What is the First Step in Treating Alcohol Addiction?

Treating an alcohol addiction involves a long process. The only way to start is with that very first step. For most people, the first step is an alcohol detox. Get to know the reasons for a detox, what it will involve, how long it will take and why it is so critical on the path to sobriety.

What is a Detox?

A detox from alcohol is when you stop consuming alcohol altogether. Typically, people begin detox once they have acknowledged an addiction to alcohol and they are ready to overcome it.

During a detox from alcohol, patients can break their physical dependence on alcohol. Although there may also be emotional or psychological ties, breaking the physical addiction is a critical first step.

Once a detox is complete, patients will no longer be under the influence of alcohol. Once that dependency is gone, individuals can make rational decisions. Logic can rule again, and patients can start to see addiction as the disease that it really is.

During a detox from alcohol, patients will go through withdrawal. During this time, it is normal to experience a range of unpleasant or even severe symptoms. While these are not always comfortable, withdrawal is a necessary part of gaining freedom from alcohol and from the addiction to it.

Who Needs to Detox From Alcohol?

Not everyone who drinks alcohol necessarily needs to complete a detox. There are millions of people who consume alcohol responsibly and have no issues with abuse or addiction. However, there are also many people who benefit from detox.

If you have tried to quit drinking but struggled, or you can’t seem to cut back, then a detox may be necessary. A person struggling with an alcohol addiction may also have the inability to stick to any alcohol limits. Increased tolerance may mean drinking ever larger amounts of alcohol for the same effect as before.

Most importantly, think about whether alcohol is negatively impacting your life. If you continue to drink despite health problems, ruined relationships or legal concerns, then an addiction is likely. Anyone with an addiction to alcohol should complete a detox in order to begin the process of recovery.

Why is Self-Detox Dangerous?

Technically, a person can detox on their own as long as they stop consuming alcohol. However, attempting to do this without professional medical support can be risky. Certain withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and regular monitoring and medical attention can make the process more safe and comfortable.

It is common to experience symptoms like dehydration during detox from alcohol. Without proper care, dehydration can impact major systems of the body and even lead to organ failure. In detox, something as simple as an electrolyte beverage or an IV can make all the difference.

Withdrawal from alcohol can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. For some patients, that can lead to serious issues like a stroke or a heart attack. With medical supervision, cardiac symptoms can be monitored. If emergency care is needed, it will be available right away.

To top it all off, you’re more likely to complete withdrawal if you enroll in a professional detox. Without accountability and medical support, patients are more likely to give into cravings and temptations at the peak of withdrawal. If you’re serious about ending alcohol addiction for good, getting professional support is crucial.

How Long Will a Detox From Alcohol Take?

Many people postpone detox because they don’t know how long it will take. Every day that detox is postponed, the risk of overdose or serious health conditions increases. Fortunately, detox itself is a rather quick process. In most cases, a detox from alcohol will take less than one week.

The timeline for a detox from alcohol begins as soon as the patient takes the last sip of alcohol. Roughly 10 hours later, most patients will begin experiencing mild symptoms of withdrawal. Those symptoms intensify and then peak approximately three days, or 72 hours, into the detox.

After that peak, symptoms gradually get better. By day seven, most patients are free from the psychological and physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

There are a few factors that can lengthen or shorten the duration of a detox. Patients with health issues, a long history of addiction or who drink excessive amounts may have a slightly longer detox timeline. On the other hand, some people can experience a detox of just three to five days.

What Withdrawal Symptoms Should I Expect?

Many prospective patients are concerned about the symptoms of an alcohol withdrawal. The good news is that these symptoms don’t last forever. Furthermore, medical professionals can mitigate a lot of these symptoms in a detox program.

Many of the symptoms patients experience in alcohol withdrawal are physical. Some of the most common can include nausea, vomiting, sweating, a fever, and muscle aches. In rare cases, hallucinations, tremors or seizures are also possible.

There are also some psychological and emotional symptoms that can appear during alcohol withdrawal. Anxiety and depression are common. Irritability and mood swings are also possible, as is insomnia. Counseling and dual diagnosis treatment can help address some of these issues, but some will pass once detox is complete.

What is the Next Step After Detox?

Detox is a vital part of the recovery puzzle. Once withdrawal is complete, however, patients aren’t necessarily ready to head straight back to everyday life. Rehab, addiction counseling and treatment or transitional living can all help prevent relapse and reinforce sobriety.

Many patients will find that outpatient or residential rehab is the next logical step. Treatment methods like group counseling or individual behavioral therapy can address the root causes of addiction and teach coping mechanisms. Other patients might decide to move on to transitional or sober living facilities. These options offer accountability and support as well as the flexibility of an independent lifestyle.

To treat an alcohol addiction, the first step has to be detox. This pivotal step is the best way to begin the journey of recovery and it sets up the foundation for a lifetime of sobriety.