Steps to Detox from Alcohol

What Are the Steps to Detox From Alcohol?

Maybe you have read about alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS), the intense withdrawal symptoms that may surface when an individual who is alcohol dependent attempts to stop drinking.  In fact, someone who is seriously considering getting help for an alcohol use disorder may balk at the idea of suffering as a result of getting sober once they know about AWS.  But the risks to health—to life itself—by continuing to abuse alcohol should far outweigh any short-term detox discomfort.  Detox is actually the door through which renewed hope can be discovered, the only door.

The key to approaching detox is to be knowledgeable about the potential risks involved, thereby undergoing the detox process under the care of a medical detox team.   For someone with an entrenched alcohol dependence to attempt detox alone is rife with serious health risks.  There are several factors that can help determine the severity of the detox and withdrawal process that a trained detox staff can prepare for.  A professional medical detox program that supports the individual through the various steps to detox from alcohol can minimize the risk.

Typical Steps to Detox from Alcohol

There is no debate about the health risks, and the collective fallout of all aspects of life, of alcohol addiction.  Once alcohol abuse has morphed into chemical dependence it becomes a chronic relapsing disease that requires treatment to avoid a fatal outcome.  According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 15 million U.S. adults are living with an alcohol use disorder (AUD).  To safely approach the necessary treatment for an AUD it is important to being the recovery journey at a medical detox center, and then to participate in therapy and recovery support for an extended period.

Once a dedicated detox program is located, and individual may like to understand what they can expect during the detoxification period of recovery.  Each person has unique features of their AUD including the history of their AUD, genetics, environmental factors, a co-occurring mental health disorder, their age and general health.  Because of these many factors that can influence an individual’s response to detox, only a detox professional can offer a reasonably accurate prediction of what to expect during the process.

Generally, there are three predictable and distinct steps to detox from alcohol use disorder.  These steps include:

  • Stage I: The early phase of withdrawal begins within 6-8 hours of the last drink.  Generally, this first stage lasts about 24-48 hours and includes symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, tremors, fatigue, anxiety, foggy thinking, and difficulty sleeping.
  • Stage II: During the second phase of withdrawal the individual will experience the peak symptoms, usually on days 2-4.  Very unpleasant and potentially dangerous symptoms occur during this stage, including heart palpitations, increased heart rate, hypertension, increased body temperature, increased respiratory rate, mental confusion, profuse sweating, mood swings, and irritability.
  • Stage III: The final stage begins generally after day four and can persist for days or weeks.  Stage III is marked by depression, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, and cravings.  It is at this stage that the sometimes fatal delirium tremens (DTs) can develop, causing hallucinations, severe mental confusion, fever, and seizures.

How a Medical Detox Makes Detox Safer and Less Painful

With an understanding of the potential for unpredictable withdrawal symptoms to become an emergency event, it is always recommended that an individual wanting to stop drinking do so via medical detox and subsequent treatment.  During a supervised detox, the vital signs are monitored throughout and the detox nurse will provide the medications to help manage the withdrawal symptoms as they present and increase in intensity.  Because alcohol detox is so unpleasant, it is common for those who attempt it to want to give up and return to drinking.  A trained detox staff can guide the individual through the process from start to finish, and help them segue into treatment.

There are medications that can help curb cravings in the early months of recovery.  For alcohol recovery, naltrexone has been shown to significantly improve the recovery outcome by decreasing the risk of relapse.  This medication is intended for short-term use only, and then a tapering schedule will commence.

Phoenix Rising Behavior Provides Medical Detox for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Phoenix Rising Addiction Center is an outpatient addiction recovery program located in South Orange County, California.  Phoenix Rising provides detox, sober living, and outpatient treatment resources for individuals committed to overcoming a drug or alcohol abuse disorder.  For more information regarding what are the steps to detox from alcohol or questions about the program, please contact Phoenix Rising today at (949) 518-0345.