The first step in overcoming an addiction to alcohol is detoxification, a process of withdrawal that removes the alcohol toxins from the body. However, addiction detox alone is not enough for sustained abstinence. For a long-term recovery, detox should be supported by rehabilitative treatment which addresses the psychological issues behind the alcohol addiction and teaches addicts to live a healthy life after completing a programme of alcohol detox and rehab.
What are the effects of withdrawal from alcohol?
Alcohol has a sedating effect on the central nervous system. The brain adapts to this by producing chemicals that have a stimulating effect. When you stop drinking, the brain continues to produce stimulants and the body goes into a form of shock. Withdrawal symptoms can be mild to extreme. Sudden withdrawal from alcohol can result in brain damage or death.
Physical symptoms include: mild fever, tremors, cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures.
Psychological symptoms include: insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, mood swing, confusion, hallucinations.
Can I detox from alcohol without specialist help?
Sudden withdrawal from alcohol can be life-threatening. And symptoms can be intense and hard to manage. This can result in the individual being drawn back to alcohol use. It can also be very difficult to manage for the family member who is trying to look after the addicted person through the alcohol detox process. Loved ones may not have the emotional strength to motivate them nor the medical expertise needed to make sure symptoms are minimised.
Detoxing physically from alcohol can take 7-10 days or longer. Ask yourself if this really safe or achievable without medical support? And without a professional to help you manage the psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?
What does residential treatment for alcohol addiction involve?
A residential alcohol detox and rehab treatment programme offers the best chance of long-term recovery as it treats both the physical and psychological addiction to alcohol.
On admission, a doctor will assess you and prescribe appropriate medication to reduce the risk, and alleviate the symptoms, of alcohol withdrawal. Medication used to manage alcohol withdrawal will be a benzodiazepine, administered on a sliding, reducing scale. You’ll also have a physical examination. A breath test may be completed to evidence the alcohol level in the system, and a urine test completed to record any drug usage. The doctor will review any current prescribed medication. Throughout the alcohol detox process, the doctor will monitor physical well-being.
You’ll be allocated a key worker who will gather background history and develop an alcohol rehabilitative care plan. You’ll be fully involved with this. The plan will address your alcohol use, behavioural issues and physical, psychological and social needs.
The rehab treatment will consist of education, counselling and therapy to understand and challenge the addictive illness. You’ll learn to recognise trigger points and affective behaviours to allow a life free from the harm that alcoholism creates. Many alcohol rehab programmes are based on the proven 12 step model and take a holistic approach to recovery.