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The Big Question – Who Needs Alcohol Detox?


Overcoming an alcohol addiction can be quite a challenge, particularly for those who have been drinking heavily for many years. The reliance on alcohol will be both physical and psychological and those affected often find it difficult to imagine a life where alcohol does not play a role. The question of who needs alcohol detox is often one that is asked by those with an alcohol addiction. Many are afraid of the procedure because they have heard horror stories about it and are hoping that it is something they may be able to bypass on their road to recovery. Unfortunately, an alcohol detox is a natural part of the recovery process and anyone with a physical dependence will be unable to avoid it. However, an alcohol detox does not have to be a painful experience. When carried out in a dedicated facility, it can actually be quite comfortable. Below is a brief guideline of who needs alcohol detox and what to expect from it.

Who Is Alcohol Detox For?

It can be tough to come to terms with the fact that alcohol has become a problem. This legal, widely available, and socially acceptable substance is one that is used by the majority of adults in the UK to some extent, although most drink it in moderation.

Those who do abuse alcohol are risking a physical dependence and subsequent addiction, and more often than not, these individuals will end up requiring an alcohol detox to get their lives back on track. Detox is required for anyone who wants to overcome an alcohol addiction. It is necessary to tackle the physical side of the addiction with a detox before the psychological issues and be addressed.

Why Is Alcohol Detox Necessary?

If you have an alcohol addiction, you have almost certainly noticed the negative side effects of it. This is a destructive illness that can destroy the life of not only the person with the addiction but also the lives of their family members.

Alcohol addiction is a problem for millions of people across the world and it is a leading contributor of poor health and premature death. As you might expect, alcohol-related illnesses and injuries place a huge burden on the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. As well as the cost, which runs into billions annually, there is a tremendous burden placed on staff who are working tirelessly to treat these avoidable admissions. Alcohol addiction is also negatively affecting the wider community and the economy, with many violent crimes being committed by those under the influence of alcohol.

Closer to home, alcohol addiction has massive implications for the family members and friends of those affected. Alcoholics are often aggressive and violent and are prone to unpredictable behaviour. This can deeply affect parents, siblings, spouses, and children and can result in lasting emotional damage.

To counter the negative effects of alcohol addiction, a comprehensive recovery programme is required. This includes a detox and should be followed by rehabilitation and aftercare.

How Does Alcohol Addiction Occur?

For most, alcohol addiction does not occur overnight. It starts with experimentation, and most people will drink socially for quite some time before developing any problems. The first time a person drinks alcohol, he or she will almost certainly notice a change in how they feel. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, so it has the effect of slowing down various bodily functions and inducing a pleasant warm feeling. Those who drink alcohol may start to feel more relaxed and will become more talkative.

If the individual likes the feelings that alcohol gives, he or she may decide to drink again. As alcohol is a socially acceptable substance, it is common for many to drink it regularly with friends. Nevertheless, most never drink to get drunk; they will enjoy one or two drinks with friends and will not get intoxicated.

There are others, however, who will regularly drink more than their body can process, and they will inevitably feel the effects. Their body will try to resist the effects of the alcohol by racing, and when the effects of the chemicals wear off, the affected person may notice a number of side effects that can include sweating, shaking, headaches, and nausea.

The more alcohol a person drinks, the more his or her body adapts to the presence of it. In response, the body will reduce the number of dopamine or feel-good chemicals that it produces when the person drinks. The result of this is that the individual will require more alcohol to achieve the effects he or she desires. This is called an increased tolerance and often leads the affected person to increase his or her alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, the more alcohol the individual drinks, the more the body comes to expect it and a physical dependence occurs. Those with a physical dependence will require a detox if they are to overcome their addiction and put their days of alcohol abuse behind them.

What to Expect from an Alcohol Detox?

As mentioned above, alcohol is a substance that has a sedative effect on the brain and body. It affects almost every cell in the body, meaning that detox can therefore be complicated. We would recommend that those who want to overcome an alcohol addiction to detox in a dedicated facility as this will ensure safety and comfort. With experienced and dedicated professionals on hand to look after the affected person throughout the process, he or she will be at almost no risk.

The detox process naturally begins when an individual stops drinking. As soon as the body realises that the usual dose of chemicals is not forthcoming, it will react and start the process of eliminating all remaining toxins. It is at this stage that various withdrawal symptoms will occur.

For most, the first symptoms will appear around six to twelve hours after they have had their last drink. These symptoms are usually mild in the beginning and can include mood swings, shaking, sweating, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

The body begins to race in response to the withdrawal of the chemicals, which can make the person feel edgy and irritable. He or she may have already realised in the past that to make these feelings subside, all they had to do was have a drink. During a detox, this is not possible. However, staff at a dedicated facility can often provide medication to ease the symptoms.

As the detox progresses, symptoms can become more pronounced. The number and severity of symptoms that a person experiences will differ for everyone. There are a range of factors that can influence the type of detox that an individual has, including age, how long he or she was addicted, how heavily they drank, their physical health, and whether they had any mental health issues. It is impossible to know before the detox begins who will experience the most severe symptoms.

Alcohol Detox Complications

While most people will only ever experience symptoms that are classed as moderate in intensity, there are others who will be affected by the most severe symptoms. These symptoms are known as delirium tremens, or DTs for short. Having DTs is classed as a medical emergency and it requires hospitalisation, although these symptoms can usually be avoided with the right care and treatment by qualified and experienced staff.

The DTs occur due to sudden changes to the brain and nervous system when the alcohol supply is stopped. During the DTs, the individual will be affected by intense withdrawal symptoms. This may include severe shaking and sweating as well as paranoid delusions, convulsions, and seizures. Some patients will lose touch with reality and may see those who are helping them as being ‘out to get them’. They may become confused and frightened. The DTs can be fatal when extremely severe, so it should always be treated as an emergency.

Detoxing in a Dedicated Facility

There are some individuals who may feel that detoxing at home is a good idea, and while it is certainly possible, it is far safer to detox in a dedicated facility. Here, fully qualified staff can monitor the progress of the affected person throughout the detox.

If it is appropriate, the patient can be prescribed medication that will help to ease the symptoms. This medication is usually a sedative alternative that will be given in decreasing doses for the first five to six days. It will help the patient to be weaned off alcohol without, hopefully, experiencing the most severe symptoms.

Supplements such as folate, thiamine, and magnesium sulphate could also be prescribed to help reduce the risk of the DTs and seizures. In some cases, patients might also be provided with other medications to ease any aches and pains as well as to help them sleep. In a dedicated facility, medical professionals will be present to ensure that the needs of the patient are met and that they are completely comfortable throughout.

If you would like more information on who needs alcohol detox or alcohol detox programmes in general, call us here at Addiction.org.uk. We can ensure that you get all the information you need about alcohol addiction and how to overcome it. Call today.

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