Alcohol was the most common drug of concern for people seeking addiction treatment in 2018 and 2019. This isn't surprising, given the normalisation of binge drinking, and a lack of awareness about the effects of alcohol on the brain and body.
When a person wants to detox from alcohol addiction, it's imperative to do so safely. This often means detoxing in a safe environment, with certified health professionals available to provide assistance. In this article, discover the dangers of detoxing from alcohol without professional help, and how to seek help.
At The Hader Clinic, we deliver an all-encompassing model of care for people seeking treatment from alcohol addiction. We offer treatment plans, consisting of a variety of therapies from individual professionals and community supports. Find out more about our alcohol addiction recovery programs.
The body develops a physical dependency on alcohol
There is no exact science for how much alcohol is required to develop a physical dependency. A person who consumes copious amounts of alcohol in a short period of time (known as a binge-drinking episode) may experience similar detox symptoms as someone who has been drinking smaller amounts, over a longer period of time.
However, generally, the theory goes: if you drink consistently, every day, over a long period of time, in larger quantities than is considered 'normal', your body will develop a dependency on the substance.
Physical side effects of withdrawing from alcohol addiction
Mild symptoms can show up as early as 6 hours after consuming alcohol, including:
- Shaking hands
Some people may call these signs symptoms of a hangover, with good reason. A hangover is a form of detox from alcohol.
More serious problems show up in the first 12 hours after the last drink is consumed, and can persist for up to 72 hours, including:
- Racing heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Profuse sweating
- Withdrawal seizures
Delirium tremens (DTs) is the most serious symptom of alcohol withdrawal and can be fatal. It often occurs between 48 and 72 hours after the last drink is consumed, and symptoms include:
- Disorientation or confusion
- Eye and muscle movement impairments
- Involuntary muscle contractions
- Excessive sweating
- Chest pain
- Increased startle reflexes
- Extreme sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
How to detox from alcohol safely
When someone experiences alcohol withdrawal and DTs as a side effect, that person must seek medical attention. Detox professionals can ensure the patient receives medication such as:
- Diazepam (also known as Valium) to calm a fast heart rate as a result of anxiety
- Thiamine vitamins — thiamine prevents Wernicke encephalopathy
- Antipsychotics, if necessary
Certified professionals will ensure the person eats a healthy and balanced diet, and provide a safe environment during recovery. It can take several weeks before the person will feel fully recovered from the effects of alcohol detox.
The body also develops a mental dependency on alcohol
Alcohol addiction affects the brain and way of thinking, so those suffering may experience things like:
- Strong thoughts, urges, and impulses around 'needing' to drink
- Inability to think about anything else
- Hiding how much alcohol is consumed from friends and family
Mental side effects of withdrawing from alcohol addiction
- Suicidal thoughts
- Mood swings
- Irritability and fatigue
- Inability to focus and engage in activities
Always speak with a professional before beginning to detox from alcohol addiction
It is critical to seek help from a professional before withdrawing from alcohol. If you have been drinking larger-than-average quantities of alcohol for an extended period of time, you simply don't know what effects withdrawal will have on your body and mind.
At The Hader Clinic, we offer specialised programs to guide people through alcohol detox, safely. Our 28-Day Detox and Withdrawal Program includes:
- Detox and withdrawal management in a safe environment
- Assistance from medical professionals
- On-site counselling
- Psychosocial educational groups
- Peer support groups
- Sports & recreation
It may seem hopeless at first, but there is a way out of alcohol addiction. With commitment and time, you can find freedom from dependence on alcohol, and a new life of your own.