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What happens during detox from alcohol
Alcohol is a common element in many social settings, from after-work drinks with coworkers to a few beers during the big game or a night out with friends. But sometimes, a social habit becomes something more life-consuming.
If you’re one of those people, and you’ve either personally chosen to take a step back or a larger life event has forced the issue, there are some things you should know about what will happen when you detox from alcohol. Keep reading to understand the symptoms and stages of detoxing from alcohol.
What Causes Alcohol Detoxification?
Alcohol detoxification happens when a body that has become reliant on having a steady supply of alcohol is cut off from that dependency.
Some people recognize they have a problem with their alcohol dependency and make the choice to quit. Others don’t recognize their addiction until they’re forced to through an intervention or major life event, like a DUI, that calls it into focus.
Alcohol acts as a depressant on the brain and changes the way it acts chemically. Over years of
drinking, the chemistry of the brain actually changes and quits producing certain chemicals it receives from alcohol. When a person quits drinking, and therefore quits giving the brain what it has come todepend on from alcohol, the brain is forced to essentially restart these processes.
This period of time causes certain symptoms, as the body readjusts to these new conditions.
If you’ve realized, one way or the other, that you have an alcohol addiction, and you’re ready to do something about it, you’ll likely go through a series of stages and symptoms as your body detoxes.
Withdrawal Detox Symptoms
The symptoms of alcohol detox are both mental and physical. Depending on how long you’ve been drinking plays a huge part in how severe both will be.
The minor symptoms include:
If you’ve been addicted for longer, your symptoms may be more severe and include:
- Hallucinations, sometimes severe
The most serious physical side effect is called Delirium tremens, a potentially fatal condition.
While rare, people that enter this state have an extreme altered mental status that causes the
sympathetic nervous system to go into overdrive. If left unchecked, it can cause complete cardiovascular
collapse and death.
Because alcohol detox can be potentially life-threatening, it’s wise to undergo this period of time in an alcoholic treatment facility or under the care of a physician. A monitored detox means you’ll receive prescription medications that can lessen the symptoms and have a doctor on call in case your body doesn’t handle it well.
Stages of Alcohol Detoxing
Alcohol detoxification takes about five to ten days to complete. During this time, you’ll go through three main phases.
- Eight hours after your last drink. During this phase, you’ll start to feel physically
uncomfortable. Nausea, anxiety, and stomach cramps are the major symptoms of this phase. You’ll likely be unable to sleep.
- 24 – 72 hours after your last drink. At this point, you’ll feel confused. Your blood
pressure will increase and your heart rate will be abnormal and sometimes erratic. Your body
temperature increases, and mentally you will swing from anxious to depressed to confused.
- Two to four days after your last drink. The worst of the symptoms come at this
stage. Physically you’ll experience fevers, continued headaches, and nausea. The confusion will progress
to hallucinations and severe agitation. Some people even experience seizures at this point.
The amount of time each stage lasts varies from person to person. Some people will go quickly
through the stages and be mostly fine after a week, while others will continue to feel physically ill for longer. It mostly depends on how long and how much you drank.
After Alcohol Detox
After the initial detox from alcohol, you will likely have continuing mental and emotional struggles as you continue to adjust mentally. Most people who become addicted to alcohol form a lifestyle around it, meaning lifestyle changes are in order to make sure you don’t relapse back into your addiction.
In fact, relapse back into alcoholism is so frequent that it is now viewed as part of the normal recovery process, a necessary step to learning how to function normally outside of alcohol. Relapse offers the chance to see what isn’t working in your effort to stay sober so you can change those habits the next time you decide to stop drinking.
Having a support system to support you after your initial period of detox is crucial to continued
success. Counseling to understand the underlying feelings that made drinking appealing to you and support groups made of people who have struggled with those same feelings and can support you through them are two important pieces of continued sobriety.
Is it Time For You to Detox From Alcohol?
While the issue is sometimes forced, if you’re reading this article because you’re wondering if you have a problem, here are some signs that it might be time to quit the sauce.
- You crave a drink.
- You need more than you used to in order to get a buzz.
- You find yourself creating your life around your drinking habit or finding ways to incorporate it more.
- You experience the first withdrawal symptoms when you don’t have a drink.
- You’ve begun to change your friend circles.
- You hide or downplay your drinking to friends or family who express concern.
- You continue to drink in spite of the problems being caused in your life as a result.
- You display behaviors or do things uncharacteristic of your usual behavior, or that you never
thought you’d do to get a drink.
If you display any of these signs, it might a good time for you to detox from alcohol. Find support in friends and family, join a group that can help, and seek counseling to give yourself the best chance of quitting for good.
For more thoughts on life and love, check out the other informational articles on this site.