What Is Alcohol Detox?
Understanding detox and how to handle it can potentially save your life during the detox process. With alcohol and drugs, the detox process is the period that it takes for the body to process those toxins from the system.1 Alcohol detox is uncomfortable no matter how you do it. However, many people don’t realize the difference between experiencing a hangover versus withdrawal symptoms.
When you decide that it’s time for a detox, you need to start by considering your alcohol consumption habits. Three important considerations are how often/how much you drink, the reason why you drink and how you feel when you don’t drink. Most people only experience a hangover when they detox. Yet others experience extreme alcohol withdrawal symptoms that can turn deadly. That’s why it’s important to know the difference and ensure that you get the best approach to your alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experience more than a regular hangover, you might have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). This requires medical attention as you detox.2
Hangovers vs. Withdrawal
Hangovers and withdrawal have different causes. A hangover is caused by drinking too much alcohol at one time. Hangovers are characterized by dehydration, headache, nausea, and fatigue.3 They typically don’t last for more than 24 hours.4
Alcohol withdrawal is a result of the body developing a tolerance for alcohol, which means that the body requires increased amounts of alcohol to reach the desired effects. The body acclimates to a certain level of alcohol in the system and becomes dependent on it. This is a condition that leads to the body experiencing a shock when the alcohol supply is suddenly cut off. The ensuing withdrawal symptoms are usually severe and potentially deadly.5
Withdrawal symptoms during an alcohol detox range from mild to serious. Common symptoms include anxiety, shaky hands, headache, nausea, insomnia, and sweating. Delirium Tremens is a more rare but serious condition which includes confusion, racing heart, high blood pressure, fever, and heavy sweating.6 A combination of these symptoms can lead to heart failure and become fatal without treatment. An estimated 5% of people who detox at home with severe alcohol withdrawal experience delirium tremens and lose their life.7 To learn more about the alcohol withdrawal timeline, check out our article: ‘What is the Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline?‘
The Hidden Risks of At-Home Alcohol Detox
According to American Addiction Centers, an at-home detox from alcohol is never recommended. There is a high risk for serious health complications such as insomnia, anxiety, digestive discomfort, headaches, heart palpitations, hallucinations, panic attacks, tremors, psychosis, seizures, delirium tremens, and relapse. The risk of these severe symptoms increases with the next detox attempt if the first attempt isn’t successful.8 If you detox at home instead of in a medical facility, you will miss the benefit of medications and monitoring that eases the discomfort of detox or prevent the more serious symptoms of withdrawal.
In addition to experiencing more discomfort and health risk than necessary, people who alcohol detox at home are not likely to see the change that they need. The success rate of alcohol self-detox is only 30%.9 After that, long-term sobriety is an incredible challenge for most recovering alcoholics. Unfortunately, detox alone doesn’t defeat the addiction, it is just the first step. Most people don’t make it past the first day of detox because the cravings become too intense. That’s why the next step after detox is addiction treatment to remove the cravings by retraining your brain. Alcohol detoxing and addiction treatment in a medical facility offers the best chance for long-term sobriety.
How to Alcohol Detox
Detoxing in an addiction treatment center like Schick Shadel Hospital provides the benefits of several safety techniques that ensure detox is both safe and successful. Some of our detox techniques include the administration of medications to counteract the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal, personalized attention to nutritional repair so you return to full health, and assessment of other medical problems and ongoing needs following detox.
Detox at Schick Shadel Hospital usually takes 1-3 days, depending on the needs of the patient. Although it is not required, it is recommended for detox patients to take the next step in their recovery by completing the 10-day addiction treatment program. This gives you the best possible chance for long-term sobriety. An independent study by the University of Washington found that twelve months after completing the 10-day treatment, 69% of our patients are still sober.10 This makes Schick Shadel Hospital the most successful addiction treatment program in the country!
1 “Detox Faqs – Drugabuse.Com”. 2016. Drugabuse.Com. Accessed January 21 2019. https://drugabuse.com/detox/.
2 “Alcohol Use Disorder | National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism (NIAAA)”. 2019. Niaaa.Nih.Gov. Accessed January 22 2019. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders.
3 Judith Marcin, MD. 2018. “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Symptoms, Treatment, And Detox Time”. Medical News Today. Accessed January 21 2019. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322373.php.
4 “Hangovers – Symptoms And Causes”. 2019. Mayo Clinic. Accessed January 21 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hangovers/symptoms-causes/syc-20373012.
5 “A Guide To Detoxing From Alcohol | Timeline, Symptoms & Effects”. 2017. Detox.Net. Accessed January 21 2019. https://www.detox.net/alcohol-detox-guide/.
6 Cold, Flu & Cough, Eye Health, Heart Disease, Lung Disease, Pain Management, Sexual Conditions, and Skin Problems et al. 2019. “Alcohol Withdrawal: What Happens When You Stop Drinking?”. Webmd. Accessed January 21 2019. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments#1.
7 “Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Detox Timeline & Treatment”. 2019. American Addiction Centers. Accessed January 21 2019. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/alcohol.
8 “Alcohol Detox At Home: How To, Risks And Alternatives”. 2019. American Addiction Centers. Accessed January 22 2019. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/alcohol-benzos-at-home.
9 “The Myths Of Alcohol Self-Detox: Do Not Try This At Home!”. 2019. Alcorehab.Org. Accessed January 22 2019. https://alcorehab.org/alcohol-detox/self-detox/.
10 Elkins, Ralph L., Todd L. Richards, Robert Nielsen, Richard Repass, Henriettae Stahlbrandt, and Hunter G. Hoffman. 2017. “The Neurobiological Mechanism Of Chemical Aversion (Emetic) Therapy For Alcohol Use Disorder: An Fmri Study”. Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience 11. Frontiers Media SA. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00182.