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How to Detox from Alcohol Safely


How to Detox from Alcohol Safely

Though drinking alcohol is a legal and popular social pastime for adults over 21, it is an endeavor that comes with substantial risk. For many, the consumption of alcohol loosens inhibitions and decreases coordination. Consuming too much alcohol leaves us vulnerable to bad decisions, as it affects our cognitive abilities including memory, visuospatial orientation, and decision-making capacity. Additionally, impaired physical coordination increases the chance of injury to ourselves and to others if we get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

As a highly addictive substance, drinking alcohol regularly and in larger quantities may result in physical and psychological dependence. Over time, tolerance develops as the body adapts to its euphoric effects on the brain’s reward centers. The body processes the substance more efficiently as drinking continues, and greater quantities are required to achieve the same pleasurable effects.

What happens when you decide to sever your ties to alcohol and end this dependency? Despite the hazards inherent in drinking, suddenly stopping may also pose some risks. If your body is physically addicted, withholding the offending substance can create dangerous or even deadly consequences. For this reason, you must understand the risks and learn how to detox from alcohol safely before undertaking this impactful step. Help is available; you just need to know where to look for it.

Health Risks Associated With Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse takes a significant toll on the body, mind, and spirit of those who experience it. In some cases, the damage is cumulative and increases with time.

Physical Health Risks

The physical health risks associated with alcohol abuse can be divided into immediate effects and long-term consequences. 

Immediate Effects of Alcohol Abuse

The immediate effects are dose-dependent, with overconsumption resulting in nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and headache. Extreme overconsumption within a short period of time results in alcohol poisoning which may cause loss of consciousness, seizures, respiratory distress, coma, and death. 

Long Term Consequences of Alcohol Abuse

Since the liver is the main site of the body’s detoxification process, it can be seriously impacted by long-term abuse of alcohol. Other significant effects over time include damage to the brain, heart, pancreas, and immune system. Alcohol is also considered a carcinogen due to its implication as a causative agent in a variety of cancers, including head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal cancer.

Mental Health Risks

Alcohol abuse has a direct physiological impact on the brain, altering neurotransmitters and hijacking neuropathways. This may cause a variety of associated mental health symptoms, including anxiety, depression, stress, and sleep disturbances. 

Though addiction itself is considered a mental health disorder that causes a range of psychiatric symptoms, there is also a high incidence of alcoholism developing in parallel with, or as a result of, attempts to self-medicate an underlying mental health disorder. 

Determining that a patient has a co-morbid condition such as bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often quite difficult due to a tremendous overlap in symptoms. In these cases, diagnosis may be delayed until substance abuse treatment has been completed and there has been an extended period of abstinence.

Other Associated Risks

Beyond the health risks, alcohol abuse can destroy relationships, drain finances, and damage professional reputations. Drinking offenses can bring the drinker into contact with law enforcement, necessitating costly legal representation, and sometimes resulting in penalties that involve incarceration and/or fines. All of these negative repercussions can take an added toll as they further exacerbate the strain on our physical and mental health. 

Dangers Associated with Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal

With all of the serious consequences associated with alcohol abuse, it is not surprising that cessation of drinking brings its own discomforts and dangers. As you stop drinking, the body undergoes detoxification, and alcohol is gradually cleared from your system. This process primarily involves the liver, with wastes removed by the urinary and gastrointestinal systems. Symptoms generally begin within hours of stopping drinking; in mild cases, these may include tremors, agitation, nausea, and insomnia.

Certain risk factors predict more dangerous or complicated alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These include the amount and duration of alcohol consumption, overall health condition, number of previous attempts at withdrawal, seizure history, altered blood chemistry, and elevated liver enzymes. In addition to the mild symptoms mentioned above, serious and dangerous complications may include:

  • General: fever, tremors, sweating, rapid heart rate, and respirations
  • Mood: anxiety, agitation, depression, psychosis
  • Gastrointestinal: nausea, vomiting
  • Neurological: tremors, seizures, delirium tremens (hallucinations, disorientation, and confusion), coma

Some of these complications constitute medical emergencies that require immediate and decisive intervention.

How to Detox from Alcohol Comfortably

Since the severity of withdrawal symptoms is unpredictable, the safest course of action, without a doubt, is to work with addiction medicine professionals to plan a medically-managed and monitored withdrawal. This will ensure that, should an emergency arise in your case, there is help readily available. In addition, having experienced medical professionals to manage your withdrawal gives you access to prescription medications and behavioral therapies that can minimize discomfort and help to keep you stable and free from cravings.

Though you can choose from a variety of treatment centers for detox stabilization, the most coherent plan is to select a provider with a comprehensive continuum of care. This will ensure that your care is well-coordinated, from withdrawal management through rehabilitative treatment to aftercare planning. This continuity is particularly important in light of the high rate of relapse with alcohol abuse. 

With so much at stake and the course of withdrawal unpredictable, trusting your care to experienced, rigorously trained addiction professionals gives you the best chance to safely overcome your alcohol addiction and orient yourself securely on the path to long-term sobriety.

If you are wondering how to detox from alcohol safely as your first step on the path to long-term recovery, the addiction medicine professionals at New Choices Treatment Centers can help. Contact us to learn about options for treatment or call (726) 888-7003 to speak to our admissions staff.