What does the alcohol withdrawal and detox process look like? The answer depends heavily on several factors, including the severity of the alcohol use disorder, the duration of use, and whether or not alcohol was being combined with any other chemical substances. In most cases, the process looks like this:
Reach out to a medical detox center that seems to be a good fit for you and your needs.
Arrange travel plans and determine how you will cover the cost of detox (insurance, self-pay or private pay).
Arrive at the detox center and undergo a detailed evaluation, which will help the medical and clinical team develop a personalized treatment plan.
Undergo a safe, pain-free alcohol withdrawal.
Once you have been physically stabilized, transition into the next appropriate level of care.
The symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal vary on a person-to-person basis, and often include:
- Severe headaches.
- Body tremors/uncontrollable shaking.
- Severe stomach cramping.
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Loss of appetite.
- Insomnia and other sleep-related issues.
- Profuse sweating/night sweats.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- Disorientation and confusion.
- Hallucinations (often associated with delirium tremens).
- Anxiety and panic attacks.
- Depressed mood/suicidal ideation.
Because withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological in nature, and because more severe withdrawal symptoms can be lethal when left untreated, entering into a professional medical detox program always comes recommended.
Withdrawal symptoms are likely to appear between 6 and 24 hours after the last drink, and they vary from person to person. Some symptoms, such as headaches or nausea, are relatively mild and tend to resolve on their own, while others are more severe and warrant professional medical care. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be unpredictable, which makes detoxing at home an unsafe option. The safest way to detox from alcohol is in a medically-supervised environment.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are broken up into three distinct stages.
These stages are:
Stage 1 (Mild) — Lasts 8 hours; headache, anxiety, insomnia, depression, mood swings, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, heart palpitations, tremors, abdominal pain.
Stage 2 (Moderate) — Lasts 1-3 days; mild symptoms as well as increased blood pressure and temperature, sweating, irritability, confusion.
Stage 3 (Severe) — Lasts 1 week; moderate symptoms in addition to fever, hallucinations, seizures, disorientation, agitation.
While many of the more severe physical withdrawal symptoms subside after several days in detox, psychological symptoms can be more persistent. This puts those new to sobriety in a vulnerable position, seeing as even the slightest trigger can increase the risk of relapse and continued alcohol abuse