There are some detox programs that only focus on withdrawal from alcohol. Most often, however, detox programs supervise withdrawal from a variety of substances, including alcohol.
In 2015, more than 15 million people over the age of 18 in the United States were living with an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). All who were included in that number were in need of alcohol detox and treatment, yet only a small percentage reached out for the help they needed. Many died as a result.
Alcoholism is a deadly disease, and undergoing alcohol detox with high-dose addiction and/or combo addictions in evidence can be dangerous without the right medical care and round-the-clock support.
For this reason, there are detox programs available that provided specialized care designed to meet the needs of people with high-dose alcohol addictions. These programs can provide the best possible start to a new life in recovery.
Do Detox Programs That Specialize in Alcoholism Exist?
Though there are few programs that focus exclusively on the treatment of alcoholism, there are many broad detox programs that support all people in recovery from any substance use disorder. It is important to ensure that the program you choose offers everything you need to stay safe throughout the detox process if medical issues arise.
For those who have lived with alcoholism for years, the risk of delirium tremens or serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms is high. It is especially important to ensure that the chosen rehab program is equipped to manage any issue that might arise.
What Can a Specialized Detox Program Provide?
Specialized alcohol detox programs offer essential tools to help clients navigate the unexpected during the detox process. They offer:
Experience and Expertise
Medical and therapeutic professionals who have been trained in the treatment of substance use disorders will see the signs of developing issues before they reach a critical point.
Substance abuse treatment professionals can ask the right questions to identify potential risks and concerns in advance, empowering them to prepare effectively and respond as needed should a crisis arise.
With support standing by, clients and their families can rest assured that someone will be there to respond in the event that there is a medical or psychiatric emergency.
Emotional As Well as Medical Support
Alcohol detox is not just a physical process, but a psychological process as well. Having therapeutic professionals on standby to offer encouragement and assistance to work through difficulties is essential.
Once detox is complete, and the person is stabilized, it is imperative to transition into an addiction treatment program. This is not always an easy process, even with family present, so it is fundamental to have the support of substance abuse treatment professionals.
What Can Be Expected During Alcohol Detox?
No two days are alike in alcohol detox, and no two people will experience the same sequence of events. Just as alcohol use disorders occur along a spectrum and are impacted by different issues, there are also a number of factors that affect how substance abuse treatment is received and how an individual responds.
In general, there are certain stages of detox that are expected. The specific symptoms and the degree to which they are experienced will vary widely, depending on the amount of alcohol ingested daily at the time of detox. Also, if addiction or dependence on other substances is also an issue, and/or if there are underlying co-occurring mental health or medical issues either created or worsened by heavy alcohol use.
- Stage 1: For heavy or high-dose drinkers, withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours of the last drink. For others, they may not start for up to 12 hours. At this stage, withdrawal symptoms may include nausea and stomach cramping, increasing anxiety, and having a hard time getting to sleep.
- Stage 2: Initial alcohol withdrawal symptoms will continue and increase in intensity in the first few days of detox. Additionally, it is not uncommon to experience higher blood pressure, fever, and irregular heart rate. It is during this period that there is the highest risk of seizures, delusional behavior, and hallucinations — all signs of delirium tremens. Should any of these develop, medical care will be provided to stabilize the person immediately.
- Stage 3: After the first few days have passed, it is rare but not impossible to see new withdrawal symptoms. Other issues like insomnia, agitation, heavy sweating, anxiety, and shaking can continue as cravings for alcohol rise. Intensity levels can stay high for the first week or longer.
- Stage 4: After the first seven to 10 days, symptoms may slowly begin to lessen and even disappear completely, especially physical withdrawal symptoms. Anxiety may decrease as well, but other mental health issues, including intense cravings for alcohol, can continue for weeks, if not months.
If seizures, intensely high internal body temperature, or other medical issues develop, ongoing medical monitoring is necessary.
Are Detox Programs Effective and Safe?
At-home alcohol detox is not safe. A professional alcohol detox program, staffed by substance abuse treatment experts and equipped with all the resources necessary to handle any issue that arises, will provide a safe detox experience.
What Are the Best Ways to Get Ready For Detox?
Though some will try to prepare by lowering their use of alcohol or trying to switch to other drugs, this can be very unsafe to do alone. If a person binges on alcohol or other substances before detox, this can trigger a medical emergency and/or make it that much more difficult to navigate the withdrawal process, especially in the earliest days.
The best way to prepare for the intense physical and mental process of alcohol detox is to do what you can in advance to ensure you are set up for success. They may seem like little things, but even the smallest choices can add up to significant value.
- Gather together some comfort items — think comfortable clothes, a soft blanket, a journal or favorite book — to help you find your place of calm and peace.
- Be open and honest about all drug use and co-occurring disorders that may be relevant to the process in advance of your time in detox.
- Build momentum by putting yourself in a positive headspace. Consider all you have to gain and all you hope to achieve when alcohol is no longer the primary factor controlling your life. Create a vision board or collage to post where you can see it.
- Make sure you have a safe place to go following alcohol detox. This means finding an alcohol addiction treatment program, enrolling, and making sure that a bed is ready for you the day your detox is over. If there is a period of days between the end of detox and the start of rehab, make sure you have a safe, drug-free place to go.
What Is the Best Thing to Do After Detox Ends?
Alcohol addiction treatment is an essential follow-up step to detox. Without it, it is almost impossible to stay sober for any length of time.
Soon, all the stressors that caused you to pick up a drink in the first place and to continue to choose alcohol as a coping mechanism and a means of escape will continue to exist and become hazardous again. It is important to turn your attention toward learning how to manage these issues healthfully, limiting your exposure to stress as much as possible, managing co-occurring disorders, and increasing the number of healthy choices you make, so you begin to crave alcohol less and less.
This recovery process begins in addiction treatment after detox. The sooner you can begin treatment after you feel physically stable, the better.