Despite the media coverage given to drugs such as heroin, prescription pills and marijuana, alcohol remains the most abused drug in the United States–and perhaps the most dangerous. It is estimated that one in every 12 adults in America suffers from alcohol abuse and millions more engage in risky behaviors that are associated with drinking. For those who are looking to quit drinking once and for all, undergoing and successfully completing an alcohol detox program is the all-important first step in achieving long-term recovery.
While a supervised detox program is highly recommended, there are some who feel they can quit drinking on their own by going cold turkey or by utilizing other means of self-detoxification. While these options may seem appealing, trying to detox from alcohol without medical supervision and care can be extremely risky anddi life-threatening. While alcohol is widely available and legal to obtain, it also has some of the worst withdrawal symptoms of any drug on the planet. For those who decide not to pursue medical detoxification, the dangers of alcohol withdrawal are significant.
What are the Dangers of Withdrawal Without Detox?
The Initial Symptoms
For those who quit drinking and try to ride out the symptoms, the onset of alcohol detox symptoms often occurs with six to 12 hours after the last drink. The timing of these symptoms is highly dependent on a number of factors such as the length of time and frequency of an individual’s drinking, the amount of alcohol consumed, the presence of other illicit drugs in a person’s system, and any underlying health conditions. These initial symptoms can include the following:
- Shaky hands
- Profuse sweating
- Mild anxiety
- Nausea and vomiting
After this initial wave of withdrawal symptoms, those who are detoxing from alcohol will experience a second wave of withdrawal symptoms that usually start between 12 and 24 hours since their last drink. These symptoms are more severe and dangerous and can include visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations. Known as alcoholic hallucinosis, these hallucinations are vivid but people who are experiencing them know they aren’t real.
The Dangers of Delirium Tremens
The first wave of symptoms can be very uncomfortable to endure. However, the most dangerous part of alcohol detox occurs between 48 and 72 hours after someone stops drinking. This is the period when a set of symptoms called delirium tremens can appear. Often called “DT’s”, delirium tremens is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, and it can be very dangerous for those who choose not to go through alcohol detox. During this period withdrawal symptoms dramatically increase in intensity and the severity of these symptoms can be extremely dangerous. These symptoms can include the following:
- Body tremors
- Changes in mental functioning
- Extreme agitation and irritability
- Deep sleep that lasts for a day or longer
- Hallucinations (seeing or feeling things that are not really there)
- Restlessness, excitement
Perhaps the scariest symptom associated with delirium tremens is the onset of seizures. These seizures are known as tonic-clonic seizures and it involves the entire body. For those who experience tonic-clonic seizures as a result of detoxing from alcohol, it usually starts with the muscles becoming extremely rigid then followed by violent contractions and often a loss of consciousness. Once a seizure is over, people may experience amnesia, have significant confusion, have headaches and may feel weak on one side of the body which can last anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours.
The symptoms of delirium tremens usually peak at 5 days after the last drink and can last for up to 10 days after a person quits drinking alcohol. It is estimated that 5 to 10 percent of those who have chronic alcoholism will develop this condition in their lifetime with 5 percent actually developing the condition. It is very important to note that if a person does develop delirium tremens during the alcohol detox process, the mortality rate ranges from 5 to 25 percent.
The Importance of Alcohol Detox
Because of the severity of withdrawal symptoms, it is important for those suffering from alcohol abuse to complete an alcohol detox program. During the detox process, those struggling with alcohol abuse are able to rid their body of the toxins that have accumulated in a safe and highly supervised environment. To help minimize withdrawal, medication therapy, and other interventions will be utilized by highly trained detox staff. Additionally, staff will conduct a comprehensive medical and mental health evaluation in order to diagnose any co-occurring disorders that may complicate the recovery process. Once an individual is stable and alcohol-free, they can transition to an intensive and highly structured drug treatment program.
If you are looking to break the grip of alcohol addiction, finding the right alcohol detox program can help you realize your goal of lifelong recovery. The experienced staff at Recovery Hub can work with you in finding the detox program that suits your unique and specific needs. Call us today! 888-220-4352