Alcohol detox, or alcohol detoxification, refers to the process of removing alcohol toxins from the body using prescribed medication to alleviated withdrawal symptoms.
Alcoholics can't just "stop drinking” on their own. Due the nature of alcohol dependence, they experience uncontrollable cravings for alcohol. And abrupt withdrawal from alcohol can result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms which range from mild (tremors) to severe (seizures). Indeed, sudden withdrawal can be dangerous and even fatal, as the body can go into shock. It is never advisable to quit drinking without professional help.
Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Tremors (shakiness)
- Mood swings
- Stomach cramps
Detox addresses the withdrawal process in a safe environment. Sedative medication is prescribed to prevent the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines, such as Librium and diazepam, are usually used in the process of alcohol detoxification.
Alcohol detox isn't just about treating the physical withdrawal symptoms. Accompanying therapeutic treatment, such as counselling, is necessary if an individual is to successfully complete the detoxification process. This reduces the risk of relapse and gives the individual invaluable psychological and emotional support.
Residential detox or home detox?
Alcohol detoxification is most effective when carried out in a specialist residential clinic. Alcohol is less readily available so risk of relapse is reduced. Medical staff are on hand 24/7 to deal with any complications that might arise during the withdrawal stage. And the client has the constant support of addiction counsellors. Home alcohol detox is available but is only advisable for those with a lesser drinking problem.
Alcohol detox typically takes about 7 days but this may need to be extended.
It's important to realise that while detox is about stopping drinking, it doesn't result in long-term abstinence on its own. A period of psychological treatment is essential following a successful detoxification if the individual is to lead a healthy alcohol-free life.