack of these neurotransmitters is responsible for the psychological symptoms of withdrawal.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as 6 hours after a person stops drinking. Early symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Shaky hands
After 24-72 hours, most people will notice their symptoms peak. Additional symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that may occur around this time include:
- Dilated pupils
- Appetite loss
- Pale skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Mood swings
Some of the most severe symptoms that may occur 12-24 hours after the last drink are hallucinations and seizures. Hallucinations can be auditory, visual, or tactile, and seizures, unfortunately, can be life-threatening.
In a small percentage of patients – approximately 5% – delirium tremens (DTs) may occur. DTs usually start 48-72 hours after a person stops drinking and may include:
- Vivid hallucinations
- Extreme confusion
- Racing heartbeat
- High blood pressure
While alcohol withdrawal is not deadly for most, unexpected complications can occur at any time. As a result, it is in everyone’s best interest to detox from alcohol in a qualified medical setting.
The Dangers of Detoxing From Alcohol At Home
Detoxing alone is not only difficult, but it is dangerous as well. Shortly after stopping drinking, many people will begin having cravings. These cravings can be powerful and incessant, driving some people to reach for a drink before they have finished detoxing. However, detoxing in a medical setting helps separate the patient from their usual environment and places them in a supportive and alcohol-free environment.
Another major concern when it comes to alcohol withdrawal is seizures, hallucinations, and delirium tremens. Left untreated, any of these symptoms can be fatal. Other symptoms, like nausea and vomiting, can lead to dehydration or malnutrition – conditions that sometimes require emergent medical care.
Hospital settings and alcohol detox centers have experienced doctors, nurses, and addiction specialists on-staff who can provide supervision, medication, and supportive care services. They have the tools and expertise to help patients overcome alcohol withdrawal.
Understanding The Alcohol Detox Process
Alcohol withdrawal is physical and psychologically uncomfortable, but alcohol detox centers in Massachusetts can make the process much easier. Each person may have a slightly different experience in detox, however, alcohol detox can usually be broken down into three treatment stages: admissions and evaluation, medical management or detox, and treatment planning. Here is what patients can expect during each phase.
Admissions and Evaluation
It is critical that each and every patient has access to individualized care that addresses their unique needs. This is why the first step of the detox process is admissions and evaluation. After a patient has verified his or her insurance information and has enrolled in a detox program, he or she will meet with an addiction specialist and a physician for a comprehensive evaluation.
During the evaluation, patients may be asked to take a variety of tests or assessments. They may be asked questions about:
- How much alcohol they consume and how often
- Their medical history and family’s medical history
- Any underlying health conditions
- What prescriptions they are taking
- What symptoms they are currently experiences
- Any treatment goals the patient has in mind
- Any allergies to medications or food
- Whether or not the person has used drugs in addition to alcohol
All of this information helps the clinical team develop a custom treatment plan for the patient. Once a treatment plan is developed, patients will move into the detox or stabilization phase.
Medical Management and Support
The majority of detox consists of medication management and therapeutic support. This is when patients go to their rooms, sit back, and try to relax as substances leave their bodies. Throughout the detox process, patients are monitored by nurses and other staff members. Their vitals are checked regularly and medications are prescribed and administered accordingly. In the event of a complication or medical emergency, the staff is prepared to intervene.
In addition to medical support, alcohol detox centers in Massachusetts provide a variety of additional services to aid patients throughout the detox process. These services may include:
- Individual therapy
- Group counseling
- 12-Step meetings
- Nutritional support
- Holistic wellness
These additional services can help patients cope with their cravings and symptoms while beginning to introduce them to addiction treatment.
There are a number of different medications that are used to help treat alcohol withdrawal. Some of the most common include:
- Benzodiazepines (Valium, Librium, Tranzene, Serax)
- Anticonvulsant medications (Tegretol, Neurontin, Depakene)
These medications can help prevent seizures and other severe withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines, in particular, may be used in replacement of alcohol to help slowly wean a patient’s body down.
Treatment Planning Services
Alcohol detox will not cure alcoholism. Alcoholism is a progressive and complex disease that requires long-term treatment, usually through an inpatient or outpatient rehab program. As a result, it is imperative that patients attend a rehab program after finishing detox if they truly want to stay sober.
Towards the end of the detox process when patients begin feeling better, they will have the option to meet with a drug and alcohol counselor. The counselor will educate the patient on their different treatment options and help the patient determine which rehab program is right for them. The counselor can also make arrangements regarding insurance, payments, transportation, and more so that the transition from detox to rehab is easy on the patient.
Once an aftercare plan has been agreed upon, patients can be released from the alcohol detox facility.
How Long Does Alcohol Detox Take?
How long alcohol detox lasts varies from one person to the next. In general, patients who are detoxing from alcohol will need 7-10 days before their bodies start feeling better. Other patients, particularly younger ones with a fast metabolism, may begin feeling better after just 3-4 days. All patients are encouraged to stay in detox for as long as they need until their withdrawal symptoms fade away and they are prepared to move on to an addiction treatment program.
Start Alcohol Detox in Massachusetts Today
Detoxing from alcohol is hard enough, but detoxing alone can be nearly impossible. And, it can be dangerous, too. Rather than aiming for sobriety alone, it’s best to seek help from a professional Massachusetts alcohol rehab center.
At Elevate Recovery Center, our team knows how difficult quitting drinking can be. But we’ve also come up with an evidence-based treatment program that really works. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been drinking your whole life or if you’ve only been addicted for a few months – there is no better time to get help.
To learn more about our alcohol treatment programs or to find detox for yourself or a loved one, pick up the phone and call today.