How is Alcohol Detox Done?

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How is alcohol detox done?

Alcohol detox is done under the monitoring of medical health experts. They observe the patient's heart rate, Blood Pressure, hydration, and other important factors. The patient attends sessions, therapies, and meetings, and uses medicines to cope with the acute withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol detox is described as the natural procedure that happens in the body to remove waste products and toxins from the body. The toxins exist in the body because of excessive alcohol consumption and drug abuse.  

Detoxification is usually coupled with proper medical observation, medication, and counselling in an alcohol addiction treatment.  

“Alcohol detoxification process is a phase of medical treatment that usually include counselling. In this procedure a certified addiction professional helps an addict to overcome psychological and physical alcohol dependence.” 

People who have been heavy addicts for a long time are more likely to experience negative effects during alcohol detox, some of which can be life-threatening. 

Prolonged alcohol abuse and drug use can cause biological changes and tolerance that produce false homeostasis.

Interrupting this balance and reinstating the user to a drug-free and healthy state is a procedure that is as important as it is delicate. 

The alcohol detox process 

Detoxification is the preparative step before an extensive treatment programme. It can be performed safely in both inpatient and outpatient treatment centres. 

But round-the-clock monitoring by medical professionals is recommended for heavy drinkers.

Mostly, detoxification involves the following steps: 

  1. Intake: the medical professionals will do a detailed review of the medical, drug, and psychiatric backgrounds of incoming addicts to understand the patient's state.  
  2. Medication: plenteous detoxification programmes involve prescription medications that copy the effects of alcohol on the central nervous system to maintain blood pressure and mitigate withdrawal symptoms. Medications may also pick out general discomfort or co-occurring disorders. 
  3. Stabilization: the addicts undergo alcohol withdrawal treatment, inpatient treatment, substance abuse treatment, and various therapies to help them maintain sobriety and the balance between body and mind. 

Importance of alcohol detox 

The detox stage is the first step in treating alcohol use disorder. Withdrawal symptoms typically reduce within 1-2 weeks after detox; still, this could take prolonged dependence on the acuteness of alcohol addiction.  

After completing the detox process, a person can focus on other areas of the recovery process like different activities, counselling sessions, meetings with medical professionals, and support options. 

Some patients are worried about quitting drinking because they are concerned about the serious withdrawal symptoms experienced during alcohol detox.

Although some people may not only be affected by small-scaled symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, but others may also experience chronic pain.  

Withdrawal symptoms can change aggressively and quickly, which is why it’s essential to detox under the care of a certified medical professional.  

Treatment providers at a rehab centre will be able to help you manage chronic pain with different medications. This lets you reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms and focus on your recovery. 

Related articles to detox is done:

  • Alcohol detox at Abbeycare - service overview

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms during detoxification 

The detoxification phase can include several withdrawal symptoms ranging from meek intensity to fatal.

Usually, the severity and longevity of your alcohol use disorder will play their part in the withdrawal system alcoholic experiences.  

For instance, people who have struggled with years of alcohol drinking are more likely to develop severe symptoms like delirium tremens or seizures. 

Minor symptoms of detoxification include: 

  • Nausea 
  • Sweating 
  • Anxiety 
  • Headaches 
  • Insomnia 

More chronic detox withdrawal symptoms are: 

  • Seizures 
  • Tremors 
  • Disorientation 
  • Delirium tremens 
  • Extreme hallucinations

While unpopular, the most severe effect of withdrawal is delirium tremens. It can begin with 2-5 days after your last drink and can be super dangerous.

However, in rare cases, people develop this health problem when quitting drinking. 

Because of the acuteness of some symptoms, detoxification should be monitored by professionals in a treatment facility.

This is especially true for those with a history of heart or lung disease or other conditions like poor medical health or muscle spasms.  

Your specific treatment provider will be able to monitor your heart rate and blood pressure to make sure your condition doesn’t worsen.

You can share your addictive behaviours or if you experience withdrawal symptoms, for example, intense cravings, especially if you are in any pain.  

This way, you keep your medical team informed about your situation. They can provide medical advice with medication to alleviate your discomfort. 

Alcohol detox timeline 

Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol can start to surface in just 2 hours of the last drink. While the most chronic symptoms usually subside within the first seven days, some light symptoms can last for many weeks to a year. 

There is no particular timeline as to what or when withdrawal symptoms you will go through; however, the medical health services administration does have a general outline of what you can expect. 

The detoxification process involves the following stages: 

  • 6 to 12 hours after last drink: the initial detox symptoms are very light but can begin very quickly to worsen as time passes. Some of the initial withdrawal symptoms involve anxiety, headaches, nausea, shaking, and irritability. 
  • Day – 1: as you reach the end of the first 24 hours, symptoms may become severe gradually. The symptoms, alongside the effect experienced from the initial 12 hours, may include hand tremors, disorientation, and seizures. 
  • Day – 2: Just like the first full day of detox, the most chronic symptoms will continue into the second day. Panic attacks and hallucinations are common during this time as your body removes alcohol from its system.  
  • Day – 3 to 7: for the rest of the days of your first week of detoxification, several withdrawal symptoms will start to fizzle out. While some symptoms may stay for a few more weeks, most of them are mild and can be treated with medications.  

Even after the most acute symptoms have reduced, some people may suffer from post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) while dealing with an alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

In PAWS, a person experiences prolonged symptoms of detox. Typically, these symptoms include low energy, poor mental health, anxiety, delayed reflexes, and trouble sleeping, and can last from many months to a year. 


Does alcohol detox work? 

Yes, it does work! A whole lot of treatment options can be availed for detoxification.

Some people choose to do a detox at home, but as it involves some serious risks when you self-detoxify, dealing with the chronic symptoms can be a dangerous process.  

Medically assisted detox treatment is a much safer treatment option to enter an outpatient rehab, an inpatient programme, residential treatment, or another treatment centre to overcome drug addiction.  

A medical team of professionals provides professional treatment advice with medical care. 

Some of the perks of medical detox are: 

  • No more alcohol abuse 
  • Peer support 
  • Medical stabilization 
  • Family support  
  • Long-term recovery 
  • Therapeutic intervention 
  • Relapse prevention 
  • A structured & secure environment 
  • Family support 

Alcohol withdrawal can have crucial physical effects on the body. It can cause risky complications and very uncomfortable side effects.

To get through the painful stage and accomplish a much higher success rate, health professionals prescribe medications to lessen the severity of symptoms and the possibility of complications.  

How do alcohol detox programmes work? 

Depending on personal circumstances, a detox program can take weeks to months to fully detox a person. In this programme, the severe withdrawal symptoms are tackled by using prescribed medications.

Sessions, therapies, group discussions, and medical advice under proper monitoring are other services offered in a medically assisted detox programme. 

Detox is based on the idea that somebody who is physically not well will struggle to handle any underlying health issues or mental health problems.

Thus, the purpose of detox is to undertake the physical side of addiction as an initiative so that patients are prepared to treat the psychological features of their addiction as part of an intensive addiction rehab programme.  

To tackle the severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, patients are given prescribed medications as a part of the detox programme.

No medication can prevent all symptoms, but some types of medicines can help ease depression and anxiety, enable sufficient sleep, and subvert as many problems as possible.  

What is the alcohol detox process? 

The alcohol detoxification process involves 3 major steps for people struggling hard for overcoming addiction:  

  • Evaluation 
  • Stabilization 
  • Nurturing patient’s readiness to join drug rehab or a specific treatment centre 

According to mental health services administration, detoxification doesn’t comprise complete substance abuse treatment. [1] Detoxification can occur in various settings and at several levels of intensity within certain settings.  

The placement must be suitable to the patient’s requirements.

A successful detox procedure is measured in parts, like the health & symptoms of the alcoholic are monitored, and how much he is dependent on the addictive substances is measured from to the time he entered the treatment facility to evaluation time. 

If somebody genuinely wants help for overcoming addiction and is committed to stopping alcohol abuse, there are several treatment centres are available with their specific treatment centre listing.

For example: 

  • Professional rehab centres can be contacted on their toll-free numbers listed that you could search on Google. They also offer online chat and answer calls. But they are a bit pricey, and you must have good credit to avail those facilities. Some of them also offer payment assistant plans. It’s always free to ask.  
  • State-supported rehab programmes are offered in some cities and states with inpatient and outpatient alcohol treatment programmes. They are free and completely tax supported.  
  • Mutual support groups like the 12 steps programme and alcoholics anonymous have been helping alcoholics for several years by offering support and arranging meetings. Most of them have no fees, and you can ask for details by calling on their website’s main phone number.  

What does alcohol detox mean? 

Detoxification means the removal of toxic and harmful substances from your body and achieving a stage in life where a person is no more dependent on any substance or alcohol.  

Detox alone is not counted as complete addiction treatment; it’s only the first step to help people getting better who are addicted.

When a person joins a treatment programme, a medical provider monitors the patient and helps him tackle the severe symptoms of withdrawal.  

A physical examination of the patient is performed to analyse that person’s medical needs. It might include checking his heart rate, temperature, and breathing pattern.

The goal of detox is to minimize the symptoms, address the co-occurring medical conditions, and offer physical and emotional support.  

Detoxification has uncomfortable psychological and physical symptoms, and people usually benefit from the extra support in the form of therapies by the treatment providers in a rehab centre.  

When is alcohol detox necessary? 

Detox is always necessary when you want to detoxify your body. It is extremely beneficial for those who haven’t been able to detox at home successfully.

American family physician lists several treatment providers on and off where facilities are also mentioned which those treatment providers listed. [2] 

When a person undergoes detoxification, they intentionally abstain from drinking to give their body time to come up with the symptoms of withdrawal.

This can be a really distressing, painful, and dangerous process because it needs a person to experience a whole range of symptoms.  

The severity of the symptoms depends upon several factors including the drinking limit of the person, drinking duration, drinking history, and other health conditions from which a particular person is going through.  

Suppose you approach a treatment facility or some specific treatment provider for your or a dear one's addiction treatment or substance abuse treatment to achieve better physical and mental health.  

In that case, you can avail one of the two options of paid advertisers’ online chat or some specific treatment provider chat to discuss the best treatment for you. Some support groups are literally waiting for your call.  

Wrap Up 

Everybody has different requirements when it comes to detoxifying your body. A person should never opt for detox from alcohol alone.  

Recovery centres and medical professionals help people deal with the symptoms of withdrawal by offering certain treatment centres caring for and prescribed medicines.  

They help patients cope with stress and anxiety and avoid seizures. They monitor heart rate, blood pressure, and other important signs in a person to make sure they are hydrated.  

The National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism disseminates and generates basic knowledge about binger drinking and the effects of alcohol on human health and well-being. [3 

It conducts researches and translates findings to health care providers, policymakers, researchers, and the public.

With education, we can spread the knowledge about health problems and fatal side effects of excessive alcohol consumption.   

Are you thinking of reaching out to an alcohol treatment provider to get more details about alcohol detox? Share your thoughts in the comment section! 

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: January 16, 2023

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter 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. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.