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Alcohol Detox; Fears & Hope

Updated: Aug 12

Symptoms, New Treatments, and Long-Term Success


There is no doubt that alcohol addiction is frightening, both for the alcoholic and for their loved ones. As a person begins the journey of recovery, the first step is detox, the primary goal of which is removing all of the alcohol from the body to leave it cleansed and ready for a healthy new start. One of the main obstacles that may prevent alcoholics from seeking treatment is the fear of detox, many of which are unfounded. However, there are some legitimate concerns that alcoholics need to be aware of before embarking on a detox program.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms


The thing that many people are most worried about in regards to detox is usually the withdrawal symptoms. The bad news is that withdrawal is unavoidable, but the good news is that medically-treated withdrawal is not nearly as bad as many people assume – and it lasts for only a week or so at most. Every person is unique. The severity of the detox symptoms will depend upon factors like how long and how much alcohol was regularly consumed, and the patient's overall health. Alcohol detox may include withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Insomnia or irregular sleep patterns

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Excessive body sweating

  • Chills

  • Delirium Tremens (recognized by symptoms of disorientation, accelerated heartbeat, and fever)

In sporadic cases, some alcoholics may experience seizures as they detox. Because the symptoms of withdrawal can be unpleasant, being well aware of what to expect is essential. This first step can be the most difficult for many people. Most medical professionals recommend alcohol detox in a medical and recovery-focused setting, such as an out-of-state, medication-assisted rehab facility, to guarantee that symptoms are managed effectively and that the patient is made as comfortable as possible for the detox's duration.


New Medications


Several different types of medications mitigate the symptoms that may occur during detox. People are often concerned about these medications, wondering if they will trade one addiction for another. Not the case. The drugs used during detox are generally not addictive and instead help stabilize the body to make it strong enough for recovery. Some common medications for detox patients may include:

  • Antipsychotics: These medications help relieve anxiety, and they may also stop hallucinations.

  • Beta-Blockers: Beta-blocker medications can correct an elevated heart rate and high blood pressure, both common alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

  • Anticonvulsants: Anticonvulsant drugs are for patients who have a pre-existing seizure disorder.

These drugs cannot stop seizures triggered entirely by alcohol withdrawal. However, these medications can allow the alcoholic to detox safely without putting their overall health at risk.


Avoiding Alcohol Long-Term


Long term effectiveness is one of the significant concerns that anyone who enters a detox program will have. In most cases, a person who undergoes a quick detox and then returns to their old life will not be able to overcome the temptation to drink again. To indeed have success with detox, patients will need psychological help as well.


When a person quits drinking, in particular, when they stop suddenly by beginning a detox, it can be psychologically upsetting. Patients need to learn how to deal with the emotional repercussions of detox and the physical ones. Proper detox programs offer patients support from medical professionals who oversee the detox and withdrawal, as well as support from psychological professionals who help manage their emotional well-being. The psychological aspect of detox often includes individual therapy sessions, group therapy sessions, and family therapy. By taking a full-body approach to detox, patients will have the best chance for long-term success.

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©2020 by Carl Yazbek, The Giving Tree Treatment Center