One of the reasons why you might feel a little reluctant about giving up alcohol is fear of the withdrawal process. Alcohol detoxification can involve some discomfort, but it is usually nowhere near as bad as most people expect. If you can develop the right attitude, this process does not need to be too much of a hardship at all. By entering a detox facility, you will even have times during the acute withdrawal stage when you can feel relaxed and happy.
The Cause of Withdrawal Symptoms during Alcohol Detoxification
The exact details why you experience withdrawal symptoms during alcohol detoxification are complex, but a simple explanation provides a basic understanding of what is happening at this time. When you began to abuse alcohol, your body would have felt as if it were under attack. Alcohol is a toxin in the bloodstream, so it is a threat to the normal functioning of the body. The system responds by adapting to the threat so it can continue to function. You experience this as an increased tolerance for alcohol; you are able to drink more than you used to be able to handle.
Your body is so good at managing the threat of alcohol in the bloodstream that it begins to depend on it being there. This means that if you suddenly quit or reduce your intake, the body is thrown into chaos because it has become so used to the alcohol in the bloodstream. The system needs to readapt; it is this that causes the withdrawal symptoms during alcohol detoxification.
The Severity of Alcohol Detoxification
The symptoms of alcohol detox are usually very mild and they should not be much worse than the symptoms you would experience with a winter cold. The thing that makes them feel much worse is the knowledge that you could escape them very easily if you just used alcohol again. If you dwell too much on these cravings, it can easily make the mild symptoms of withdrawal feel intolerable.
If you enter a medically supervised detox facility, there are going to be treatments available to treat most of the most unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal. This means that you can feel almost normal as your body rids itself of alcohol. In this type of program, you also get to be supported and encouraged, so this makes things much easier to deal with as well.
If you have been using alcohol heavily for a long time, you may be at risk of developing delirium tremens. This is a severe form of withdrawals that can feel very unpleasant, and in some instances, the symptoms can become life threatening. These symptoms can include things like low blood pressure, seizures, rapid pulse, intense hallucinations (visual and audible), and profound confusion. If there is any risk that you could develop delirium tremens, it is going to be vital that your symptoms are medically supervised.
You are going to be most at risk from delirium tremens if you try to detox without any type of supervision. Things can deteriorate quickly so you need somebody around to monitor the situation. If you have ever had a seizure while drinking then this can be a strong indication that you are at high risk of developing delirium tremens. It is always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to withdrawals, so entering a detox unit can be a very wise move.
The acute stage of alcohol withdrawals only lasts about a week. Once you get beyond the acute stage, you may still have some symptoms but they are going to be easy to manage. Some people have very mild symptoms that can last up to a year; this is known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS).