Like many people who struggle with alcohol use disorder, you may believe that you can stop drinking whenever you want. Choosing to abstain from alcohol and safely detoxing are two very different things. Once the body has become chemically dependent upon alcohol, detoxing is never safe to do alone. After just four hours of abstaining, painful and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms can set in. More importantly, if these symptoms aren’t mitigated early-on, they can quickly spiral out of control. When people detox without medical support, they have a very high risk of developing delirium tremens. While early detox symptoms include nausea, headaches, sweating, and other relatively moderate developments, delirium tremens can cause:
- Disorientation and confusion
- Memory difficulties
Much like all other addictive substances, alcohol promotes feelings of confidence, relaxation, and euphoria by artificially triggering the brain’s reward system. This causes the brain to release chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters that instantly elevate the mood. Among these are:
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Although people who drink alcohol are stimulating the release of these chemicals with the simple goal of feeling good, each of these neurotransmitters also controls various functions throughout the body. These include balance, memory, coordination, fine motor control, and even smooth muscle control among many other things. With chemical dependency, the production and release of these chemicals has become reliant upon alcohol use. Thus, suddenly taking alcohol away, and without having the right interventions in place, can actually cause widespread physical and emotional distress.
Simple Steps for Ensuring a Safe, Successful Detox
The first and most important step in making sure that your detox is both safe and successful is seeking professional help. Medically supported alcohol detox will minimize your withdrawal symptoms, expedite the removal of alcohol from your body, and assist your brain in repairing itself. With professional detox, your vital signs will be carefully monitored from the minute you enter the door. When adverse changes occur, medications and other treatments can be used to stabilize your vitals.
Once your detox is finished, many programs will also facilitate a seamless transfer into inpatient or outpatient alcohol addiction treatment. With no gaps in care, you can avoid relapse, apply your whole attention to recovery, and limit the amount of physical and psychological discomfort that you experience along the way. Never underestimate the challenges of detoxing. There are many people who manage to successfully weather the physical distress of going “cold turkey”.
However, once the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal abate, post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) invariably set in. These largely psychological changes make it difficult to sleep, difficult to achieve mood balance, and difficult to stay the course. Without support, people can contend with severe depression, suicidal thoughts, restlessness, malaise, and more. Worse still, if a relapse occurs at this time, the risk of alcohol poisoning is incredibly high.
After cleansing the body of alcohol for several days or weeks, a person’s tolerance level can drop significantly. Drinking large amounts of alcohol after a failed recovery attempt can be very dangerous. Always consider your long-term goals for recovery before starting a detox. Successfully detoxing from alcohol does not mean that alcoholism has been cured. Alcoholism is actually a lifelong ailment and one that does not have a known cure.
People who are able to maintain their sobriety long-term often do so by committing to ongoing support. Recovering alcoholics with the highest success rates have often completed inpatient or intensive outpatient programs, and they continue to participate in support groups, relapse prevention programs, and other ongoing support services. It’s additionally important to eliminate any personal barriers to recovery before starting.
For instance, if you live in a home with other heavy drinkers or are currently residing in an abusive or high-stress environment, you may want to enroll in inpatient treatment. This will remove you from outside triggers and stressors that make you want to drink, and it will allow you to commit all of your energies and focus to understanding and managing your addiction. Another common barrier to addiction recovery is co-occurring disorders or comorbidities.
For instance, if you drink to alleviate chronic anxiety or chronic depression, you may be living with an untreated mental health disorder. Dual diagnosis treatment is a form of addiction treatment that addresses both alcohol use disorder and any co-occurring disorders at once. In these programs, patients learn alternative and healthful ways of managing their illnesses so that self-medicating with alcohol is no longer necessary. If you’re ready to detox and want to do so in a safe, supportive environment, we can help you find it. Call us today at 772-266-5320.