Process and Timeline for Alcohol Detox Treatment | Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Alcohol Detox Near You: Process, Timeline & Risks

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AUD, or alcohol use disorder, is a continually worsening problem for the residents of the United States with millions of people diagnosed every year, including young adolescents with as few as 12 years of age. The solution to this problem is twofold. First, it’s important to treat the very causes of AUD in an attempt to lower the number of diagnosed individuals. Second, it’s just as essential to provide all the necessary assistance to those individuals currently struggling to overcome their alcohol abuse.

At this moment, there is a wide range of available treatment options for helping individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder, including medication assisted treatment, support groups, and behavioral therapy. Also, depending on how severe the alcohol use disorder is, many of these approaches to therapy involve alcohol detox or detoxification.1, 2

What Does Alcohol Detoxification Mean? 

Detox from alcohol represents a physical as well as a psychological process where an individual struggling with AUD eliminates harmful substances and toxins from their body in an initial step on their road to sobriety. This kickstarts their rehabilitation healthily and safely while also alleviating the most common withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol detox functions by tapering the alcohol present in a person’s body, either with or without the necessary medication designed to assist you in overcoming your addiction.2

The goal behind the process of alcohol detox is freeing the body from all the toxins present and comprehensively preparing it for all the subsequent stages of detox from alcohol. What’s more, alcohol detoxification aims to alleviate the side effects of alcohol abstinence by minimizing all the potential withdrawal symptoms which have a tendency to occur upon abrupt cessation of alcohol intake.2

Additionally, it’s essential to emphasize that detox for alcohol doesn’t represent the end of alcohol use disorder, but rather it’s initial phase. Finally, it’s worth noting that there are mild cases of alcohol addiction in which detox isn’t necessary, so a detailed consultation with a medical professional is needed to determine the requirements for your AUD rehab.3

How Do I Detox from Alcohol? 

The initial and one of the most important steps in detoxing alcohol from your body is understanding you have a problem and that you need assistance in treating it. From there, start by consulting with your doctor about the steps you should take to begin your process. The assessment performed by a reputable professional is instrumental in starting your treatment in the best possible manner for your specific situation. Your doctor can help with assessing the state and the severity of your AUD, making a preliminary diagnosis, and offering a suitable plan of treatment and the potentially required medication. From there, it’s your choice on how to continue your treatment.4

Generally, there are three aspects to consider before you potentially begin your detox from alcohol as the initial part of your recovery:4

  • Intake: Prior to deciding on the type and the duration of the rehab program to enroll in, a licensed medical professional has to determine the frequency and the amount of your alcohol intake, as this is essential for all further action.
  • Medication: There are cases of alcohol detox where it’s necessary to intake specialized medication. It replaces your alcohol dependence in a safe way and alleviates the existing symptoms of your withdrawal. The most commonly used type of medication for this is benzodiazepines.
  • Stabilization: Medical detox from alcohol should grant the patient mental and physical stability. This means that they regain the capacity to keep up with their recovery process calmly and without experiencing often harmful and difficult withdrawal symptoms.

Are There Any Side Effects to Alcohol Detox

Medical alcohol detox aims to minimize the presence of withdrawal symptoms which commonly occur upon suddenly stopping your intake of alcohol. This prevents the appearance of a wide range of potential complications while in recovery. This is why patients with the most severe cases of alcohol use disorder enter inpatient alcohol detox facilities where they can receive continual supervision. If your case of AUD is milder, it’s also possible to enter outpatient alcohol detox if deemed suitable for your particular case.4

However, it’s important to emphasize how alcohol detox isn’t an easy process and hosts a wide range of challenges which can occur depending on each individual case. First, it’s possible to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms, but it isn’t possible to completely eliminate them. This means that many individuals undergoing inpatient or outpatient medical alcohol detox will probably experience some form of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.5

The intensity of these symptoms mainly depends on the severity of alcohol addiction and the existing level of intake, as well as cessation abruptness. Some of the withdrawal symptoms can even be psychological and hallucinogenic. This is why it’s paramount to seriously approach the process of alcohol detox. Severe cases of alcohol withdrawal result in around 260,000 yearly emergency medical interventions as well as approximately 850 deaths every year. All individuals looking for help overcoming their ADU need to carefully approach the matter of intake cessation and seek adequate professional assistance during this process.3, 5

Also, it’s important to learn more about the most common side effects of withdrawing from alcohol, including:5

  • Visual hallucinations.
  • Guilt.
  • Panick.
  • Facial tremulousness.
  • Finger and hand shaking.
  • Whole-body shakes.
  • Weakness.
  • Sweating.
  • Confusion.
  • Insomnia.
  • Restlessness.
  • Craving.
  • Nausea.
  • Tiredness.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.

If you feel like you’re experiencing any of the most serious side effects of alcohol withdrawal and if they’re not passing, contact 911 immediately.

What Medication Does Alcohol Detoxification Utilize? 

Alcohol detox medications are vital in many cases of the AUD recovery process. They’re closely linked to detox because they have a purpose of easing the transition from the state of drinking alcohol into the state of not drinking alcohol. Many individuals are concerned with taking AUD medication as they’re frightened of developing an addiction to another drug.4

However, this is false. All FDA-approved medication for treating different types of alcohol use disorder is safe and completely non-addictive. However, it does require prescription from a doctor as well as professional advice on how to take them. You should refrain from self-medication when dealing with alcohol addiction.4

The main type of medication used during the process of inpatient or outpatient alcohol detox is benzodiazepines. It’s helpful when it comes to managing a wide range of withdrawal symptoms, particularly those related to different seizures. The doctor needs to be in charge of prescribing the correct dosage of benzodiazepines according to the severity of your alcohol use disorder and their expectations regarding the potential side effects of detox.2

Another type of medication commonly utilized during AUD rehab is Naltrexone. This medication helps with reducing alcohol intake and is suitable for use both before and during detox. It comes in two basic forms: the form of an injection, administered on a monthly basis, and a pill, administered on a daily basis.6

A drug called acamprosate helps individuals maintain their sobriety once they’ve successfully gone through the process of detox and rehab. It assists with anxiety, insomnia, and other psychological issues which can occur upon cessation of alcohol intake. It is a pill, administered on a regular basis prescribed by your doctor.6

Finally, Disulfiram represents a type of medication with a different effect when compared to others. It causes vomiting and nausea in case an individual starts drinking again, which can be a powerful mechanism to help people refrain from drinking alcohol. This medication requires prescription and correct dosing to be beneficial during the recovery process.6

What Is the Timeline of Alcohol Detox?

Detox from alcohol typically transpires either with detailed instructions on how to handle it and without entering an inpatient facility or, preferably, in a controlled environment with professionals there to assist you during the process. The main benefit of alcohol detox is the alleviation of withdrawal symptoms. However, even minimized symptoms of withdrawal can cause a range of side effects mentioned previously.2

In general, the timeline of medical alcohol detox at a suitable center or facility depends on the characteristics of each individual case, meaning it’s impossible to provide an exact timeline for each person struggling to overcome their AUD. However, it is possible to offer a highly generalized timeline.2

First, it’s important to assess the three roughly divided categories of withdrawal symptoms which can occur in order to provide a timeline of detox depending on their severity:2, 5, 7

  • Mild withdrawal lasts from six to forty-eight hours upon the beginning of alcohol detox. Common symptoms in mild cases include headaches, nausea, tachycardia, tremors, sweating, and anxiety. However, these patients are usually stable, their life isn’t at risk, and these symptoms usually disappear quickly.
  • Moderate withdrawal includes all the symptoms of mild withdrawal plus illusions and hallucinations. These symptoms have the capacity to last from twenty-four hours to as long as six days. Serious seizures have the potential to appear at the 36-hour mark and can last as long as 72 hours, requiring immediate medical attention.
  • Severe withdrawal consists of tactile, auditory, and visual hallucinations, multiple seizures, as well as the potential for the onset of paranoia. During severe cases of alcohol withdrawal, 30% of individuals experiencing continual seizures are at risk of developing DT, or delirium tremens. This condition is extremely serious and can begin approximately two days after the cessation of alcohol intake, causing hyperactive or hypoactive behavior, as well as hallucinations. If any of these symptoms appear it’s essential to immediately seek medical assistance.

Moderate and minor symptoms of alcohol withdrawal generally dissipate during the first six days upon stopping the intake of alcohol. On the other hand, delirium tremens has the capacity to last for as long as two weeks. That’s why it’s vital to continue your treatment for AUD with both medication and behavioral therapy. As mentioned, detox from alcohol isn’t the solution for attaining sobriety, but rather an integral initial step on your road to complete recovery.4

Are Any Risk Factors Associated With Alcohol Detoxification

Detox from alcohol isn’t without its risks. The severity of the most common side effects and the potential for the appearance of certain risks mainly depends on the severity of the addiction and the approach to detox and recovery. The essential first step in creating a comprehensive plan of the detox is to professionally examine the patients and determine the best course of action in handling their unique AUD.3

There are several methods which can be implemented when determining the patient’s potential for experiencing side effects of alcohol detox. All these methods rest on carefully assessing the different aspects of each individual case, such as:5

  • The levels of alcohol intake.
  • History of severe withdrawal.
  • History of delirium tremens and seizures.
  • Use of psychoactive substances.
  • Lack of good physical health.
  • Presence of psychiatric disorders and heightened levels of anxiety.

All these cases highlight the necessity for the introduction of special attention and supervision for the patient, since they tend to be at a higher degree of risk from sustaining severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal during detox. Some of the more common symptoms which can cause serious problems for the patient include:7

  • Thyrotoxicosis, or thyroid illness.
  • Meningitis with fever and other meningeal signs.
  • Antidepressant intoxication with seizures, jitteriness, and diarrhea.
  • Psychosis causing prolonged delusions and hallucinations.
  • Pneumonia with delirium, cough, and fever can develop both before and after alcohol intake cessation.

All these issues represent serious conditions. However, it’s essential to emphasize that they occur extremely rarely during the process of recovery. Still, knowing the risks associated with alcohol detox, even if they’re highly unlikely to occur, is important for getting a clear understanding of what awaits during your rehab and how you should approach your recovery.5

How Can I Pay to Enter an Alcohol Detox Facility? 

The costs associated with alcohol treatment and rehab vary depending on the duration of the program, the type of the program you’re entering, i.e. outpatient or inpatient, and other factors. However, you need to know that there are many ways to pay for both detox from alcohol and subsequent treatment, so make sure to explore all your options before settling on a facility.8

Your first option can be contacting American Addiction Centers, or AAC, and allowing their experienced professionals to suggest a wide range of suitable facilities based on the characteristics of your unique situation. They’ll recommend different centers for alcohol detox near you and also provide assistance in assessing the extent of your insurance coverage which can help pay for either the entirety or part of the treatment. Finally, they’ll also provide information on various state and government-funded treatment programs, such as:8, 9, 10

  • SAMHSA grants: This is a suitable option for low-income individuals who require alcohol rehab.
  • Medicare: This type of program helps with successfully funding your health-related procedures, including entering an alcohol rehab center.
  • Medicaid: This program can be a great option for providing financial relief by covering at least a portion of your treatment. 

What Are Important Steps After Alcohol Detoxification

Medical alcohol detox represents a crucial initial step on your path to recovery, but is in no way self-sufficient. What’s more, there are cases where it’s completely unnecessary to undergo detox. The necessity for alcohol detox depends on the level and frequency of alcohol intake and your current health. Finally, consulting a medical professional prior to beginning your detox and taking the time to carefully prepare for the process significantly reduces the risks of developing even the mildest form of withdrawal, making detox safe for the beginning of your recovery.2, 5

After your medical detox from alcohol, it’s extremely important to continue with your treatment until attaining complete sobriety and creating a strong foundation for maintaining that sobriety. Your post-detox treatment should consist of a continued medication prescribed by a medical professional as well as different forms of behavioral therapy. It’s important to foster long-lasting sobriety with a comprehensive and evidence-based approach. You can also consider outpatient and inpatient solutions for continuing your rehab.4

How Do I Find a Reputable Center for Alcohol Detox Near Me?

For information which can help you locate a suitable AUD post-detox treatment facility, feel free to reach out to one of the reputable alcohol helplines. Their admissions navigators will be there to answer any questions you may have, help you with finding the most appropriate way to finance your treatment, verify the extent of your insurance coverage, and provide assistance with other important aspects associated with your rehab.4

Some of most reputable hotlines are:11, 12, 13

  • American Addiction Centers, , a 24/7 helpline ready to provide all the information you require.
  • SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline, 1-800-487-4889, a free 24/7 hotline available in both Spanish and English.
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), 1 (800) NCA-CALL (622-2255).

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