What is alcohol detox?
Alcohol detoxification is simply the process whereby alcohol is flushed from a drinker's body. This seems deceptively simple. If a person is an alcoholic a number of physical processes are triggered when alcohol detoxification is attempted. These chemical changes occur most notably within the brain and the surrounding nervous system such as in the neurotransmitters located throughout the body. These changes can pose several potentially life-threatening symptoms known as 'withdrawal symptoms' as the brain goes into overdrive when alcohol is withdrawn. Chemicals which naturally occur in the body are suppressed due to excessive alcohol intake and when alcohol is withdrawn the body produces these chemicals in far greater quantities than the body can cope with. This is why medically supervised detoxification is recommended for those who suffer from an alcohol addiction.
Tranquillisers such as Chlordiazepoxide may be prescribed during a medically supervised alcohol detoxification programme along with vitamin B6 supplements to ease withdrawal symptoms.
How long does alcohol detoxification last for?
The time required for effective alcohol detoxification depends on the severity of the patient's addiction to alcohol and also the duration of the addiction. As a rule of thumb the longer and more severe of one's addiction to alcohol, the longer the required alcohol detoxification period will last. Once withdrawal symptoms have begun to cease the patient is said to have 'stabilised'. Detoxification typically lasts between 3 to 7 days but can last for as long as 10 days for a chronic alcoholic.
What are typical withdrawal symptoms?
When the brain's chemistry is altered due to the sudden stop of alcohol intake a number of processes are affected throughout the body. Below is a list of a number of common withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol detoxification:
- Delirium tremens
- Heightened blood pressure
- Intense sweating
Particularly delirium tremens and seizures are capable of leading to cardiac arrest and death. For this reason alcohol detoxification should take place in an inpatient setting where the patient is monitored by medical professionals throughout the day and night.
What happens during alcohol detoxification?
Ideally your alcohol detoxification programme will take place in an inpatient setting. This ensures the 'triggers' of your addiction are kept at bay throughout the process and so that medical staff can ensure your withdrawal symptoms are safely managed.
Tranquillisers such as Chlordiazepoxide, Halazepam and Oxazepam maybe offered in order to help keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. It would be reckless to attempt alcohol detoxification if the patient is a chronic alcoholic without medical support of this nature. A number of medicines are capable of regulating the brain's chemistry throughout the detoxification process so that the risk of cardiac arrest and death are kept to a minimum. Anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines may also be offered during the alcohol detoxification process. Beta-blocker drugs may be used to fight off seizures.
What happens once detoxification is complete?
One must remember detoxification is very much the first step required for a long and lasting recovery. A quality rehabilitation centre typically includes a number of therapies and counselling sessions as part of the complete rehabilitation programme which take place once detoxification has been tackled. Therapy and counselling ensures negative behaviours which gave rise to the addiction in the first place are tackled and replaced with positive coping strategies so that relapse does not occur once the programme is complete.
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