As someone drinks, dopamine increases in the brain. This results in pleasant feelings and elevated. However, alcohol is primarily a central nervous depressant. This means that is slows down the body and brain – cognitive abilities, motor skills, and the ability to stay conscious and coherent all decrease as alcohol is continually consumed.This is where alcohol detox comes into play.
Habitual drinking can cause both tolerance and dependence. The brain gets accustomed to the dopamine-altering effects of alcohol, as well as the general sedation. When someone tries to detox after a period of frequent alcohol use, withdrawal effects occur, which are precisely the opposite of being drunk.
The effects of alcohol withdrawal syndrome can range from mild to life-threatening.
Alcohol Detox: Withdrawal Effects
Alcohol withdrawal is likely to start between 6-24 after cessation. Withdrawal can be broken down into three stages of severity:
- Stage 1 (mild): anxiety, insomnia, nausea, abdominal pain and/or vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, tremors, depression, mental fog, moodiness, and heart palpitations
- Stage 2 (moderate): increased blood pressure,and respiration, increased an/or irregular heart rate, mental confusion, sweating, irritability, increased moodiness
- Stage 3 (severe/delirium tremens): hallucinations, fever, seizures, severe confusion, and agitation. This stage, if not monitored and treated, may result in death.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms depend upon several factors. Frequency and duration of use, medical history, the presence of mental illness, and one’s ability to cope with stress may all contribute to how severe a person reacts.
Additionally, if the person is detoxing on other drugs in addition to alcohol, this can certainly increase the effects. Not every person will have the same symptoms, nor will they last the same amount of time.
By far, the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal syndrome is delirium tremens. This stage occurs in about 4% of persons going through withdrawal. This stage can be fatal if not treated.
Delirum tremens probably won’t being until at least 24-48 after alcohol leaves the bloodstream. However, it can occur without warning, and there is not conclusively way to be sure if it will happen. This is why medically-assisted alcohol detox is so important.
During this stage, if a physician is not present to monitor vital signs and symptoms, it is not only terrifying for the individual, but can be deadly. If you are a heavy drinker, you should never stop drinking “cold turkey” without medical supervision. And cutting back can be extremely difficult for a chronic alcoholic.
Timeline for Detox
As noted above, there is no absolute time for withdrawal. However, it usually proceeds like this:
- About 8 hours after drinking, symptoms begin to emerge. These are usually mild-moderate.
- Between 24-72 hours, stage 2 and stage 3 symptoms begin to manifest. In general, this is the time when withdrawal symptoms are generally the worst, and most dangerous.
- After 5 days, symptoms are being to decrease in intensity.
- After 7 days, some psychological side effects likely remain, but physical withdrawal of the substance from the body has completed. Mental effects may continue for several weeks, especially if they go untreated.
What to Expect During a Medical Detox
Just Believe Florida Detox Center believes that detox is the first critical step towards recovery from alcohol addition. The typical detox process is between 5-10 days dependent on the frequency and duration of alcohol use, and personal health history as identified by medical professionals.
Each patient may expect:
- 24 hour medical supervision
- Medication management for withdrawal syndrome if needed
- Individual and group therapy
- Nutritional assessment and guidance
- Holistic treatment options such as: yoga, reiki, meditation, and more
Management of Physical Effects
During medical detox, stabilizing symptoms is the #1 priority. A number of symptoms can be managed in various ways. These include:
- Tremors or seizures
Blood pressure, temperature, and respiration are all closely monitored for signs of abnormal activity.
Also, someone who has been dependent on alcohol long-term may suffer from malnutrition. Supplements and a healthy diet can sometimes help with the healing process.
Management of Mental Effects
Persons going through withdrawal often suffer from extreme anxiety, irritability, depression, and even suicidal feelings.
Medication can help manage these symptoms, especially when in combination with therapy and counseling.
They may be administered based on medical staff recommendations and client need.
One of the most remarkable aspects of medical detox, is that suicide or relapse are nearly impossible.
Inpatient or Outpatient Program Placement
Many patients use our medical detox facilities before entering into a treatment program. One of the goals of staff at Just Believe Recovery is to arrange a smooth discharge from detox into a residential inpatient program. Transportation is provided.
Why Medical Detox is So Important
To reiterate, please do not attempt alcohol detoxification without professional help. The effects can rapidly increase without warning. Assuming one is detoxing makes it through the physical aspect, he or she will still likely suffer from long-term psychological effects which may result in depression, suicidal feelings, and ultimately, relapse.
The goal of alcohol detox is to safely wean the person off of alcohol while preventing serious consequences. After detox, intensive inpatients or outpatient therapy is highly recommended to provide continual support and therapy for the lasting psychological effects of alcohol cessation. Please take a look at our Detox Guide for more information.