It’s a common fact that many people drink alcohol and face alcohol withdrawal during detox. Alcohol is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances in the world. With its legality and social acceptability, it’s also one of the most actively abused substances. In the United States, roughly 98 million people suffer from a drinking problem, or 30% of the nation. Furthermore, a little under 90,000 people die each year from alcohol abuse. (Cohen, Inaba 2014)
What do these statistics tell us? They tell us that alcohol kills; plain and simple. Alcohol becomes deadly after the immediate cessation of drinking, without medical detox programs.
Alcohol, historically, is one of the most dangerous substances of all time. In the later part of the 17th century, England experienced the dangers of hard liquor for the first time in a period referred to as the Gin Epidemic. In addition to the moral depravity that alcohol brings to a society, the detoxification process of alcohol is also wrought with difficulty.
Alcohol Withdrawal And Detox
The timeline for alcohol withdrawal symptoms follows thusly: over the course of 7-10 days, most who attempts to detox without any medical assistance experience a combination of extremely uncomfortable symptoms. In the first 24 hours, many experience insomnia, nausea, and vomiting, much like a hangover. From 24-48 hours after alcohol cessation individuals will often experience confusion, tremors, and high blood pressure which often causes higher anxiety. After 48 hours many alcoholics will experience irregular heart rate, hallucinations, and possibly seizures. After 7 days most symptoms begin to decrease.
Some reading this who have never experienced symptoms such as tremors or hallucinations may think that they can tough it out on their own: this assumption would be a foolish one. Although mental confusion and anxiety may seem like hurdles one can easily surmount, acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms cannot overcome on their own. One cannot explain the frustration of tremors so violent that an individual has difficulty feeding themselves. One cannot properly translate the fear experienced by someone hearing or seeing things that they are unable to know for certain are real or not.
Although much is understood about the intoxicating effects of alcohol, little is known about what happens in the minds and bodies of alcoholics once they begin detoxing from alcohol. Most understand alcohol is a depressant, but what does that mean on a physiological level?
Essentially, what alcohol withdrawal entails is a change in the chemistry of the brain, particularly with the GABAergic system, as well as adaptations to the NIMDA system. These are what cause the body to enter into severe withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens (also known as ‘the DT’S” or “the shakes”), after immediate cessation of alcohol from elongated, heavy use. Furthermore, instances often referred to as “kindling” can occur if an individual has gone through two or more stages of alcohol withdrawals. This results in more severe withdrawal symptoms that can be and have been fatal. (Alcohol 2017)
Medications, such as low dose benzodiazepines, eliminate these symptoms, particularly in the combatting fatal seizures. Through an assessment of withdrawal symptoms, we’ll determine if the client is experiencing symptoms of withdrawal during addiction treatment.
Beat Alcohol Withdrawal With Pacific Crest Trail Detox
At Pacific Crest Trail Detox, we understand the importance of both monitoring and assessing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, as well as the severity in which medical detox must take when it comes to the alcoholic. That is why our trained personnel is on duty at all times to safely and comfortably guide the alcoholic through the detox phase, in order to prepare them for the next stage of their journey.
The purpose of detox is to make sure that individuals have an opportunity to clear their bodies of the substances they have abused in a safe and therapeutic environment. In addition to responding to individuals’ physiological needs, detox is an introduction to the mental skills and community resources that are vital to maintaining long term recovery. It is important to state unequivocally: an addict cannot be “cured” simply by removing their substances of choice from their system. Addiction is a chronic condition which requires deep personal reflection and radical lifestyle changes. Although it is necessary for many to seek medical help while beginning alcohol withdrawal, it is important to note that the timeline for withdrawal symptoms does not accurately reflect the time and effort one must invest mentally in order to recover from addiction. I do not say this to make you feel hopeless, I say this to let you know that detox is the first step on the road to recovery.