Alcohol Detox & Withdrawal Symptoms

Call our local number 01603 513 091
Request Call Back

Call our local number 01603 513 091
Request Call Back
Call our local number 01603 513 091
Request Call Back

Overcoming alcohol addiction means first ceasing alcohol intake, and taking care of physical and chemical withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms can begin quickly after you stop drinking, and can be dangerous in an unsupervised setting. Even if you suddenly stop drinking, analyzing your drinking history and setting alcohol detox programme is essential to deal with mild symptoms of acute withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxing from alcohol means undergoing withdrawal from alcohol, but with the assistance of prescribed medication and detox phase, to substitute in place of the alcohol itself.

The substitute medication mimics the chemical effects of alcohol, meaning fewer symptoms are experienced.

Later, once alcohol detox is complete, it’s important to identify and address the root cause of the addiction itself, in a full alcohol rehab programme.

Alcohol Addiction & Withdrawal

After alcohol consumption reaches a certain consistency over time, tolerance is likely to increase, and dependence is likely to develop.

This means the brain and body have adjusted to the level of alcohol intake, and have changed the levels of other brain chemicals and hormones accordingly.

The body becomes used to receiving an amount of certain chemicals from an external source (alcohol). To compensate for this, the brain adjusts to produce less of these on its own.

As alcohol intake continues to increase, the brain again produces less of the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, motor function, and other key functions.

In this cycle, it can feel as though the only way to improve these factors, is to drink more alcohol. This is how physical and chemical dependence occurs.

Later, when you stop drinking, the brain and body must adjust once more to the change in alcohol intake. If someone has been drinking consistently over time, it will usually result in severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

To avoid these withdrawal symptoms or alleviate them, many will return back to alcohol use again.

And, as alcohol use continues over time, the time delay between ceasing alcohol intake, and the onset of symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, will reduce.

At this point, we can say that the individual is physically addicted to alcohol. And therefore, the alcohol detox process and addiction treatment are needed to prevent alcohol abuse.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be understood as physical and psychological as a result of alcohol abuse.

Physical Symptoms

Physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation – As the alcohol begins to be processed and released by the body, without any further intake, the brain must re-find balance in its production of chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Until it does so, withdrawal symptoms of agitation, anxiety, heart rate fluctuation, and restlessness are common.
  • Difficulty Sleeping – Chemicals such as serotonin aid sleep patterns. However these are at a low during withdrawal, and as such alcoholics in withdrawal will initially suffer from some difficulty in sleeping until fully detoxed.
  • Night Sweats – Profuse sweating, typically experienced during the night, is your body’s attempt to release some of the alcohol in other ways. The liver processes only so much of the toxins ingested. Drinkers with a stronger alcohol problem, for a longer period, will usually experience more night sweats than a younger drinker, or an occasional binge drinker, for example.
  • Nausea And Vomiting – Along with increased temperature and sweating come alcohol withdrawal symptoms of nausea and sickness.
  • Tremor or Delirium Tremens – Under alcohol withdrawal, motor function suffers, usually resulting in hand tremor, to varying extremes. More severe tremor symptoms, accompanied by mental confusion and autonomic nervous system hyperactivity, are called Delirium Tremens. This often occurs around 3 days after the last drink is consumed. The central nervous system is also affected and can lead to physical health issues and muscle spasms.

These are common withdrawal symptoms and physical signs when you quit drinking and substance abuse. Sometimes there can be alcohol use disorders and serious withdrawal symptoms affecting your blood pressure before the detox phase.

Psychological Symptoms

The mental health issues that underlie the addiction itself will often surface during the withdrawal period.

Many times, alcoholics are also suffering from co-occurring complex psychological complaints such as Borderline Personality, Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, etc. You may experience  withdrawal symptoms after giving up on drug abuse that can affect your psychological health through:

  • Depression - If you’ve previously been attempting to suppress (e.g.) sadness, grief, or depression symptoms, these will typically surface even more strongly again during the period of physical withdrawal symptoms.
  • Hallucinations – Especially prevalent in those affected with liver issues such as fatty liver or cirrhosis. visual hallucinations can be very disturbing, but appear very real.
  • Anxiety – Alcohol is a depressant and dulls our day-to-day responses and reactions. When withdrawing from alcohol, any anxiety that would have been present previously is heightened.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)

The syndrome is the term used to describe the above collection of withdrawal symptoms but experienced more quickly when you stop drinking.

Symptoms can be the same, but more severe in nature, and are usually seen in those with advanced alcoholism, or a drinking problem built up over several years of alcohol dependency.

This will often be accompanied by more advanced physical symptoms of alcoholism, such as a history of seizure, fatty or decompensated liver, or cirrhosis of the liver. Sometimes, there is post acute withdrawal syndrome as well in some individuals.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timescales

  • Days 0 –> 1 – Agitation or anxiety symptoms usually begin within 6-12 hours following the last drink, along with other general alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as headache or nausea, as the body attempts to begin processing the alcohol from the body.
  • Days 1 –> 2 – The usual onset of tremor, jerking, and trouble with motor skills, is between days 1 and 2. In more severe cases, some may experience seizures during this period. High blood pressure, temperature, nausea, and sickness are also common. If not dealt with care, it can lead to potentially life threatening serious complications. Prescription medications in case of severe symptoms are essential.
  • Days 2–> 3+ – Shakes and the possibility of seizure continue, if hallucinations or delirium tremens are likely, they will usually start during this period. Those with pre-existing non-alcohol-related neurological issues may experience exacerbated symptoms during this period. If you experience severe withdrawal symptoms when quit drinking or during the recovery process, professional medical advice and medical attention are necessary to detox from alcohol.

If you're facing this, it might be time to get the alcohol withdrawal treatment options to deal with severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms and alcohol dependency. Also, in case of alcohol use disorder or substance abuse, contact Mental Health Services Administration or your local GP for detox and withdrawal.

Alcohol Addiction Help

What Is Detox?

Completing alcohol detox means ceasing intake, and beginning alcohol withdrawal, but doing so with a medication that substitutes the effects of alcohol, and reduces the risk of severe side effects such as seizure or liver complications.

This is usually done under medical supervision and advice.

Home Detox

Home detox plans are available.

An addictions specialist nurse attends and oversees your detox, including withdrawal symptoms, offering initial support in person, and later, by telephone.

Whilst home alcohol detoxification can be a suitable option for those who don't drink heavily, or with unavoidable practical commitments, it’s not a cure for alcoholism, and in most cases, we recommend a residential stay to deal more fully with alcoholism in your life, and its causes. It will help to deal with life threatening symptoms and provide treatment options related to alcohol consumption.

Residential Detox

In the majority of cases, treatment for alcohol addiction in a residential clinic is safer and more comfortable.

Your alcohol withdrawal symptoms are monitored, and adjustments can be made by clinicians to ensure your detox goes smoothly.

Residential alcohol detoxing offers safety in being physically away from your alcoholic triggers, and the stressors in life that would previously have caused you to turn to alcohol, to cope with. Also, it'll help to deal with alcohol detox symptoms when you undergo alcohol detox process or withdrawal process.

Gaining the emotional breathing space to detox is one of the biggest advantages of residential treatment, and provides a greater chance for long term success, than attempting to detox alone or in a community setting.

Detox As Part Of A Bigger Treatment Plan

Detoxing from alcohol is usually one step of a bigger plan, to tackle the psychological and lifestyle issues that have resulted in alcoholism, and its consequences in your life.

Following alcohol detox, most will progress onwards into a full residential alcohol rehab facility.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment: Detox > Rehab > Aftercare

A full recovery from alcoholism usually takes place in 3 stages:

  • Detox
  • Rehab
  • Aftercare

Detox

Detoxing from alcohol in a treatment rehab clinic setting usually takes 7-10 days and both medical and addiction specialist staff are on hand throughout to assist.

After meeting with clinic staff and the medical care team, most clinics will begin your detox medication shortly thereafter, depending on specifics and detox symptoms.

Most spend the first few days of detox, resting more than normal, to give the body and mind a chance to find equilibrium again.

Adjustments can be made to tailor the detox process to your needs and symptoms and for most. It is a relatively comfortable experience to overcome the alcohol detox symptoms during the treatment process and withdrawal phase.

After 3-4 days of initial rest, you’ll normally be asked to begin to take part in the daily activities in the clinic.

Even a small understanding gained from therapeutic work undertaken can reap sizeable long-term benefits.

You can also prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms as we provide medical advice and addiction services related to detox and withdrawal.

Rehab

Beginning an alcohol rehab programme for alcoholism is the first step in earnest, toward long-term alcohol recovery.

It’s a statement that you’re willing, and ready, to tackle the underlying issues that have kept you trapped in using alcohol as a coping mechanism, over time.

Rehab usually starts as soon as detox ends and means taking part in an organised program of activities in a rehab clinic.

This will usually include:

  • Therapeutic help, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help you identify core beliefs, patterns, and conditioning around alcohol.
  • 12 step work, building a foundation for alcohol recovery based on the historically successful work of alcoholics anonymous.
  • Holistic care and therapies such as reiki, reflexology, massage, etc. Most residential clinics provide a variety of holistic therapeutic work. This provides a number of options to choose from, when planning your long-term recovery work, and can help you realise the other options to release stress and tension, beyond turning to a coping mechanism.
  • Physical exercise – any recovery from alcohol will include finding more balance in life between physical and spiritual and learning to adopt exercise as a means to release stress and deal with issues that may previously have acted as triggers in your life. In treatment, you’ll be encouraged to take part in regular exercise to reinforce this.

Aftercare

Rehabilitation from alcohol, for good, also means planning for the future.

Alcoholism tends to foster chaos in life, and most alcoholics suffer from a lack of structure, and a strong foundation in life, to grow from.

Solid aftercare planning in a residential treatment setting helps you evaluate what you’ve learned in the clinic, and lays out a plan to provide support for the future.

You’ll collaborate with your case manager, on a practical plan – for day-to-day life in recovery, and what that will look like, in practice.

More specialist forms of support can be set up at this point, and aftercare planning in Abbeycare is tailored to your needs, including location, following treatment.

Addiction Help FAQ

I’ve been detoxed before at home or in a clinic, can I be detoxed again?

We can assess your suitability for treatment individually as this will depend on a number of factors, unique to you. Generally, where you’ve undergone detox before, you should strongly consider a full residential rehab programme to tackle the underlying psychology behind the pattern of alcoholism in your life.

Can I self-detox, without any help?

We strongly advise against this. Detoxing or withdrawing from alcohol can be dangerous, no matter how confident you feel. Withdrawing can develop Delirium Tremens, and in some cases, seizures and blood pressure issues. The safest option is to seek supervised, professional treatment.

What about detoxing at home?

Abbeycare do offer a home alcohol detox service.

However, there are a few important points to note. By it’s nature, detoxing at home, even with assistance, carries less supervision than being in the fully supported environment of a residential clinic.

Your safety is our top-most priority and as such, approval and acceptance rates for our home detox service tend to be less than our residential service.

In many cases, residential alcohol rehab is also more cost-effective than detoxing at home. Please ring us direct for personal advice on your unique situation.

How long does alcohol detox typically take?

Detox can normally be achieved within 7-10 days, for most. However, this depends on a number of factors personal to you, including, current and past alcohol intake level, dependency developed, pre-existing mental health factors, pre-existing medical conditions, and other factors such as age, gender, weight, etc

If you’re completing detox as part of a rehab program, this will usually take 28 days or longer.

I’ve been detoxed previously in hospital, can I undertake the remainder of the programme in the clinic?

Usually, yes. In all cases, your suitability for detox is assessed by Abbeycare on an individual basis, and we can discuss the specifics when you contact us.

Is it ok to drink again, in moderation, after being detoxed?

It’s generally acknowledged by those in alcoholism recovery, that drinking in moderation is impossible, in most cases, due to the psychological associations, triggers, and use of alcohol as a coping mechanism over time.

Making a commitment to remain abstinent from alcohol, for good, makes it much more likely you’ll achieve long-term recovery.

What happens after detox?

If you’re detoxing in a supervised treatment setting, like a clinic, their rehab program will usually begin as soon as detox completes, if not before. This means taking part in a daily agenda of recovery activities, psycho-educational learning, and therapeutic input, to learn about your personal triggers for alcohol and the underlying psychology behind your alcohol pattern.

How much does alcohol detox cost?

In some cases, alcohol detoxification can actually be cheaper in the clinic than at home.

Costs vary, depending on your length of treatment, and your needs. Two individuals drinking the same amount could need entirely different programs, depending on other factors. Please ring direct for personalised advice. Or, Abbeybot below can provide guideline pricing, subject to approval from our admissions and medical teams.

Where are your clinics located?

We offer both alcohol detoxification at home and in our residential clinics in Scotland and Gloucester.

What are the success rates for alcohol detox?

Success rates are generally very high for alcohol detox, it would be very unusual for someone to not complete detox successfully.

Long-term recovery from alcoholism depends on undertaking the rehabilitation work thoroughly and following through on aftercare planning.

Your long-term success is likely to be proportionate to the therapeutic work you’ve completed, the depth of your understanding of your addiction, and your follow-through on supports provided.

Pricing

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.