Alcohol Detox Center
Alcohol detox is the crucial first step in recovering from alcohol abuse and addiction. Since alcohol is both physically and psychologically addictive, detoxification depends on the individual and the severity of alcohol addiction. The goal of alcohol detox is to remove alcohol from the body while managing acute alcohol withdrawal (AW) symptoms, which may range from mild to extremely severe and life-threatening.
Is Alcohol Detox Different From Other Drugs?
- Older age, especially in individuals over the age of 60
- Co-morbid medical or surgical illness
- Previous occurrence of delirium tremens during detox
- Dehydration, common in alcoholism
- History of seizure during previous alcohol withdrawal episodes
- Brain trauma
- Potassium deficiencies, especially present in geriatric patients
Alcohol detox can turn deadly in cases of severe alcoholism, and without medical assistance. Potentially fatal symptoms brought on by delirium tremens (DTs) occur in less than 5% of people who need alcohol detox centers, but the process can be dangerous and extremely uncomfortable even if delirium tremens does not develop.
Although a low dose of benzodiazepines can treat severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, medical professionals recommend hospitalization and constant monitoring during the process.
The most common withdrawal symptoms can begin within 6 hours after the last drink, and they include:
- Shaky hands
- Increased heart rate
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically peak between 10 and 30 hours, so early symptoms are likely to become more severe. Assessments of the severity of alcohol withdrawal can be determined by medical staff, using the CIWA-Ar (Clinical Institute of Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol scale).
Individuals going through alcohol detox are at higher risk for a seizure between hours 12 and 48. Not everyone who needs alcohol detox will experience severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is important to have home support or enter a detox facility if symptoms become severe and medical assistance is needed. The time it takes to complete alcohol detox depends heavily on the individual, pre-existing medical conditions, and co-occurring mental health issues. Alcohol detox typically lasts between three and ten days.
What Is Delirium Tremens?
Delirium tremens (DTs) presents in the most severe cases of alcohol detox and affect less than 5% of people who detox from alcohol.
Signs of DTs may begin 1 to 4 days after the last drink, and most commonly occur in individuals who drink heavily for several years. Early signs of impending delirium tremens include:
- Hand tremors
- Irregular heart rate
Although rare, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe enough to require hospitalization and constant monitoring. A medical assessment may determine the severity of alcohol withdrawal and the need for medically assisted alcohol detox centers in California. This assessment focuses on ten categories to determine the potential severity of alcohol withdrawal. These are scaled within a range of 0-15 or more, and include the following:
- Auditory Hallucinations
- Clouding of Senses
- Sudden and Profuse Sweating
- Tactile Hallucinations
- Visual Hallucinations
Each of these ten categories is assessed, on a scale ranging from 0-8, 8-10, 10-15, or more than 15. This scale is known as the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment -Alcohol (CIWA-A), and is used as a reliable and feasible manner to recognize delirium tremens before the condition progresses. Sometimes, symptoms of impending delirium tremens provide insufficient notice, before the condition is full-blown. If signs of delirium tremens are present, medical attention is necessary right away:
- Sudden extreme confusion
- Severe anxiety
- Chest pain
- Excessive sweating
- Increased heart rate
Delirium tremens can include extreme hyperactivity, hallucinations, and even death in up to 5% of individuals who experience it. Although delirium tremens is a rare occurrence in alcohol detox, professionals still recommend medical attention. Alcohol detox may require benzodiazepines to counter the potential for seizures. The preferred benzodiazepine for alcohol detox is either diazepam (Valium®) or lorazepam (Ativan®), and phenobarbital, in situations where other benzodiazepines provide insufficient sedation.
Do You Need Alcohol Detox Centers?
Even if alcohol withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, they can still be severe enough to cause intense pain and discomfort both physically and psychologically. Medication can manage severe symptoms like agitation, anxiety, and insomnia during a medically monitored alcohol detox. It is never safe to attempt to self-medicate while detoxing from alcohol.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can become severe without notice, even if the initial symptoms are mild, as the peak time for acute withdrawal often occurs 2 to 3 days after the last drink.
Even if severe symptoms never develop, medical attention is recommended to provide a more comfortable detox experience. Often, benzodiazepines are helpful for the treatment of symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, shaky hands, and increased heart rate. These are not dangerous symptoms, but they can cause extreme discomfort and complications.
Signs That You Need Alcohol Detox and Treatment
Alcohol detox centers are not only for severe alcoholics. There are many signs and indicators that you may need to get help for your drinking habits and behaviors. Self-assessment is the first line of defense before negative consequences begin to make life unmanageable.
Some of these signs may be easy to recognize in yourself, and others may require an honest assessment from others who are close to you.
- Think about drinking alcohol at all hours of the day, notably in the morning
- Crave alcohol whenever it is not available for consumption
- Have difficulty being able to stop drinking once you’ve started
- Drink alcohol at inappropriate or illegal times such as while working, at school, or while or just before driving
- Commit to stop drinking for a while, and are unable to keep your commitment
An affirmative response to any one of the above questions indicates a serious alcohol use disorder, and you should seek help and alcohol detox right away.
Alcohol Detox is Not Alcohol Treatment
What Role Does Alcohol Addiction Treatment Play in Recovery?Many people erroneously believe that addiction treatment acts as a cure to addiction, but that is wrong on two important levels.
- There is no cure for addiction
- Only you decide whether you’ll take another drink
- individual therapy to identify and address underlying traumas and challenges that may have contributed to alcohol abuse
- identifying avoidable triggers in people, places and things, to prevent relapse
- learning how to cope with stress, disappointment, trauma, and loss without turning to alcohol
- identifying safe places and people that support your sobriety
- understanding how alcohol abuse and alcoholism have changed your brain, and how you can holistically help it to heal
- learning and adopting healthy and nutritious lifestyle habits and choices