Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to poor health and a devastating addiction that could tear your life apart. The problem for most people is the fact that they assume alcohol to be safe because it is legal and widely available. As well as this, most find it difficult to constitute what moderate drinking is and, as such, many drink more than the Government’s recommended weekly alcohol limits. Consuming more than fourteen units of alcohol per week is classed as alcohol abuse, but this is something that more than nine million people in the UK do regularly. With excessive alcohol consumption capable of causing addiction, it is important to take care when drinking anything containing this chemical substance. Those who do find themselves affected by alcoholism are likely to require a detox in order to get better, but what is alcohol detox like?
How Does Alcohol Addiction Occur?
It is important to remember that addiction to alcohol did not occur the first time you drank alcohol. It is a gradual process that often happens without the affected individual realising what is going on. As the body gets used to the presence of alcohol, it begins to adapt, producing less ‘feel-good’ chemicals. This means that the user is getting less pleasure than he or she once did from the alcohol. In many cases, the automatic response in the individual is to consume more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This increases tolerance and it typically occurs before a physical dependence.
Those who become physically dependent on alcohol and lose all control of their consumption are said to be addicted. Addiction is classed as any pattern of behaviour that has a negative impact on the life of the individual.
What Happens When You Decide to Get Sober?
The biggest decision any alcoholic can make is to get sober. After a long time of abusing alcohol, the body and brain have come to depend on the substance and will react when the supply is suddenly cut off. The process of eliminating alcohol from the system is known as alcohol detox and this takes place soon after the individual has had his or her last alcoholic drink.
Detox is a natural process that occurs when the body realises that no more alcohol is forthcoming. However, because alcohol is a substance that affects almost every single cell in the body, detoxing can be a complicated, and sometimes even life-threatening, process.
As the body attempts to get back to normal after years of alcohol abuse, various withdrawal symptoms will occur. The use of alcohol over a prolonged period undoubtedly led to chemical imbalances, but after a while, the body adapted to these. When the affected person then stops drinking, the body will go into overdrive to right itself, which can lead to a host of withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild to moderate to severe in intensity.
During an alcohol detox, patients are likely to feel quite unwell, with many people describing it as similar to having a bad case of the flu. The severity of symptoms usually depends on the length of time the individual had been drinking alcohol and the amount of alcohol he or she normally consumed. Other factors may affect this, including physical and mental health and age.
What to Expect from an Alcohol Detox?
For most of those detoxing from alcohol, withdrawal symptoms occur around six to twelve hours after the last drink; they can even begin when the person still has quite a lot of alcohol in their system. Below are a few examples of the various symptoms that can range, as mentioned above, from mild to severe.
- Mild Symptoms – In the early stages of detox, the patient usually has a sense of their mind and body racing in response to the withdrawal of alcohol. The body is basically reacting to no longer receiving its usual dose of alcohol. This could lead the person to start feeling jittery and agitated. Other mild symptoms include a loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, and mood swings.
- Moderate Symptoms – As the detox progresses, patients often experience symptoms that are more moderate in intensity. Most patients will only ever experience moderate symptoms, and these can include anxiety, loss of memory, depression, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, fear, and diarrhoea.
- Severe Symptoms – An alcohol detox can be complicated, and a small number of people will experience severe symptoms that are known as the DTs (delirium tremens). The DTs are classed as a medical emergency and require urgent attention. They usually occur around the second day of the detox but can happen anytime from six hours to 3 days after the individual has had his or her last drink. Symptoms usually include severe shaking, intense sweating, and paranoid delusions. Seizures and convulsions can often occur and may require hospitalisation.
A Safe Way to Detox
The idea of detoxing from alcohol at home may be appealing to some people because they like the thought of being in familiar surroundings with people they know and love. Nevertheless, detoxing at home is generally a bad idea unless you have someone with you who has experience of alcohol detox.
It is far safer and much more comfortable to detox in a dedicated facility where fully trained staff members can monitor your progress and prescribe medication to ease any symptoms that may arise; if appropriate, obviously. With a carefully supervised medical detox, the most severe symptoms can usually be avoided and patients will be at minimum risk.
In some cases, medical staff can prescribe a sedative replacement drug over five to six days, with the dose gradually decreasing. Minerals and supplements can also help to reduce the risk of seizures while other medication can be prescribed to ease the pain and discomfort associated with various withdrawal symptoms.
If you would like more information on the question of ‘what is alcohol detox like’ or would otherwise like to begin your journey towards recovery, contact us here at Oasis Bradford today. Our detox and rehabilitation programmes are designed to offer a comprehensive approach to alcohol addiction.