Alcohol is consumed regularly by many across the world. And for many, alcohol consumption at some point crosses the line from moderate drinking to heavy drinking, which then often leads to an increased risk of developing alcohol dependence. Whether you call it alcohol addiction, alcoholism, or an alcohol use disorder (AUD), once alcohol dependence has begun, it’s almost impossible for an individual to stop on their own.
When it comes to stopping your alcohol intake, no one should try to stop on their own. In fact, quitting drinking ‘cold turkey’ can be fatal. This can be true whether you’ve been drinking for weeks, months, or years. If you or someone you love wants to stop drinking, it’s best to get professional help in the treatment for alcohol dependence.
WHAT IS ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL SYNDROME?
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is caused when a heavy drinker stops drinking or reduces his drinking abruptly. These symptoms usually generate within a few hours to several days after the last drink. AWS is caused by the chemical imbalance in the brain due to prolonged drinking habits. Excessive drinking excites and irritates the central nervous system. Causing your body to form an alcohol dependence. It’s estimated that over 80 percent of people who suffer from alcohol use disorder experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Acute alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to severe symptoms based on individual factors. These factors may include the following:
- The severity of alcohol use disorder
- Duration of alcohol abuse
- History of withdrawals and relapses
- Underlying co-occurring disorder
- Patient’s medical history
Acute alcohol withdrawal can change abruptly from mild to severe without much warning. Hence, patients with alcohol dependence are highly advised to detox under the medical care and supervision of an addiction specialist or a doctor. Severe withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be potentially dangerous and should be treated as a medical emergency. As such, it’s important for anyone with AUD not to detox on their own. Patients who are at risk of severe withdrawal symptoms are better suited to detox at inpatient care. And patients who are likely to experience mild withdrawal symptoms are better suited to detox at an outpatient treatment setting. Talk to your healthcare provider today to see what level of care is right for you. The goal of treatment is the effective and safe management of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and helping patients with alcohol use disorder overcome their dependence.
THE FIRST STEP: ALCOHOL DETOX TREATMENT
Addiction to alcohol or another substance is a chronic brain disease characterized by the inability to stop or cut down on one’s own despite the desire to do so. Stopping alcohol intake is the first step in recovery and often the most challenging. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be not only deadly but also so uncomfortable that the individual who wants to try to stop drinking often picks up again in order to ease the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.
If you or someone you love wants to stop drinking, it’s vital to seek professional treatment for alcohol withdrawal. Your chances of successfully navigating this difficult first stage of recovery from alcohol abuse are increased when it’s done at a treatment center with experienced medical teams offering medication-assisted detox. Often, these facilities conduct thorough assessments of alcohol withdrawal to create individualized treatment plans best suited for you.
There are certain risks associated with detoxing on your own or stopping cold turkey. It’s important to understand what they are. Alcohol withdrawals are highly unpredictable and can quickly shift in intensity and severity. Severe withdrawal symptoms can cause:
- Loss of consciousness
- Delirium tremens (DTs)
While these are acute withdrawal symptoms, you should understand that they aren’t uncommon during detox and are potentially life-threatening. For this reason, patients with alcohol withdrawal, especially those exhibiting severe symptoms, should never attempt to detox alone.
Professional alcohol detox treatments can help you navigate withdrawals safely and comfortably and aid in your recovery journey. This is also the phase of recovery with the greatest chance of relapse. Detoxing from alcohol at an addiction treatment center that understands how to administer the best treatment for alcohol withdrawal syndrome is an essential first step.
TREATMENT OF ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL
The body rids itself of toxins during detox. Depending on how long, how much, and how frequently you or your loved one consumed alcohol, in part helps you to know just what type of treatment option for alcohol withdrawal is needed and what alcohol withdrawal symptoms may occur.
At Futures Recovery Healthcare, our full-time medical director and her team oversees all medical decisions and care during this acute phase. Additionally, a resident assistant (RA) closely monitors clients during detox.
Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms:
- Sleep issues
- Alcohol cravings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body aches
- Memory issues
This acute phase usually lasts between three to seven days. Even for those experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, the appropriate medications and therapy can contribute to a significant increase in comfort level throughout withdrawal.
WHAT IS DELIRIUM TREMENS (DTS)?
Delirium tremens (DTs) is a form of severe alcohol withdrawal, which could potentially be fatal. Symptoms of DTs commonly raise within four days after the cessation of alcohol, but some people tend to develop this condition much later than this. If left untreated, alcohol withdrawal delirium can be life-threatening. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal delirium include:
- Sudden onset of severe confusion
- Tactile hallucinations and auditory hallucinations
- Increased fear or excitement
- Increased sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- Sudden mood changes
- Fatigue or stupor
- Body tremors
- Alcohol withdrawal seizures
Delirium tremens requires immediate medical care. DTs can be fatal in five percent to 10 percent of all severe withdrawal cases. Treatment of alcohol delirium tremens involves:
- Extensive laboratory evaluation
- Frequent vital sign checks
- Mental health evaluation
- IV fluids
- Adequate nutrition and other supportive care
In addition, medications such as benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal management will also be used to control the risk of alcohol withdrawal seizures and minimize the risk of other complications. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, co-occurring medical conditions can obscure the diagnosis and treatment of DTs and even worsen the outcome. As such, a thorough assessment of alcohol withdrawal is required for each patient.
How to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal: Detox and Stabilization
Detox is an essential component of recovery from alcohol dependence, but it’s only the first step. The next step is to receive a comprehensive treatment program that includes psychotherapeutic programs. Each person’s story with alcohol is different. The treatment plan that works well for one person may not be the right one for another. Futures provides individualized care and tailored treatment for each client based on their symptoms of withdrawal and unique recovery needs.
Medication-assisted detox may be needed for one person but not the next. For instance, those with mild symptoms may be better suited to receive care in an outpatient setting. If it’s determined that medical detoxification is required in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, the team at Futures is highly skilled and experienced with this. Specific medications are determined on an individual basis by the Futures team, and treatment will be provided within an inpatient setting.
Safely getting through alcohol withdrawal, treatment and establishing a foundation in recovery is key to long-lasting sobriety. Futures believes that treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and minimizing discomfort are important. This enables clients to gain clarity of mind, participate in treatment, address underlying behavioral health issues, and learn how to manage them. These are all important pillars in recovery from alcohol dependence.
If you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol and needs alcohol detox treatment, Futures is here for you.