Alcohol detox is short for alcohol detoxification. Basically it is a medical term that describes the procedures and period of time needed to remove alcohol from the body and allow the patient to go through withdrawal symptoms in a safe environment. Not all people who have issues with their drinking are in need of alcohol detox. It is really used when the body has become dependant upon alcohol.
What are the symptoms of Alcohol dependence?
The first signs of an alcohol problem is that it is becoming the centre of you life. For instance you are not going out to socialise – you are going out to drink. You may find that you cannot enjoy situations if there is no access to alcohol. When you do drink alcohol your friends tell you that your behaviour becomes frightening, or in some way unacceptable. You are tending to spend money on drink rather than the necessities of life which should be put aside for your home and family. You are beginning to find because of the after effects of alcohol it is beginning to affect your work.
These are the early signs of an alcohol problem which could lead to alcohol dependence. This is where you do not only need drink mentally, your physical body is beginning to need alcohol as well. At this stage, the desire for alcohol can start to become overwhelming every minute of the day. Your body is yearning for it like it would normally yearn for food and water. To satisfy the needs, the alcoholic takes in a lot of alcohol. When there is no alcohol intake the body suffers from “withdrawal symptoms”.
Classic withdrawal symptoms are feeling sick, trembling, sweating, distraction, and a craving for alcohol. If withdrawal is really severe then you are likely to suffer from Delirium tremens or the DTs as it is known. The symptoms here are much more acute and include marked tremor and delirium (agitation, confusion, and hallucinations). Some people have convulsions. Complications can develop such as dehydration and other serious physical problems. In some cases the DT’s are fatal.
There are certain warning signs which suggest you may be on the route to alcohol dependence and may need to consider alcohol treatment:
- You have a desire to drink everyday.
- You find you drink alone often simply for the sake of having alcohol.
- When you are without alcohol you have noticed you have started shaking. The only remedy for the “shakes” is to take another drink.
- You drink at unsociable hours. Specifically, you drink early in the morning either to get you out of bed and functioning or to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol has become the one goal in your life so you neglect all other interests or pleasures in life.
You are finding you need more and more alcohol to “get you high” or to prevent withdrawal symptoms. This is because your body’s tolerance levels are changing.
Alcohol Detox Treatment
Alcohol Detox normally takes place in an alcohol rehabilitation setting. Medical practitioners will often prescribe medication to help the alcoholic cope with the withdrawal from alcohol. Benzodiazepine medicines such as chlordiazepoxide or diazepam are classically used in alcohol detox situations. It is important to note that these medicines do not stop the craving for drink, they make the withdrawal process easier. At the beginning of the treatment the doctor will probably prescribe a high dose (perhaps the first four or five days) and slowly reduce the dose as the symptoms lessen.
You will also need to replace some of the nutrients your body has lost during the period your life has been centered on drink alone. Therefore it is likely the doctor will also prescribe vitamin supplements.
When the patient has finished alcohol detox he will still have the craving for alcohol and this is where the professional support, counseling and medical input from the alcohol rehab centre is so useful. Medicines such as Acamprosate and Naltrexone can be given to help reduce the craving for alcohol but at the end of the day the alcoholic can not rely on these alone. In the real world he will need the determination, commitment and responsibility to abstain from alcohol himself.