What Happens During Alcohol Withdrawal?

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A lot of people reach rock bottom and want to treat their alcohol abuse, but they’re scared. What will withdrawal be like? Can they do it alone or do they need medical help? What’s the best kind of medical help? If you’re ready to make a change, don’t let the detoxification process intimidate you or stop you from getting help. There are resources to help you get through this process and make it easier.

Can You Do It Alone?

The short answer? Absolutely not. You may be scared, but this is not something you should never do alone without medical intervention and supervision. People often think that heroin or opioid withdrawal is the most severe form of substance abuse withdrawal. However, alcohol is the worst detoxification process, which is why you need medical intervention from people who know how to manage the symptoms and make you more comfortable. During withdrawal from alcohol, you may experience symptoms that need medical intervention immediately and failure to have that can be detrimental to your health or even fatal. Get help but be safe. 

Is a Hospital or Rehab Center Best for Treatment?

This is where it’s important to make sure that medical staff know what to do when treating alcohol withdrawal. Your first instinct may be to check into a hospital and some have great units for alcohol withdrawal. But the sad truth is some hospitals are ill-equipped to handle detoxification unless they have specialized training. At teaching hospitals, medical students often aren’t equipped to handle detox and don’t understand how severe symptoms can be. Fortunately, that’s where many rehabilitation facilities fill the gap with doctors and nurses who understand your needs and are trained in detox and alcohol withdrawal.

How Long Does It Take for Withdrawal to Start?

Depending on the severity and length of alcohol abuse, mild symptoms usually begin within a few hours of your last drink. The time it takes the alcohol to begin to get out of your system indicates when the first mild symptoms will appear. This usually takes 6-12 hours.

Some of the symptoms you can expect are anxiety, nausea, abdominal pain, tremors, and insomnia. Each of these can be medically managed by trained personnel. The length and severity of these symptoms depend on the length and severity of the abuse.

What Is the Second Stage of Alcohol Withdrawal?

The second stage of alcohol withdrawal requires medical management as detoxification symptoms start rising to their peak. Expect high blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, and seizures. An alcoholic can also begin experiencing visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations.

This period usually lasts 24-72 hours from the time of your last drink. You’ll need medications to manage seizures as well as anxiety. Your blood pressure may be dangerously elevated and your “resting” heart rate may be 120 or higher. This stage can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous, so it’s important make sure that proper medical care is available.

When Do I Start Feeling Better?

You should be over the worst, most crucial time in withdrawal around the 72-hour mark, but that doesn’t mean all of your symptoms disappear. You may suffer from Delirium Tremens ( DTs) toward the end of the 48-72 hour mark. DTs are more than “the shakes.” Some of the symptoms you can expect include:

  • ·         Delirium (severe confusion)
  • ·         Tremors
  • ·         Hallucinations
  • ·         Increased sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
  • ·         Mood swings
  • ·         Seizures

In rare circumstances, you may experience side effects to withdrawal for months after, such as sleep problems and mood swings. However, most will slowly begin to feel better as their bodies physically recover.

You’ve Gone Through Withdrawal, Now What?

Once you’ve gone through acute detoxification, then you start the therapy and behavioral work. A rehabilitation center may offer cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-Step programs, and other holistic programs such as mindfulness, art therapy, and animal therapy. At first, you’ll need to complete inpatient treatment, if possible, because you are very vulnerable to relapse.

A rehabilitation center can help you find sober living accommodations, therapy to help repair family relationships, and coping techniques that can help when you feel the old cravings. Just as you should carefully choose where you go through detoxification, you should choose where your therapy begins post-detox.

Different programs offer different therapies, from various counseling approaches to fresh approaches to healing such as art, music, or animal therapy. Many incorporate therapeutic movement or exercise such as hiking or yoga. Some activities may already appeal to you, but you will also discover new techniques for coping in recovery. 

Many alcoholics know that they need to change and are ready to start a new, sober life, but may fear alcohol withdrawal. If we told you alcohol detoxification was easy, we’d be lying but there is help and hope. You can get medical help–and you absolutely should–to help minimize withdrawal symptoms and detox from alcohol safely. Never try to go through this on your own by going “cold turkey” or making a loved one go through detox alone. You should always have medical monitoring and assistance. At Everlast Recovery Center, we offer sub-acute detoxification with medical support followed by inpatient services in a home-like atmosphere. Our low staff to resident ratios ensure you will get the personalized care you need. We offer home-cooked meals that make recovery feel like home and support you in recovery with counseling. Our program operates in Riverside, California, and we can help you gain and maintain sobriety. Call us for help at 866-DETOX-25 to begin your life again.

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