Side Effects of Alcohol Detox

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Side effects of alcohol detox in treatment include shakiness, sweating, palpitations, and nausea among many others. That’s because the absence of alcohol in your body triggers unpleasant symptoms known as alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal symptom starts a few hours after detox and cessation and may last up to five days.

Detox, a gradual process in which the body eradicates toxins from alcohol consumption, causes withdrawal symptoms.

Common side effects may include:

  • Sweating
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Palpitations
  • Disorientation
  • Sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Poor sleep quality

These side effects of alcohol detox are mostly found in patients suffering from mild to moderate alcohol addiction.

Psychological effects of detox in a person might include heightened stress and anxiety - though, this varies from one person to the other. Excitation and anxiety increase when GABA levels in the brain change.

 Moodiness and aggressiveness are the same way.

Some side effects of detox in people with chronic alcohol addiction are distressing. Their tendency affects an individual's overall health and can put people at severe risk or life-threatening.

Some of these severe side effects include:

  • Delirium tremens
  • Hallucinations (auditory and visual)
  • Seizures
  • Agitation
  • Confusion

Serious side effects, such as death, happen to people who are severely addicted to alcohol. These side effects happen in the course of hours to weeks.

However, the longer phase of alcohol detox side effects is what we know as post-alcohol withdrawal symptoms or PAWS.

It’s more concentrated on the psychological consequences of detox as the brain and body gradually begin to re-establish chemical balance.

PAWS side effects during detox include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Aggression

There are serious health concerns that could potentially lead to severe consequences if detox is not done properly or is self-medicated.

What we need to understand about alcohol detox in the treatment is recognizing other disorders caused by biochemical processes that have to be metabolized.

Detoxing on your own especially for long-term alcoholics can be harmful and even lethal.

Many have developed the following signs and symptoms:

  • Seizures
  • Pneumonia
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • More cravings for alcohol

Nobody should detox on their own. The side effects that may occur can be managed by medical specialists in treatment facilities.

These professionals may provide medications to patients to help them manage symptoms.

They also keep track of their patient's vital indicators to ensure their wellbeing.

Also, many rehab clinics employ therapists to speak with people and assist them in managing their side effects while they go through detox.

When someone is detoxing at a rehab centre like Abbeycare Scotland or Abbeycare Gloucester, they will almost certainly be given a full evaluation of any physical or mental issues that are present at the same time as their addiction.

The road to alcohol detox is never easy. You can be perfectly fine one minute and then have a nausea episode followed by intense discomfort the next.

It's impossible to know exactly what side effects one may encounter during detox.

Medical treatment support will be provided to patients who are detoxing in a safe atmosphere.

What should you expect during the alcohol detox process?

Patients are expected to take an assessment and evaluation exam before the rehab centre figure what kind of detox treatment they need.

This includes procuring blood tests, discussing your health history, and taking physical and mental examinations.

After the initial assessment, your detox treatment begins with medical supervision from experts.

During this procedure, your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration may be examined frequently.

Here’s a clearer picture of what should you expect during the alcohol detox process.

Stage 1 Intake - Assessment and Evaluation

While each rehabilitation centre has its method, the intake process is likely to include meeting with a specialist to explore treatment plans and determine which procedure would work ideal for you.

The objective is to create a tailored care plan built on the evaluation of your physical and mental and well-being.

The treatment staff may conduct thorough examinations upon intake, which may include:

  • Interviews and discussion about alcohol abuse
  • Uncovering pre-existing medical conditions
  • Medical examination
  • Psychological and psychosocial examination
  • Financial arrangements

These evaluations will assist decide how the rehab centre can effectively design its care plan for you.

Stage 2 Detox and Medication

Alcohol detox is when the body rids itself from the toxins, waste products, and compounds from excessive alcohol consumption.

Detox is usually accompanied by medication, counselling, and health monitoring in a safe environment.

Patients can choose an inpatient detox programme where they have monitored 24/7 or an outpatient programme that allows them to seek treatment at the centre and return home afterwards.

What to expect from a medically supervised detox?

Professional medical specialists will analyse you before detox to establish certain withdrawal risks and the precise forms of treatments that may be required to offset these risks during detox.

If you’ve enrolled in an alcohol rehab centre inpatient detox programme, here’s what you can expect during the process:

  • Medications for withdrawal symptoms
  • 24/7 health monitoring
  • Counselling with therapists
  • Therapy programmes
  • Individual or group sessions

This is ideal for moderate to heavy drinkers with a history of long-term alcohol abuse. By putting you in a caring rehab centre, inpatient therapy eliminates temptations and environmental stressors.

For outpatient detox programmes, patients are expected to stay at the centre for a couple of hours to experience:

  • Medications for withdrawal symptoms
  • Counselling
  • Therapy programmes and sessions

The outpatient detox programme is perfect for people with mild to controlled-moderate drinking habits who can go home in a safe and supportive environment.

Individuals are expected to undergo a detox programme from three to 10 days depending on the severity of their addiction.

Stage 3 Stabilization

Before enrolling in a rehab programme, patients undergo psychotherapies to help them balance their new life with alcohol-free.

Medical professionals will also monitor the patient for unforeseen withdrawal symptoms and relapses.

This serves as the coping stage after cessation from alcohol and also a precursor to a rehab treatment plan. Doctors will determine medication and treatment plans to prevent withdrawal.

Stage 4 Rehab Preparation

Treatment planning is the next step. Patients are informed about their tailored rehab programme.

Following detox, people who are recuperating from alcoholism have the highest chance of success with rehabilitation or outpatient therapy.

How to lessen the side effects of alcohol detox?

To reduce the side effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms (AWS) during detox, patients are advised to take medications as prescribed by their doctor.

Individuals too can engage in various activities to keep their thoughts busy and relieve the stress brought by the side effects of detox.

Here are ways to reduce and cope during detox.

1. Seek medical help

If you’re suffering from severe and long-term alcoholism, you may need to stay in inpatient care to lessen chronic side effects.

This will allow medical staff to keep track of your status 24/6 and deal with any issues that arise. Doctors will prescribe you medications to alleviate the side effects and symptoms of detox.

2. Don’t detox on your own

Before you start your detox, inform your family and friends about it and seek their support.

This is especially true for people who are detoxing as in an outpatient facility. Your family and friends can help remind you of your sobriety and call for help when the need arises.

3. Drink lots of water

During detox, people experience symptoms and side effects such as dehydration and nausea. Drinking plenty of water, especially electrolyte-rich drinks, can assist alleviate symptoms.

4. Take a cold shower

If you're having fervent impulses to relapse, a cold shower might help. In addition, it can help lessen detox side effects and withdrawal symptoms to make you feel more relaxed.

Also, it aids in the relief of hot flashes that might develop as a result of alcohol withdrawal.

5. Substitute sugar cravings with fruits and vegetables

Alcohol is converted to sugar in your body when it is metabolized. As a result, your body is accustomed to consuming a lot of sugar.

Eating a nutritious diet rich in fruits and vegetables will help you maintain your body's normal sugar levels. Fruits and veggies are also known to help curb cravings, shakiness, and fatigue during detox.

6. Exercise

Physical activity is one of the effective ways to curb the side effects of detox and alcohol withdrawal. Not only it takes your mind off of alcohol cravings, but it releases endorphins to make you feel happy and energized.

Overall, exercise aids in the removal of substances by promoting healthy lungs, kidneys, and liver that may cause alcohol-induced conditions.

Lastly, exercise strengthens the immune system to protect people from various illnesses.

7. Meditation

Meditation helps to keep you calm and focused through your detox. Meditation can help you relax and focus on what matters by clearing your thoughts.

It forces you to shift from a defensive to a purposeful mindset. In addition, meditation curbs the stress and anxiety brought by the side effects of detox.

8. Get a healthy hobby

It is a good idea to invest your time and effort towards something worthwhile. Do you have a forgotten pastime that you'd want to revive?

Or have you had a new interest that you've always wanted to try? A healthy hobby puts your mindset at ease from the side effects of detox.

Side effects are the same for home detox treatment in the UK. 

Abbeycare Scotland and Abbeycare Gloucester detox offer a safe environment and medical supervision for people looking for recovery from alcoholism.

Our medical monitoring reduces the chance of severe side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

Abbeycare provides programmes that are monitored by a team of experts to assist you in coping with the physical and mental symptoms of detox.

Last Updated: February 23, 2022

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.