What Happens During an Alcohol Detox

Published by on Thursday, April 1, 2021



The alcohol detox is the first step within a rehabilitation programme. People might use the terms ‘rehab’ and ‘detox’ interchangeably when in fact, they make up two separate ends of the process.

The detox is cleansing your body of the toxins and getting through withdrawal. Rehab is what comes after. Here you attend therapy sessions, reframe your mindset and learn how to return to life without turning back to alcohol.

You can think of detox as the more physically challenging part and rehab as the more mentally challenging part. One cannot come without the other. We can help find a detox placement for you, ensuring it is as hassle-free and seamless as possible. You can simply focus on your own recovery.

What is alcohol detox?

In the detox stage of treatment, the toxic substances are flushed from your body. When you quit drinking alcohol, it takes time for your body to adjust. This can cause withdrawal symptoms.

Your body will have become reliant upon the chemicals produced when consuming alcohol, so when alcohol is removed from your system you may experience:

  • Nausea
  • Low mood/mood swings
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Retching
  • Shaking
  • Aches and pains
  • Seizures

These withdrawal symptoms can be overwhelming, and many addicts continue drinking to avoid having to experience these negative effects. The severity of symptoms varies between individuals. Withdrawal can be minor for some, while others face intense discomfort and pain.

The symptoms can be unpredictable or change quickly, which is why it is important to have professional supervision to watch over the detox process. This is especially necessary if the person is experiences seizures or delirium tremens (found in rare cases), as this can be life-threatening.

The symptoms of withdrawal can usually be felt as soon as two hours after you stop drinking, and will subside within the first week. However, some more mild symptoms may continue for several weeks or up to a year.

What Happens During an Alcohol Detox?

This process is made up of five stages:

1. First 6-12 Hours

In this initial period, the withdrawal symptoms will likely start out mild, and suddenly start to worsen. Symptoms in this stage tend to include: headaches, nausea, irritability and shaking.

2. Day 1

The symptoms can become more intense as you enter the 24-hours after your last drink. These may include, disorientation, hand tremors and seizures.

3. Day 2

Symptoms from the day before will likely continue into the next day. As time progresses and your body is placed under continuous strain, the symptoms may become more extreme. This can include panic attacks and hallucinations.

4. Days 3-7

The alcohol will continue to be flushed out of your body, and during these five days, the withdrawal symptoms will come and go. During this time you are most at risk of severe and potentially fatal symptoms, such as delirium tremens, but this is rare.

5. After 1 Week

Once the first week of detox is over, the symptoms will significantly subdue. Although, some more mild symptoms may remain. Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome can affect some people, and often includes exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety and delayed reflexes.

You might have been prescribed medications during the detoxification process. These are designed to help reduce the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. These can include naltrexone, nalmefene, disulfiram and acamprosate.

Naltrexone and Nalmefene both work by blocking opioid receptors, thereby stopping the effects of alcohol and making alcohol useless in satisfying the craving. Disulfiram deters you from drinking by causing unpleasant reactions if you do, such as chest pain, vomiting, nausea and dizziness.

Acamprosate helps to prevent relapse by reducing the craving for alcohol, it does this by affecting levels of the GABA chemical.

Once the detoxification process is complete, it is just as important for you to continue into a rehabilitation programme. Your body is now clean of toxins and you are through the worst of the physical symptoms of withdrawal.

The next step is to treat addictive tendencies and learn how to cope through less destructive means. By joining a rehab programme you can continue to abstain from alcohol in the future, avoiding relapse and going through another detox.

Get in touch to find out what services can meet your needs, and begin your recovery process today.

Keith stopped using drugs and drinking alcohol more than 10 years ago. He now spends a lot of time writing and editing content for this website. His mission is to assist people who are also looking to embrace addiction recovery. Keith believes a key way to accomplish this goal is through his writing.

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