What Are the Best Approaches in Alcohol Detox?

What Are the Best Approaches in Alcohol Detox?

If you, or someone you love, suffers from alcohol use disorder (AUD), you may wonder how to stop, and our Alcohol home detox might be a suitable approach for you. An AUD can cause a person to become dependent on alcohol. As a result, the body will need alcohol to feel normal. Without alcohol, the body goes into shock, causing severe withdrawal symptoms.

During withdrawal, people are much more vulnerable to relapse. Withdrawal severity depends on how long the person has been suffering with an AUD. It also depends on how much alcohol they drink.

You could choose to quit alcohol, cold turkey, and bear the withdrawal symptoms. Going through this process unaided could be life-threatening and is not recommended. To counteract this, an alcohol detox program can help. A detox program includes addiction medicine to help with physical symptoms like nausea. Furthermore, a program will include medical supervision. This is useful to manage possible mental and physical health complications.

How Is Alcohol Dependence Diagnosed?

Unlike physical illnesses, there are no physical exams used to diagnose alcohol dependence. However, long-term alcohol abuse can cause liver damage. Alcohol dependence is diagnosed by a psychological evaluation. This kind of examination will consist of questions about your alcohol use. Questions could include:

  1. How many units of alcohol do you consume per week?
  2. How frequently do you consume alcohol? (Every day, every second day, etc.)
  3. Have you ever suffered an injury due to alcohol consumption?

Types of Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are dependent on alcohol, quitting alcohol suddenly will cause withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal varies depending on the extent of your alcohol use. Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe. In extreme cases, you could develop a condition known as Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS). Withdrawal should only last days or weeks. In rare cases, it could last longer due to Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). While withdrawal is unique to you, there are some common symptoms you could expect to see.

Mild Withdrawals

Withdrawal will be mild if you do not drink large amounts of alcohol or you have not been drinking for a long time. You may experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or anxiety. In cases of mild withdrawal, treatment may not be necessary. You may be able to go through withdrawal at home.

Moderate Withdrawal

Moderate withdrawal is more serious and could require treatment. Moderate withdrawal may cause a rapid heart rate, nausea, and high blood pressure. Symptoms like severe vomiting and diarrhea can result in dehydration. A detox programme can prevent this consequence by providing an IV drip.

Severe Withdrawal

If you have been drinking high quantities of alcohol for a long time, you may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. This kind of withdrawal could be dangerous. Severe withdrawal can cause extreme anxiety, depression, and even seizures. An alcohol detox program will include medical supervision to ensure you go through withdrawal safely.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)

If you are a very heavy drinker for months or even years, you may experience an extreme type of withdrawal known as Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS). This condition can cause seizures, hallucinations, and high blood pressure. The condition can be life-threatening and medical intervention is highly recommended.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Mild to severe withdrawal should last for days to weeks. In some cases, a person could have withdrawal symptoms for months or years. This kind of protracted withdrawal is known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). The person may experience symptoms such as mood changes, lower libido, and insomnia for years after stopping alcohol. However, this condition is not common and should not prevent someone from seeking help with an AUD.


Types of Approaches

Depending on your alcohol use, there are a few alcohol detox methods to choose from. The type of approach will depend on how much the person drinks, how long they have suffered with an AUD, and how severe the withdrawal is. The three main approaches are medically assisted vs non-assisted, supervised vs non-supervised, and inpatient vs outpatient.

Medically Assisted vs Non-Assisted

A medical detox program consists of giving a person medicine to cope with withdrawal and alcohol cravings. There is no medication that will ‘cure’ an AUD. However, drugs like Disulfiram will make it difficult to consume alcohol without an adverse physical reaction. Similarly, Naltrexone can prevent the pleasurable feelings that alcohol provides. Relapse is common during withdrawal. A medically-assisted detox can prevent this. If the AUD is mild to moderate, it is possible to do without medical assistance.

Supervised vs Non-Supervised

If you worry about the potential physical or mental complications of an alcohol detox, a medically supervised detox could be for you. Medical supervision can monitor symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can cause dehydration and a person may require an IV drip. If you have mild withdrawal, supervision may not be necessary. Severe withdrawal and Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome can be life-threatening and withdrawal without medical supervision is not recommended.

Inpatient vs Outpatient

Many rehab centres will offer both inpatient and outpatient care. Inpatient care requires the person to stay at the facility overnight. Outpatient care means the person will go to the treatment centre during the day. Particularly for severe types of withdrawal, inpatient care offers 24/7 medical supervision. Inpatient care can ensure the person goes through withdrawal safely as any mental and physical complications are monitored and managed. It can also allow a person to detox without the opportunity to relapse. For less severe forms of withdrawal, outpatient care allows a person to receive treatment while still going about their daily life. The person will still be able to attend work and receive social support from friends and family members.

If you or someone you love suffer from an AUD, it can be daunting to know what steps to take. Whether the withdrawal period is mild, moderate, or severe, the person will need a lot of support. At UKHD, we have years of experience helping people recover from alcohol addiction. Contact us today to discuss the approaches we offer for alcohol detox, and which approach would work best for your situation. Recovery from alcohol is possible.

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    Jason Shiers
    Author / Jason Shiers / Dip.Psych MBACP
    Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist who is a specialist in addiction, trauma and eating disorders. He has been working in the field of addiction for 25 years now.

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