Alcohol Detox Center
The best place for an alcoholic to go through the process of withdrawal and detoxification from alcohol is at a rehabilitation center. The alcohol withdrawal process can be a life-threatening experience for people who have engaged in heavy drinking over a period of weeks, months or years. Withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as two hours after the last drink was consumed and the process can last for weeks. Each alcoholic will experience withdrawal differently with some having milder symptoms and others struggling with severe mental, emotional and physical health issues.
For people with mild to moderate symptoms, an outpatient setting can be effective and less costly. For those people with more severe symptoms, an inpatient rehab center is the safest and most effective choice. People who are pregnant, have specific medical or psychological illnesses, or have had previous detoxifications need to enter into an alcohol detox center when quitting alcohol.
Alcohol Detox – The First Phase
The first phase when entering the rehab center will be to establish the patient’s medical condition. The attending physician will review the medical history of the patient and perform a physical examination. Tests that may be taken are blood analysis, alcohol and electrolyte levels, liver function and a urine analysis to identify if any drugs were taken. A nutritional deficiency analysis may also be assessed and treated. The physician will determine if there are any medical complications present such as an irregular heartbeat, liver disease, congestive heart failure, pancreatic problems and nervous system impairment. The treatment protocol has three main goals:
- To reduce the immediate withdrawal symptoms.
- To prevent any medical complications.
- To begin long-term counseling and therapy to assist with abstinence and prevent relapse.
The Detoxification and Withdrawal Process
The alcohol detox and withdrawal process can be a frightening and difficult time for anyone and that is why it is so important for patients to be with caring, experienced professionals who will assist them. Choosing a certified rehabilitation center is the wise choice for an alcoholic to receive the help they need.
Chronic alcohol consumption suppresses the brain’s neurotransmitters, which are the message sending chemicals in the brain. When a person stops drinking alcohol or reduces their intake the transmitters are released from suppression. The transmitters react by producing feelings of hyper-excitability that causes distress to the patient. Along with this are other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal such as anxiety, shakiness, rapid heartbeat, irritability, agitation, seizures and delirium tremens (DTs). Other symptoms that a patient may experience are sweating, vomiting, headache, insomnia and visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations.
The rehab medical team can administer medications to the patient that can ease the alcohol withdrawal symptoms of anxiety, confusion and shakiness. There are also medications to reduce the risk of having DTs, seizures and hallucinations. Other medications can help to keep the heart rate and blood pressure in check. There are various treatments and medications to meet the needs of the patient during the detox and withdrawal process, however these are only available in an alcohol rehabilitation center or hospital. Trained medical staff and physicians who are highly experienced with detoxification will keep a close eye on the patient throughout the entire withdrawal process and administer medication if/when necessary.
Underlying Causes of Addiction
The next important step in recovery is in treating the underlying cause for alcohol dependence and addiction. There are many treatment options available to the recovering alcoholic and the primary physician should evaluate the patient’s situation and devise a plan of treatment. Behavior therapies work toward changing drinking behavior and behavior modification teaches the alcoholic how to cope with triggers and strong emotions. Some of the different types of behavior treatments are:
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy- This can be one-on-one with a therapist or in a small group and works to identify feelings and situations that can lead to drinking.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy- This therapy works to motivate a change in drinking behavior.
- Marital and Family Counseling- Counseling assists in repairing and improving relationships.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs also provide peer and accountability support for a recovering alcoholic. If a patient is still struggling with sobriety the primary physician can prescribe medication to help reduce and stop drinking and prevent relapse. It is important to remember that recovery from alcohol addiction is a long-term process. The positive support of family and friends, in addition to help from an alcohol detox center, is very important in the success of a recovering alcoholic.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.