Most recent data shows that approximately 15 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that of that 15 million people, only about 10% receive professional treatment.
Alcoholism is a pervasive disease that impacts the brain and how it functions. The more alcohol that a person drinks and the more frequently that they do so, the more that the brain can become damaged. Areas of the brain, such as the frontal lobe and cerebellum, can sustain issues caused by excessive drinking that lead to numerous problems, including the continuation of the disease of alcoholism.
If you are addicted to alcohol, you know how painful each and every day can be. You likely even feel the pangs of anxiety course through you at the very thought of stopping drinking. However, continuing to drink alcohol will only lead to further mental, physical, and emotional problems in your life. Making the decision to make your active alcoholism a thing of the past is critical if you want to have a happier, healthier life.
The first thing most alcoholics do after they have decided to stop drinking is enroll in a detox program. There, they can get the professional help they need to end their drinking as painlessly as possible. If you are ready to get help for your alcoholism, detox can be a priceless first step on your recovery journey.
Should I Go to Alcohol Detox?
Several alcoholics begin their recovery by enrolling in detox, but not all alcoholics need to take this step. You should consider attending an alcohol detox program if you:
- Are physically dependent on alcohol, meaning you experience painful withdrawal symptoms when unable to drink at all or drink your normal amount
- Are predominantly abusing alcohol but also abusing other substances
- Have any known medical conditions, especially those related to the function of your heart, brain, and respiratory system
- Have made several attempts at getting sober but have gone back to using because the withdrawal symptoms were to difficult to manage on your own
If any of these ring true for your situation, going to detox can be extremely beneficial, if not life-saving.
A huge reason why people continue to drink even if they want to stop is because of how distressing the withdrawal symptoms they can experience are when they finally put down the glass. For some, the withdrawal symptoms they develop are minor and easily managed, but for many others, these symptoms can turn their lives upside down. The severity of your withdrawal symptoms while in alcohol detox will be based on factors such as the intensity of your alcohol use, the length of time you have been drinking for, and if you have any pre-existing medical and/or mental health conditions. Being in a professional alcohol detox program can help ensure you that no matter how serious your withdrawal is, you are in the best hands possible.
Everyone is going to develop their own combination of symptoms that reflect their relationship with alcohol. However, the most common withdrawal symptoms related to alcohol detox include the following:
- Stomach pains
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
The vast majority of these symptoms can be easily managed with over-the-counter medications, prescription medications (if necessary), and time. As upsetting as alcohol detox can be, allowing the days to pass is going to be the best way to feel better, as the alcohol will work its way out of your system.
So exactly how long will it take for you to go through alcohol detox? Every person who detoxes from alcohol will have their own unique experience based on factors such as age, gender, length of use, etc. But, there is a general timeline for how long it usually takes a person to detox from alcohol:
- 6-12 hours after the last drink: In the early hours after the last drink has been drunk, some mild symptoms can start to develop. These include symptoms commonly associated with a hangover, such as a headache, nausea, mild tremors, minor anxiety, and gastrointestinal issues.
- 24-72 hours after the last drink: About one to two days post-drinking, hallucinations and delusions can begin to occur. The symptoms that have developed prior can intensify and additional symptoms can begin, such as insomnia and heart palpitations.
- 48-72 hours after the last drink: Not everyone who detoxes from alcohol experiences the delirium tremens, or the “DT’s”, but many do. The DT’s begin around this time, with serious symptoms occurring including:
- Sudden confusion
- Increased sensitivity to lights and sounds
- Drastic mood changes
- Body tremors
Detoxing from addictive substances is generally upsetting to most because of the physical and psychological symptoms they experience. However, most drugs can be detoxed out of one’s system without risking their life. That is not the case with alcohol, as alcohol detox can be deadly. The life-threatening symptoms that can develop when detoxing from alcohol include the following:
- Seizures – On their own, seizures can cause death, especially major seizures like tonic-clonic seizures and grand mal seizures. It is possible to experience these seizures when detoxing as well as others. A non-fatal seizure can become fatal if the person falls or sustains a deadly injury during the seizure.
- High blood pressure – High blood pressure can cause life-threatening health problems including stroke and heart failure.
- Increased body temperature – Increased body temperature can occur when detoxing from alcohol, which can lead to more serious issues including seizure, dehydration, and brain damage.
If you are considering detoxing from alcohol, doing so at a professional alcohol detox center is critical. You cannot fully know if you will experience any of these life-threatening symptoms until you begin detoxing. Therefore, having immediate access to healthcare providers can save your life.
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