Alcohol detoxification is an important preparatory step prior to a more extensive rehabilitation program. During alcohol detoxification, withdrawal symptoms are usually mild. This procedure is intended to relieve withdrawal symptoms, allowing the individual to begin a more thorough detoxification program. Alcohol detox can be safe and successful when done properly, with adequate supervision from a health care team. However, in the case of severe alcohol use, detox may be necessary for the patient’s overall health and safety.
Inpatient alcohol detoxification is performed in many hospitals and other inpatient treatment settings. These settings include long-term or residential rehab programs, day-care centers, and intermediate-care settings. Symptoms may include anxiety, cravings, insomnia, nightmares, agitation, restlessness, irritability, and mood disturbances. Treatment for alcohol detox should start by evaluating the physical factors that may have facilitated the abuse of alcohol. This may involve laboratory tests, blood work, and symptom reports. The primary goal of outpatient alcohol detox is to assist the patient to return to daily life functioning in a manner that is compatible with his or her health status and personality.
Many individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms from alcohol do not go through alcohol detoxification because they believe they will “outgrow” the symptoms. This is especially true of those who abuse large amounts of alcohol, or who suffer from other psychological disorders such as delusions. Patients who experience withdrawal symptoms also do not go through alcohol detoxification because they are not receiving medical care. Health care providers who offer in-patient treatment can offer medications that can help patients with withdrawal symptoms. If the symptoms continue for more than two weeks, a medical evaluation is warranted.
Those who are less likely to have symptoms of alcohol abuse or dependence may choose to undergo an alcohol detox at home. Home alcohol detoxification programs should be scheduled by a doctor or nutritionist. If you plan to use home alcohol detox programs, you should have a plan in place for how you will monitor your alcohol intake and when you will take your medications. In home alcohol detoxification programs should be supervised by a family member or a responsible friend. Alcohol poisoning is very serious, even fatal, and you need the assistance of others to help you through the process.
Two different methods are often used in the treatment of alcohol detoxification. One method involves gradually reducing alcohol consumption over time while simultaneously using medications to block withdrawals. The other method is called rapid detox, wherein the alcohol is suddenly consumed to block benzodiazepines and other drugs that may have been present in the body over time. Most health care providers agree that gradual weaning from alcohol over time is more effective than rapid detox. Symptoms, like headaches, anxiety, tremors, increased appetite, insomnia, and depression, are usually reduced or eliminated after four to six weeks.
Some of the most commonly used regimens in alcohol detoxification include steady state, rapid detox, and fixed tapering dose. Steady state regimen generally follows the same guidelines as rapid detox, with some variations based on your specific circumstances. Generally, this requires taking two of four sets of fixed dosages every day for at least eight weeks.