Quitting alcohol by yourself can lead to severe, painful, and life-threatening alcohol detox symptoms. People who want to overcome their alcohol addiction should undergo medical detox that offers close monitoring and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT makes it possible for people struggling with substance use disorder to slowly taper off medications that help them eventually cleanse themselves of addictive substances.
Detox programs that include MAT are usually the first step of addiction treatment programs for opioid abuse, nicotine addiction, and alcohol use disorder. The purpose of using prescription drugs during detox is to alleviate the effects of substance withdrawal symptoms and help clients focus on their addiction recovery journey.
Detoxing From Alcohol
If you abused alcohol for months or years, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that arise when you stop or seriously cut back on how much you drink could be very severe. If you have a mild addiction, you may not need the comforts of going to an alcohol detox center, but you should choose to get professional help, anyway.
When detoxing from alcohol by yourself, you often don’t have access to medical help — which you may need if your withdrawal symptoms get more severe. The initial withdrawal symptoms aren’t so difficult to get through, such as:
- Shaky hands
However, between 12 to 48 hours after your last drink, more severe effects can arise, such as hallucinations and seizures. These effects may get worse past the first two days of detox. You may experience delirium tremens (DTs) as well as truly severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms like extreme confusion, fever, heavy sweating, high blood pressure, racing heart, and vivid delusions.
Dealing With Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
If you or someone you care about has decided to take the first step to overcome addiction, going to a medical detox center and eventually getting transitioned into a comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment program is your best option.
But if you don’t have a serious health condition, don’t have a severe alcohol use disorder, and don’t have a history of severe reactions to alcohol withdrawal, you are less likely to actually need anything more than a supportive environment to help you through detoxification. A supportive environment includes the following:
- A positive and supportive atmosphere
- A quiet place
- Healthy food and lots of fluids
- Limited contact with people
- Soft lighting
If your blood pressure, body temperature, or pulse rise, or if you have more severe symptoms, like seizures and hallucinations, seek medical care immediately. Getting admitted into an inpatient medical detox program could be what professionals recommend you do.
A detox program could offer MAT to help stabilize your mental and physical health while you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, it must be noted that the drugs used to help with alcohol detox are also potent and very addictive. Medications used in MAT for alcohol addiction treatment include the following:
- Benzodiazepines, like chlordiazepoxide and diazepam: These are used during the acute detoxification phase since benzodiazepines work on the same brain receptors as alcohol. Benzodiazepines can be administered immediately and slowly tapered off once the client is out of their withdrawal phase–approximately five days after their last drink. Some individuals may stay on a slow and long taper of benzodiazepines, but others will often switch to a safer and FDA-approved drug.
- Naltrexone: Individuals who abuse alcohol no longer receive the “high” or “reward” for drinking once they are on naltrexone. However, this drug doesn’t reduce the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal; therefore, the client must undergo full detoxification before beginning treatment with naltrexone.
- Disulfiram: This drug creates unpleasant, hangover-like effects when alcohol is consumed. These unwanted effects include chest pain, headaches, facial flushing, nausea, sweating, vomiting, and weakness, and usually begin just 10 minutes after alcohol enters the body. Disulfiram is not specifically a cure for alcohol use disorder; rather, it deters clients from drinking.
- Acamprosate: This drug reduces cravings associated with alcohol and can also decrease alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Acamprosate works by reducing the brain’s dependence on alcohol and helps to modulate and normalize brain activity that has been affected by the cessation of alcohol use.
Finding an Alcohol Addiction Treatment Program
Finding the right detox center where you can begin your journey to overcome alcohol addiction is essential. Alcohol withdrawal can be excruciating, anxiety-ridden, and sometimes even life-threatening. You’ll be putting your life in the hands of the center’s staff members while detoxing from alcohol, so make sure you trust them. You’ll also need to trust that they will properly transition you to a comprehensive addiction treatment program after you’re mentally and physically stabilized after detox.
Apart from meeting the staff members of the detox center and the addiction treatment program–and making sure they have the licenses and certifications necessary to treat you–you also need to ensure the addiction treatment facilities accept your preferred payment methods. Remember that the price of recovery can’t possibly be higher than the price of not overcoming addiction.