Why Is Detoxing Important To Successful Rehabilitation?

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Detoxing is important to successful rehabilitation because it is the first step you need to achieve sobriety, the stepping stone, the first courageous move, and the key to living a healthier and more productive life.

During detox, you either gradually or abruptly wean from alcohol dependence allowing your body to naturally break down, process, and remove all remaining traces of alcohol.

By undergoing cleansing, you help restore your body's normalcy to its natural physiological balance and normal function.

The science behind alcohol detox is simple.

You stop supplying your system with alcohol, let your body remove toxic substances accumulated in the body on its own, deal with the physiological, emotional, and psychological withdrawal symptoms and prepare your body and mindset for treatment and rehabilitation. 

During the detox phase, you also start feeding your body with the right nutrients to help boost your immunity, regenerate damaged cells, and regain your health as you start your journey towards a healthier alcohol-free lifestyle. 

The treatment process involves different steps and it will take some time to fully recover from alcohol dependency.

You will need an extra ounce of determination and all possible support to overcome the mental and physical impacts of alcohol dependency especially your poor impulse control.

The detox phase is one of the most crucial stages as it involves painful, uncomfortable, and mentally challenging withdrawal symptoms.

However, you need to make it through the detox stage because you need to eliminate the cause, the source of the problem, and without alcohol detox, you won't be able to move forward on your treatment plan.

Here’s a brief rundown as to why alcohol detox is important to successful rehabilitation.

1. Detox flushes all alcohol-related toxins from the body

During detox, you stop supplying your body with alcohol. Without continued supply, your body gets to process and excrete toxins and traces of alcohol from the body.

It cleanses your system and because you’ve built up dependency, the body will go into overdrive as it tries to reset its normal functioning and processes.

2. It helps the body regain its normal balance and function

Without the influence of alcohol, your body restores its normal balance and functioning.

3. Freedom from alcohol dependence

You get to finally break free from alcohol dependence and you gradually gain control of your body without the constant urge to drink. You just need to move further on your rehab and treatment to achieve sobriety.

4. Support in managing withdrawal symptoms

In medically assisted detox, you will get all the support needed for you to successfully get through your initial detox from counselling, support groups, medication, an on-call healthcare team, and an effective treatment plan.

IT will help you alleviate discomfort, manage pain, and prevent complications.

5. Relapse plan

The cravings will persist especially during the initial detox phase and the temptation is almost irresistible due to the pain and discomforts of withdrawal symptoms.

But during detox, you will get full support including a relapse plan. Your treatment will educate you on how to resist urges and manage temptation. They will also teach you what you need to do in case a relapse happens.

What is the purpose of alcohol detoxification?

Alcohol detoxification aims to wean you off from alcohol dependence either by cold turkey or a taper-off approach.

During detox, the body gets to break down and excrete remaining traces of alcohol and toxin build-up due to alcohol abuse all while allowing the body to regenerate, recuperate and restore its normal functioning with the help of nutritious food, adequate sleep, vitamins, and mineral supplements, proper hydration, exercise and healthier lifestyle in general.

It allows you to adjust physiologically and psychologically from alcohol abstinence and prepare you for a long journey towards full recovery and a life of sobriety.

It is through alcohol detoxification that you start to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and cope up with their absence.

Prolong alcohol abuse forces your body to create false normalcy hence during detox, your body shifts back to its natural balance. And during the shift, you will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Read on to know more about the purpose of alcohol detox in the body and on your journey towards full recovery.

1. Overcome physical and psychological dependence

The whole point of enrolling in alcoholism rehabilitation and treatment programs is to break free from alcohol dependence.

Thus detox, being the primary step in the rehabilitation process, aims to initially stop your drinking habit. Without detox, you’ll never be able to go forward into the next step.

To overcome physical and psychological dependence, you need to stop the cycle, break the routine, and create a change in your lifestyle. And this is what detox offers.

By removing alcohol from the equation, you halt your body’s reliance on alcohol and allow it to gradually re-establish and ease back to its normal physiological balance and operation.

However, returning to its normal pre-alcoholic balance does not happen overnight. The body needs time to adjust and function on its own without the influence of alcohol to power it up.

Initially, it will go into overdrive and as a result, withdrawal symptoms will manifest but the major discomforts are just temporary and once you overcome dependence, the journey will become more manageable with utmost support and self-determination.

2. Detox gets rid of remaining alcohol and toxins

The general meaning of detoxification is the body’s natural function of getting rid of toxins.

In the case of alcohol detox, the body removes remaining traces of alcohol and toxins acquired from alcoholism and an unhealthy lifestyle.

This allows the body to regenerate and recuperate from systemic damage caused by chronic alcoholism.

It is during this stage that the body flushes out the remaining traces of alcohol from your last drink.

It cleanses your system and prepares it for long-term sobriety. With proper food and nutrition support, you’ll be able to save and improve your health.

3. Detox is your rehabilitative foundation

The detox phase is your foundation for rehabilitation. It is the initial step where you get to hone your determination and it will challenge your will to lie a sober life.

Withdrawal symptoms will test your character and the urges are irresistible but with proper guidance and support from professionals, you’ll be able to overcome these challenges.

You'll be able to build a solid foundation to get through on a longer treatment process.

The challenges will strengthen you and once you've completed the detox process, the cravings will decrease and with therapy and counselling, you'll learn how to resist the cravings and manage relapse to avoid going back into alcoholism.

What are the benefits of alcohol detoxification?

Alcohol detoxification is beneficial in achieving successful rehabilitation because the period of detox allows the body to gradually shift back to its natural equilibrium and normal function.

It also eases the body’s adjustment process on alcohol abstinence while it works overtime in getting rid of the remaining remnants of alcohol in the body.

With proper and successful alcohol detox, your body will eventually get accustomed to alcohol absence which leads to a rapid decrease in cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and only then can you move forward on the next process of rehabilitation and long-term alcoholism treatment.

Because of the health risks of withdrawal symptoms, alcohol detox should be done with medical supervision to minimize complications, alleviate pain and discomfort, and prevent life-threatening symptoms.

There are two types of alcohol detox classified as:

  1. Medically Assisted Detox- This is the most recommended alcohol detox program for chronic alcoholics because it is performed under close monitoring and supervision of both medical and mental health professionals. Discomforts and potential complications from withdrawal symptoms are eased using medications and clinical alternatives to promote comfort and enhance safety.
  1. Clinically Managed Detox- This is recommended for people with a brief history of alcoholism given that the treatment professional approved the treatment option and that a treatment facility is located nearby to extend medical help when the need arises. The person is allowed to use a non-medical approach in dealing with withdrawal symptoms but social support is given through peer support groups, counselling, and professional support to help you throughout your detox.

Benefits of alcohol detoxification

1. Physiologically safe

Alcohol detox allows the body to slowly shift back to its normal and natural function which also resets its balance.

It gets rid of the disease-causing toxins and with proper nutrition, additional vitamin, and mineral support, and exercise you will boost your immunity and your physiological condition in general.

Once you accomplish your initial alcohol detox program, you strengthen your body health and prepare it to help you endure the longer rehabilitation treatment plan towards sobriety.

2. Psychologically beneficial

One of the best benefits of alcohol detox is you get to break free from the seemingly unending cycle of alcoholism.

Alcohol detox cleanses your system and corrects your brain function back to its natural balance. This includes an easy and gradual adjustment in delivering the correct signals and control in hormone production.

The cravings and urges will soon subside although some withdrawal symptoms may continue to persist depending on your drinking history.

However, these urges are manageable compared to the ones you felt during the early stage of your alcohol detox.

Once you complete the whole detox cycle, you’ll slowly gain control of your body making it easier to handle the on and off bouts of cravings and resist potential relapse.

3. Higher success and lower relapse rate

Alcohol rehabilitation is a process and it starts with alcohol detox as its primary step in eliminating remaining alcohol content and toxin build-up in the body. 

There are no shortcuts, no easy way out but to religiously follow the process to achieve higher success and lower relapse rate.

Medically assisted detox provides optimum support physically, emotionally, and psychologically to help you get through it successfully.

It also offers a relapse plan and educates you on what to do to strengthen your will in resisting impulses and triggers.

Detox also tones and builds a positive start for you both mentally and physically and creates a solid foundation for your sobriety journey. 

What is the process of alcohol detoxification?

The alcohol detoxification process comprises 3 stages namely evaluation, stabilization, and transitioning into a longer treatment program and aftercare.

These 3 steps occur within the duration of the alcohol detoxification process.

It aims to determine your current health condition, pre-existing conditions that can be triggered with withdrawal symptoms.

This helps ease your detox experience, minimize discomfort at a tolerable level, if possible, and prepare your character, determination, and drive to continue with the longer treatment plan.

The revised study of  Detoxification From Alcohol and Other Drugs  clusterized the process into three steps to help build a better understanding of what alcohol detox entails and what to expect.

Knowing what can and might happen during the process allows you to prepare yourself physically and mentally.

It also encourages you to take note and be observant of alarming symptoms that need early mitigation and prevention.

The alcohol detox process

1. Evaluation

In medically or clinically assisted detox, the medical team evaluates the patient's psychological and physiological condition to determine the proper detox program suitable for their current health condition and mental state.

They also gather information to determine the prescription that they could use to help alleviate pain and mitigate withdrawal symptoms.

This could be done through interview and survey where the patient is given a survey form that thoroughly covers your medication, medical, and psychological history.

From the data gathered, the medical team will create a personally tailored alcohol detox plan and therapy program.

These data include:

  • A series of blood test
  • Screening for pre-existing conditions both physically and mentally
  • A thorough assessment of your medical and psychological history and current status
  • Evaluation of your social situation
  • Risk assessment for withdrawal complexities and potential requirement of close medical supervision.

2. Stabilisation

Stabilisation is done to ease the person’s acclimatisation to the alcohol detox process and its corresponding withdrawal symptoms. This is done with the help of medications and psychological treatment and support.

Stabilization is done mostly on the duration of alcohol detox to minimize adverse effects, prevent manifestations of complications, and manage withdrawal symptoms to tolerable levels.

Treatment specialists and physicians achieve stabilization by creating dependence treatment plan and solutions which includes:

  • Prescriptions and supplement support to alleviate discomforts caused by withdrawal symptoms
  • Healthy diet and nutrition boost
  • Proper education on what to expect during alcohol detox, rehabilitation treatment, and aftercare
  • Support from family, friends, and trusted circle

3. Transitioning into a longer treatment programme and aftercare

This step occurs at the last phase of alcohol detox. During this step, you’ve successfully overcome the crucial first few days of detox and made it through the peak of withdrawal symptoms.

At this point, most withdrawal symptoms have resolved, the cravings have decreased, and you’ve gained physical and mental strength to continue sobriety.

However, the journey doesn't stop here. Alcohol detox is just the first step of longer treatment and it won't resolve your alcoholism alone.

It accustomed your body to the absence of alcohol and equipped you for the long journey ahead.

During the transition, staff will encourage you to go through the treatment program to sustain your sobriety and gain skills in managing relapse, healthily communicate your issues instead of opting to alcoholism, adjust to triggers, and handle relapse.

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.