Alcoholism is a chronic disease and if left untreated can cause severe damage to organs and have life-threatening consequences. According to The University of Maryland Medical Center (2011) about 18 Million people in the United States abuse alcohol and about 70 million Americans have an alcoholic in their family. Friends and family members often encourage alcoholics to seek help for their addiction, but sadly, many alcoholics are so entrapped in their addiction, that they cannot find a way to accept help. As with any addiction there are effective treatment programs for alcoholism. Every program is different and methodologies and philosophies vary, but the core components are consistent. The first component of each program is a detoxification, or detox process. Alcohol detox is the removal of alcohol from the body under medical supervision, and this process can take anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks, depending one the individual and the severity of his or her addiction to alcohol.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal is the brain’s way of trying to adjust to the absence of alcohol, after prolonged periods of excessive alcohol intake. As is the case with any drug of addiction, the body experiences a series of traumas during the cessation of alcohol consumption, and these symptoms can vary from mild to very severe, and can be life-threatening in some cases.
Mild Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Some of the milder symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are still very difficult to endure, however these effects tend not to be life-threatening, and can include:
- Mood Swings
- Rapid Pulse
- Mild Agitation
- Low-grade fever
Moderate Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
In addition to the mild withdrawal symptoms, the following symptoms can make alcohol detox more grueling.
- Severe headaches
- Severe Anxiety
- Excessive Sweating
Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
These symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are among the most dangerous and potentially deadly without medical supervision.
- Hallucinations (mainly visual)
- Delirium Tremons
- Irregular heart beat (arrhythmia)
- High blood pressure
- Severe agitation
Any of these withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours of the last drink and last up to 2 weeks in detox. No one should attempt an alcohol detox on his or her own. Medical supervision is necessary to prevent life-threatening seizures and strokes, and can also reduce the severity of unbearable symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. The only way to ensure the prevention of dangerous complications, injury, and possible death is to have a medical detox for alcohol withdrawal.
According to SAMHSA, there are three basic components of detoxification which apply to all drugs of addiction, including alcohol. These components are as follows:
- EvaluationThe evaluation consists of
- Testing the blood for the presence of substances of abuse and measuring the concentration of said substances
- Screening for co-occurring mental and physical conditions
- Assessment of the individual’s medical, psychological, and social conditions
- StabilizationThis includes the medical and psychosocial assistance for the alcoholic to get through acute withdrawal and achieve medical stability with full support.
- Fostering Entry Into Treatment
As confirmed by SAMHSA and throughout the medical profession, detoxification alone is not sufficient in the treatment and rehabilitation of substance abuse disorders. This third component involves preparing the alcoholic for entry into a treatment facility by stressing the importance of following through with a complete continuum of care.
Additional Aspects of Alcohol Detox
Health is critical, especially during detox, when the body of an alcoholic is enduring traumatic withdrawal symptoms. Vitamins and supplements can be necessary in addition to healthy and regular meals during the alcohol detoxification process. Supplements and vitamins are given on an individual basis according to needs. During, and long after the alcohol detox process, it is vital for each individual to have the proper nutrients, vitamins and minerals for a stable and healthy lifestyle.
Another important aspect of alcohol detox is support during the process. Alcohol detox, like any other detox is a psychologically traumatic experience, as the only thing an alcoholic wants is to take another drink, and make the symptoms go away. It is vital for any individual undergoing alcohol detox to have a supportive environment in which he or she can receive the support and encouragement to stay with it, and the reassurance that detox is the only way to get on the path to recovery from alcoholism. Without strong and consistent support, an alcoholic can easily give up on his or her initial quest for sobriety, as detox is the first and most difficult part of recovery from addiction.
One long-lasting withdrawal symptoms common to all drugs of addiction is intense cravings. While these craving do begin to fade over time, early recovery can be a dangerous time, and in response to the cravings that may be overpowering, there are a couple of medications that have been synthesized to curb the occurrence of relapse.
- Disulfram (Antabuse)
This was the first medication approved for the treatment of alcoholism, and causes a severe reaction when alcohol is consumed while taking the medication.
Commonly used for alcoholism and addiction to opiates, Naltrexone limits the extent of a “high” one may experience fro using these drugs
Detox Alone Is Not Enough
The unpleasantness of alcohol detoxification is an unfortunate necessity but is not the only process needed to overcome alcohol addiction. It is important to understand that detox alone is insufficient in the journey to recover from alcoholism. Because there is no cure, and only treatment for alcoholism and addictions of all kinds, it is imperative to get the treatment intended to strengthen all efforts to remain sober and in recovery.
The primary reasons for attending a drug addiction treatment program after detox are all found in the benefits of the rehab program itself. Some of these benefits are:
- Individual Counseling, which helps alcoholics to better understand themselves, their underlying issues and traumas, and how those issues may have contributed to, or exacerbated alcoholism.
- Group Therapy is intended to allow alcoholics to understand that they are not alone in their struggles with addiction, but also to build fellowship amongst the group and develop supportive relationships that can be maintained once treatment has been completed.
- Coping and life skills are developed so alcoholics can learn how to handle pressures and disappointments in life without turning to alcohol. A large part of this is engaging in other activities and hobbies that are enjoyable, healthy, and conducive to recovery.
- Aftercare is the process through which a plan for continued sobriety is developed that is sustainable once treatment has been completed and in the home environment. This can include things like employment, support groups, living arrangements, emergency contacts, activity groups and events, and community charity.
The various aspects of addiction treatment are invaluable to addicts in recovery, as they learn how to do things they may have previously thought to be impossible. Addiction treatment ensures that addicts have the support and tools to complete treatment, and be able to return home to:
- rebuild relationships with friends and family, and establish new relationships with those who are supportive of sobriety and recovery.
- participate in, and utilize various support groups available. Whether through AA or another type of support group, addiction treatment stresses the importance of support on the road to recovery.
- engage in new activities or hobbies, and/or new groups of friends with whom drinking is not the focus of the relationship.
- employ the coping skills learned in treatment to ensure a smooth passage through the difficult times in life.
Overcoming addiction is a life-long endeavor, the process of which can be hard at times, but provides a life of health, free from the shackles of addiction.
If you, or someone you love is addicted to alcohol, and in need of detox and treatment, please call us now and speak with a trained counselor about the most efficient way in which to complete detox and the most individualized and effective method of addiction treatment. It is imperative to understand that addiction is progressive, and without help, it will eventually claim the life of any addict. Please don’t wait, call us now to get the help that you or your addicted loved one so desperately need and deserve.