How Does Alcohol Detox Work?

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Alcohol detox is one of the most dangerous drug detoxes that exist. If it is not handled properly, it can result in permanent damage or even worse — death. That’s why it is so important for detox treatment for alcoholism to be handled by professionals. If you or a loved one is afflicted with alcoholism, here are the answers to some common questions you may have.

What is Alcohol Detox?

Detox is short for “detoxification”. The word literally means removing toxic substances (i.e. alcohol) from the body. It is commonly associated with withdrawals. Detox is the process of going through withdrawals in a medical facility such as an alcoholic detox centers.

Do I Need to Go to a Rehab Facility For Alcohol Detox?

There are 3 environments that can be used as detox treatment for alcoholics:

  1. “Cold Turkey” – This refers to any attempt by an alcoholic to detox him or her self. Due to the severe dangers of detox, cold turkey is never recommended.
  2. Outpatient Drug Rehab – Alcohol detox may be performed in an outpatient setting for mild to moderate cases of alcoholism.
  3. Inpatient Drug Rehab – Inpatient settings are used to detox moderate to severe cases of alcoholism.

It is always better to go to an inpatient drug rehab, even if you do not think your case is severe. Inpatients provide the most intensive drug and alcohol treatment, and it is much better to be safe than sorry in cases of detox and withdrawal.

What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Detox?

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are classified into three kinds of groups:

  • Alcoholic Hallucinations – Visual, auditory or tactile hallucinations where alcoholics are still able to distinguish psychosis from reality. Occurs in about 1 in 5 withdrawing alcoholics and does not carry a significant risk of death.
  • Seizures – Usually either one protracted seizure or multiple spasms of seizure. Occurs frequently and may carry a risk of death if untreated.
  • Delirium Tremens – Hallucinations where alcoholics are not able to distinguish reality, in addition to fevers, high blood pressure, extreme agitation, and disorientation. Least common (about 1 in 10 cases) but most dangerous symptom, with a 35% chance of death if untreated. Seizures are also associated with delirium tremens and can increase the likelihood that they occur.

How Long Does Alcohol Detox Last?

Detox varies by alcoholic and their progression of alcoholism. However, a general timeline will see an alcoholic start to withdraw within the first day of not drinking. Seizures and/or delirium tremens (if they occur) develop over the next few days. The detox process itself can last up to a week. However, its effects (hallucination, high blood pressure, etc.) can go one for multiple weeks.

Is Detox the Only Treatment for Alcoholics?

Detox treatment for alcoholics is extremely important because it removes alcohol from their bodies. Without this process, their bodies would still be physically dependent on alcohol. However, detox does not go far enough. The mentality of alcoholics almost guarantees that they are powerless against the next drink. The best treatment for alcoholics will include a rehab facility, therapy, medication, and sober living.

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