If you have become addicted to alcohol, it means you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop. Withdrawals can involve mental as well as physical discomforts, but it is usually not much worse than what you would experience with a mild flu. There is a risk of a particularly severe form of withdrawals known as delirium tremens (DTs), which can involve symptoms that are life threatening. Choosing a supervised detox is a good option for anyone who has become addicted to alcohol, but it is vital for those who are at risk of developing DTs.
Why Do You Need to Detox?
The process of physical addiction occurs because your body has to adapt to the toxic effects of alcohol. It does this by developing a tolerance to this substance. The human body is an amazing piece of machinery, doing its best to keep you alive no matter what your behaviour. The problem is that you physically adapt so well to having alcohol in your bloodstream that your system is turned into disarray when it is removed. This is a very simple explanation, but it is what causes you to experience withdrawal symptoms. The detox process is your body adjusting to living without alcohol.
The Symptoms of Withdrawals
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can vary a great deal depending on a number of factors including the amount you drink, how regularly you drink, your general health and length of your addiction. Most of the symptoms only last at most 10 days and these can include:
- body aches
- mood swings
- physical tremors
- nausea and vomiting
- cravings (to drink again)
- mild hallucinations
Some people continue to experience symptoms such as poor concentration and fuzzy thinking after the initial stage. These post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can last for as long as 2 years but improve steadily over time. In some cases, individuals can have lasting damage due to their addiction (for example, liver problems), which could mean lasting symptoms.
The Danger of DTs
DTs are a particularly dangerous type of withdrawal symptom. If you have been drinking heavily for a number of years, you could be at risk of experiencing it. If you have ever had a convulsion, you would be at much higher risk of DTs. It can be difficult to tell exactly who is going to develop these serious withdrawals, which is why a supervised detox is a good option for everyone. Some of the symptoms of DTs include:
- intense hallucinations (ocular and auditory)
- obvious confusion
- dangerously elevated blood pressure
- elevated pulse rate
How to stay Safe During an Alcohol Detox
If you intend to detox from alcohol alone, it is strongly advised that you speak to your GP first. You could be putting your life in danger, so you definitely need advice from this professional. It is possible to have a supervised detox at home, but it is well-worth checking into a detox clinic (this can be part of a rehab programme). When you stay in a detox centre, you would not only be kept safe, but there would also be treatments available to ease your symptoms. It is also understood that those going through a supervised detox are far more likely to stay sober long-term. The reason is that it is during the withdrawal stage that you would be most at risk of relapse.