Alcohol Detoxification: Preparation, Processes, Recovery

The first step on the journey towards sobriety is admitting that you have a problem. However, before rehabilitation can begin, it will be necessary to rid the body of all alcohol. This is done through a process known as detoxification.

Why is Detoxification Necessary?

Alcohol is a chemical that depresses the central nervous system. It affects almost every cell in the body and, therefore, makes quitting very difficult.

Once alcohol gets into the bloodstream, it causes the brain to produce neurotransmitters that are responsible for the feelings of pleasure one experiences when intoxicated. Nevertheless, the more alcohol that a person consumes, the more accustomed to this substance the brain becomes. This means that it stops producing the same level of neurotransmitters so the person needs to then drink more in order to get the same effects. This is called tolerance.

For the brain to get back to normal and to restore the correct number of neurotransmitters, it will be necessary for a programme of detoxification to be completed.

A Closer Look at Detox

It is dangerous to continue drinking high levels of alcohol as it affects all parts of the body. Nonetheless, it is just as dangerous to stop drinking when addicted without medical supervision. Here at Liberty House Clinic, we provide fully supervised detoxification as part of our programme. Our professional medical staff can make this process easier and more comfortable for you before you begin your rehabilitation programme.

As mentioned above, detoxification is the process of eliminating alcohol from the body, but as the body has become dependent on this substance, it will try to compensate when it is no longer receiving it. As the body attempts to get back to normal, it is common for the affected individual to experience certain withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol has the effect of slowing down the mind and body, so the first time a person drinks, the body will try to resist this by ‘speeding up’. As the effects of alcohol wear off, the body continues to overcompensate as it struggles to get back to normal. This can make the person feel uncomfortable and so they may respond by drinking more. This provides temporary relief, but then the body begins working hard again to fight the changes caused by the alcohol.

The process goes on and on and, as the body adjusts to accept alcohol as ‘normal’, the individual then needs more of it to experience the same pleasurable feelings. Soon the body craves alcohol and the person is compelled to drink, even if doing so causes negative consequences.

Quitting Alcohol

Once a programme of detox begins, the supply of alcohol is entirely cut off; when this happens, the body will continue its overcompensation while expecting the usual dose of alcohol to arrive anytime soon. However, when this does not happen, a number of unpleasant symptoms can occur.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically begin around six to twelve hours after the person has had his or her last drink. This means that the individual may still have quite a large amount of alcohol in his or her system. The type of withdrawal symptoms that occur with alcohol detox ranges from mild to severe.

The first sign of withdrawal symptoms in alcohol detox patients is tremors. Some people experience a faint trembling inside while others will shake so severely that they cannot function. Other mild symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loss of memory
  • Flushed skin
  • Agitation
  • Trouble sleeping

These mild symptoms typically improve within a few days. These are the types of symptoms that many alcoholics experience when they go for a certain period without alcohol. They may have quickly realised that the symptoms receded upon drinking alcohol again. Nevertheless, during detox, the person cannot make the symptoms go away by having alcohol.

At Liberty House Clinic, we offer prescribed medical detoxification that will help to ease the symptoms experienced by patients. Medication is prescribed by a fully qualified doctor and is designed to make the patient feel more comfortable during this time.

Around a quarter of detox patients will suffer from hallucinations with these usually occurring within one to two days after the person has had his or her last drink. Hallucinations can be quite frightening for the person experiencing them, as well as for those who witness them, but they are rarely serious.

Severe Symptoms

Some people will experience severe withdrawal symptoms known as delirium tremens or DTs. DTs typically begin around three days after the last drink and can be very dangerous. The minor symptoms such as shaking and hallucinations tend to become much more intense, and those affected often suffer from paranoid episodes. Patients may feel that everyone is out to get them and can become violent.

DTs can be fatal if they lead to dehydration and heart irregularities. The problem with the DTs is that it is impossible to tell which patients will experience them. For that reason, it is recommended that those who require a programme of alcohol detox, do so under medical supervision.

For more information on alcohol detox or details of our programme here at Liberty House Clinic, call today.

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