It’s vital for anyone struggling with alcoholism to appreciate the potential dangers of detox. Alcohol detox can be fatal for people with extreme alcoholism or who suffer from various medical ailments. At-home alcohol detox is not safe for everyone, especially those with severe alcohol abuse problems, but there are some strategies that can make self-detox more bearable. You can also apply these strategies in preparation for rehab to make the detox and initial recovery experiences as positive as possible.
Dangers Of Alcohol Detox
People who abuse alcohol for a long period of time may experience dehydration, malnutrition, and a weakened immune system that can leave them vulnerable to infection and disease. During the detox period, withdrawal symptoms are incredibly unpleasant, and a weakened body will make them even more unbearable. Detox also lasts longer without medical assistance. You may wonder, “Do I need to go to rehab for alcohol withdrawal?” The answer is different for everyone. Some people are capable of self-detoxing at home without severe complications, while doing so is out of the question or very risky for others.
Why Seek Medical Assistance?
During medically-assisted alcohol detox, the patient receives nutrition and vitamin replacements as well as medication to prevent life-threatening withdrawal symptoms like seizures and heart failure. Alcohol abuse also disrupts various brain functions, and the medication from assisted detox can help correct these abnormalities.
Additionally, the withdrawal symptom timeline is much shorter with medical assistance. Even if the patient only experiences mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms, those symptoms may last months or even a year or more without medical intervention. A medically-assisted alcohol detox can last a week or two at most, but some patients may require ongoing medical treatment for other issues after the detox phase is over.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptom Timeline
In most cases, the first 72 hours of alcohol withdrawals are the most unpleasant and dangerous. Alcohol detox symptoms typically appear within eight hours of the person’s last drink, and they peak within 48 to 72 hours. The full alcohol withdrawal timeline is different for every person, but every person will invariably experience some negative symptoms. These symptoms will persist for weeks without treatment. The first symptoms to appear typically include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Sweating, clammy skin, and fever.
- Shaking and tremors.
- Headaches, body aches, and muscle weakness.
- Fatigue and feelings of restlessness.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Irritability, mood swings, and sleeping problems.
- Upset stomach and abdominal pain.
- Changes in heart rate and/or blood pressure.
These are just the initial symptoms, and they will intensify as the detox phase continues. A person who has heavily abused alcohol for an extended time can expect these symptoms to be quite severe, but they may also experience more damaging symptoms.
The first eight to twelve hours are generally mild, with the patient experiencing intense cravings for alcohol and the first wave of the aforementioned symptoms. From 12 to 24 hours, these symptoms intensify, and the patient’s cravings will worsen. Once these symptoms peak by the 72 hour mark, the patient will need medical assistance to avoid potentially fatal symptoms such as delirium tremens.
Delirium tremens or “the DTs” is a very common symptom of advanced alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms of this condition can include intense hallucinations, confusion, extreme changes to vital signs, and violent convulsions. The mortality rate for the DTs was more than 35% a few decades ago, and currently, the mortality rate hovers around 10%. Despite this improvement, this is still a very high fatality risk.
Home Remedies For Alcohol Withdrawal
Ultimately, it is best for anyone suffering from alcohol withdrawal to enter a professional treatment program, whether it is a full-fledged inpatient facility or an outpatient recovery service. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are unpredictable and risky, so having a lifeline to life-saving medical assistance is a wise choice. Although an inpatient or outpatient detox program is the best method for managing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, there are a few things you can do on your own to make your symptoms more manageable.
Most people know of “the shakes,” or the trembling people who struggle with alcoholism experience at the onset of withdrawal. While there are no known shakes remedies, you can prevent tremors and more significant symptoms from causing problems by limiting your alcohol intake over time to slowly taper off completely. This is a fantastic method for preparing for rehab, and you can start whenever you feel most comfortable.
Essentially, tapering is gradually decreasing your alcohol intake over time so the detox process is less of a shock to your system. When you abuse alcohol for a prolonged period and suddenly stop, the withdrawal symptoms will hit you much harder than they would if you tapered off alcohol before stopping completely.
Distractions are available in many varieties, and simple things like catching up on your favorite television shows and movies, playing video games, or joining friends for social gatherings (where you can safely abstain from consuming alcohol) are great ways to distract yourself from withdrawal. The most important thing to remember about alcohol withdrawal symptoms is that they will fade in time, and fretting and obsessing over them won’t move the process along any faster. Find hobbies and activities you enjoy to make the withdrawal period more bearable.
Focus On Physical Health
You can also take the time in early recovery to form some healthier habits for sober living. Exercise is a great way to destress and stave off withdrawal symptoms, but this is only advisable for individuals who exercise regularly or who have a doctor’s permission to do so. Focusing on a healthier diet and physical activities are also great options for distractions during withdrawal, and these habits will form a healthy foundation for your sober life after recovery.
State Of Mind
Mindfulness exercises, meditation, and simple relaxation are all beneficial in substance abuse recovery. Take time out of your day to relax, and you may find that these breaks help you manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms more easily.
Finding The Right Recovery Option For You
It’s up to the individual to make decisions about his or her substance abuse treatment, and many people may find the idea of entering an inpatient treatment center unacceptable. Sometimes they worry about the cost or insurance concerns while others avoid the idea of rehab due to the social stigma surrounding addiction and rehabilitation. If you choose to deal with your alcohol withdrawal symptoms on your own, keep the previously mentioned tips in mind, but always remember that it’s best to enter a professionally-staffed treatment plan at an inpatient or outpatient recovery facility.
Minimize Discomfort With The Right Treatment Plan
If you find that detoxing on your own is too hard, or your symptoms are too severe, there are many options for substance abuse disorder treatment available. Take time to research your options and look online to read stories from others who have been in your position. You may find even more tips for managing your withdrawal symptoms, recommendations for treatment centers, and other valuable resources.