Alcohol Withdrawal & Detox
It is estimated that at least 88,0005 people die from alcohol-related causes on an annual basis. This makes alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Tobacco is first while poor diet and physical inactivity are second.
According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), it is estimated that 14.4 million adults ages 18 and older have alcohol use disorder (AUD). Additionally, the NSDUH found that:
• 86.3% of people 18 years or older had drank alcohol at least once in their lifetime
• 70.0% reported that they drank in the past year
• 55.3% reported that they drank in the past month
• 26.45% of people 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month
• 6.6% reported that they engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month
Adults were not the only ones who are dealing with alcohol-related issues; youth did as well. At least 401,000 (1.6%) of youth ages 12 to 17 had AUD. Among youths, females were most affected.
The good news is that help is available. Around 7.9% of adults and 5% of youth ages 12 to 17 with AUD had received treatment in the past year. The road to recovery is not always a straight line. The first step toward recovery is to stop. Unfortunately, those with alcohol and substance use disorder often must go through the painful process of withdrawal.
What Is Alcohol Abuse?
The CDC defines a standard drink of alcohol as one that contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. This is the equivalent of a 12-ounce beer, 8-ounce malt liquor, 5-ounce wine, or 1.5-ounces of 80-proof distilled spirit or liquor like gin, rum, and vodka. As an individual begins to build up a tolerance to alcohol, it is easy to lose track of the amount that is being consumed.
Because of the damaging effects of alcohol abuse, the CDC created terms to quantify alcohol use behavior. In general, males consume more alcohol than women, although the gap is closing in the US, so the definition of alcohol use varies by gender.
Research shows that some groups such as college students are drinking more heavily in a short period of time, then might have stretches of abstinence. The agency came up with the term binge. Binge drinking takes place when a female consumes four or more drinks on a single occasion. Male binge drinking takes place when he consumes five or more drinks on a single occasion.
Heavy drinking takes place when a female consumes eight or more drinks in a week. For males, it is 15 or more drinks in a week. The CDC concedes that an excessive drinker is not necessarily an alcoholic or dependent on alcohol. Excessive drinking, however, does have short-term and long-term negative effects on a person.
Short-term health risks include:
• Motor vehicle accidents
• Alcohol poisoning
• Risky sexual behavior
• Miscarriage and stillbirth in pregnant women
Long-term health risks include:
• High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke as well as liver disease and digestive problems
• Weakening of the immune system
• Learning and memory problems
• Mental health problems
• Social problems
Those who believe that they have fallen into alcohol dependence are encouraged to seek help. Seeking help means that you will be asked to detox. Then, you can begin your recovery journey. The first sign of moving toward recovery is alcohol withdrawal.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol changes the way your brain operates. Consistent alcohol consumption over an extended period of time changes the chemistry of the central nervous system. Alcohol withdrawal is the changes your body experiences when you stop consuming alcohol abruptly. The severity of alcohol withdrawal depends on how long you have been drinking, how often you drank, and the number of drinks consumed per day. For very heavy drinkers who have been drinking for many years, this can be life-threatening. Therefore, if someone has been drinking heavily for a long period of time, a medically supervised withdrawal may be necessary.
Withdrawal is a drain on the body that includes physical and psychological discomfort. Depending on the level of dependence, it is tougher on some than others. Even though dependence on alcohol has several negative short-term and long-term effects, there are those who prefer to keep drinking than face their vice head-on.
The medical field knows that alcohol withdrawal is intense. Treatment plans have evolved in the last decade. Detox plans are customized to each patient. The goal is to get the patient through withdrawal. By getting through withdrawal, the real road to recovery can begin. The intensity of alcohol withdrawal is why alcohol and drug experts often recommend inpatient programs coupled with medical detox. If you have a trained support group, your chances of succeeding rise.
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline & Symptoms
Without help, it is not uncommon for a patient to give up during withdrawal. The total time, on average, it takes to go through this process is seven to ten days. Professionals in the medical and rehabilitation field estimate that there are three stages that occur during the withdrawal period.
Withdrawal usually starts within eight hours of your last drink. This means that heavy alcohol users may experience withdrawal symptoms in between drinks. This would explain why some individuals make an effort to always be near their next drink, such as having it at their desk at work or having some beside the bed. At that point, consuming alcohol becomes necessary to avoid the effects of withdrawal.
Stage I of withdrawal usually begins about eight hours after your last drink. Typical withdrawal side effects include anxiety, insomnia, and nausea as well as abdominal pain. A patient in withdrawal may also experience:
• Loss of appetite
• Foggy thinking
• Mood swings
• Heart palpitations
Stage II begins from the 24-hour mark to 72 hours after you had your last drink. Typical symptoms are high blood pressure, increased body temperature, and unusual heart rate as well as confusion. Sweating, irritability, and heightened mood disturbances are also common.
Stage III of withdrawal usually starts between two and four days after they had their last drink. When alcohol withdrawal is severe, the symptoms during the third stage are hallucinations, fever, and seizures as well as agitation. A potentially fatal set of symptoms is referred to as delirium tremens (DT). Relief from withdrawal symptoms usually begins five to seven days after their last drink was consumed.
Delirium Tremens is only estimated to occur in 3-5% of patients during withdrawal. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, if not treated, the condition can be fatal. Since the percentage of patients who experience DT is small, it may be difficult to predict the patients who will go through it. When it does occur, it happens once all the alcohol has exited the patient’s bloodstream. DT is one reason why medical professionals do not encourage those with alcohol use disorder to quit cold turkey without supervision.
It’s important to be educated on the process. Understanding the stages of withdrawal and the length of time it takes is a great start. Education is important for family members of someone who is abusing alcohol.
At Green Mountain Treatment Center, our program is designed to treat everything from mild withdrawal to severe symptoms. Our program is structured and includes 24-hour medical monitoring. All staff members are trained in the area of addiction medicine.
Deciding to get sober is a big step. Not getting sober because you are afraid of the withdrawal process is no excuse. Getting over the hump is an accomplishment. Once you have that feat under your belt, learning how to remain sober may seem easier or more worthwhile.
The Alcohol Detox Process
A person naturally detoxifies alcohol from the system through the liver. This vital organ metabolizes ethanol so that it can be purged. Issues with alcohol and the liver begin when you overload it. If you are drinking often, your liver loses its ability to keep up, so the toxins build up. Without detoxing, you cannot begin your recovery.
A medical detox at a private rehab facility offers the best chance for success. By having a trained, medical staff at your disposal, if you develop complications, it can be dealt with immediately. Risks are minimized. At a center, your vitals are taken regularly. If you lose your appetite during Stage I, it can be managed. Discomfort and other common symptoms are also managed. Patients who experience excessive sweating, nausea or mood swings are provided amenities that ease each of those symptoms.
The alcohol withdrawal and detox process gets you, the patient, ready for rehabilitation, so it is important to get through it first.
Finding the Right Treatment Facility
Reputable facilities such as Green Mountain in New Hampshire know that every case is different. There is no expectation that your detox is going to look like someone else’s detox. Since they will have a diagnosis and medical history on hand, the team can anticipate your symptoms.
Some rehabilitation centers focus on setting up a resort-like environment on purpose. The point is to make each patient as comfortable as possible. If you are distracted from your symptoms, you are more likely to be successful. More importantly, you are more likely to make it to the other side of your recovery.
Help Is Available
Detox and withdrawal symptoms should not be taken lightly. Rehabilitation centers that admit patients who need to detox before going to rehab are at your disposal. Green Mountain Treatment Center, for example, is a full-service rehab facility. We offer a serene, panoramic, and secluded environment where patients can overcome abusing their substance of choice.
The program at Green Mountain provides:
• Individualized treatment plans
• 12 step-centered curricula
• Holistic therapies
• Nutritious, chef-prepared meals
• Treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
Our medical professionals are ready to help you with any part of the recovery process. We can help you during detox, and we can help you through therapy after. One treatment option that you may want to consider is a relapse prevention plan. Unfortunately, many people do relapse after completing treatment. With a relapse prevention plan, you can have measures in place if you do get the urge to use again. Know that there are people that are ready to help you no matter what stage you are at in your recovery journey.
Withdrawal from alcohol can be scary, but it can be done. Trained professionals in the rehabilitation field provide support around the clock during all phases of recovery. It’s not easy, but with the right help, you can succeed and even thrive. To get you or someone you care about started on the road to recovery, call us today.