Realizing that your drinking habits have spiraled out of control and that you need help can be a terrifying thought. A million questions may swirl through your head: What will alcohol withdrawal be like? What will my family think? How painful will detox be? Detox is one of the most feared parts of the recovery process, but learning more about withdrawal and medically-assisted detox can ease your anxiety about the experience. Detox has evolved in the recent years to be much more comfortable and safe, and something that anybody suffering from substance use addiction can see to the other side.
How soon can alcohol withdrawal begin?
Alcohol withdrawal can begin as soon as a few hours after the last drink. These symptoms are mostly mild, however, people with a long history of heavy drinking can suffer from more dangerous symptoms such as seizures.
Common symptoms within the first few hours of the last drink include:
What determines the severity of alcohol withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal is different for everybody. There is a wide range of factors that determine how severe, or not severe, your symptoms may be. These include:
The severity of the addiction. An individual who drank all day and every day in large volumes may have worse alcohol withdrawal symptoms than someone who didn’t drink as much or as frequently.
The length of the addiction. The body becomes dependent on substances the longer an individual uses them. As such, someone who has been addicted to alcohol for ten years will have more severe symptoms than someone who has been addicted for one year.
Underlying mental health conditions. Alcohol use can exacerbate underlying mental health conditions, which can make it more difficult for individuals suffering from them to overcome. These can include things such as depression, anxiety and PTSD – all of which are treatable conditions through a treatment plan called dual diagnosis at facilities like New Hope Ranch.
What are the first 72 hours of alcohol withdrawal like?
The first 72 hours of alcohol withdrawal are when symptoms peak. It is also the most dangerous period of time because this is when relapse is most common.
Common symptoms experienced in the first 72 hours include:
- High blood pressure
- Delirium tremens
Delirium tremens and alcohol withdrawal
Delirium tremens is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. It involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes. Delirium tremens can be severe enough to cause hospitalization and even death. This makes it extremely important for individuals who wish to detox from alcohol to do so under the supervision of medical professionals, and never to attempt it alone.
Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- Delirium, which is sudden severe confusion
- Body tremors
- Changes in mental function
- Agitation, irritability
- Deep sleep that lasts for a day or longer
- Excitement or fear
- Hallucinations (seeing or feeling things that are not really there)
- Bursts of energy
- Quick mood changes
- Sensitivity to light, sound, touch
- Stupor, sleepiness, fatigue
Ongoing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
Getting through the first few days of alcohol withdrawal is crucial because that is when symptoms and cravings are at their peak. However, symptoms may remain ongoing for a week or more. While they are less severe than initial symptoms, they can still be life-threatening.
Acute ongoing alcohol symptoms include:
- Low energy
- Memory problems
Alcohol withdrawal and medically-assisted detox
The only safe way to detox from alcohol is under the supervision of medical professionals by way of medication-assisted detox. By minimizing withdrawal symptoms and having around-the-clock medical care, individuals can rest assured that they will experience a more comfortable detox with minimal complications if any.
Some of the medications involved with medication-assisted detox include:
- Sleeping aids to ease insomnia symptoms
- Nutritional support and exercise to give the body the proper fuel to get through detox safely
- Medications for physical symptoms, such as nausea or fever
- Anxiety medication to ease anxiety, depression and mood swings
Another one of the many benefits of medication-assisted detox is that the individual will be able to think more clearly more quickly. This allows clients to get more out of their treatment experience by beginning counseling and therapy sessions sooner to avoid relapse.
If you or a loved one are ready to finally quit alcohol for good, medication-assisted detox is the best way to get through alcohol withdrawal. At New Hope Ranch, we are here to support you through this process. Our residential treatment center focuses on prevention, assessment, treatment and reintegration for people suffering from substance abuse. Services are provided on our beautiful 49-acre ranch just 15 minutes from downtown Austin, Texas. For more information on New Hope Ranch, contact us today.
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