What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
For people who are addicted to alcohol, the need to drink is more than psychological. In fact, the physical symptoms that accompany dependency to alcohol may deter many individuals from seeking help to stop drinking altogether. When an individual who has an alcohol addiction stops drinking, they begin to experience withdrawal. These symptoms can be mildly uncomfortable at first. However, the longer the individual abstains from alcohol, the worse the symptoms become. Withdrawal may sometimes endanger the individual’s health or even their life. For these reasons, people who have become dependent on alcohol should never try to quit “cold turkey.” Enrolling in an alcohol treatment program is the best, safest approach.
Mild Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
People who abuse alcohol for years may develop a physiological dependency to drinking. The same is also true of people who drink heavily for weeks. The nature and extent of alcohol dependency can vary from person to person. Mild symptoms often include headache, vomiting, nausea, shaking hands, insomnia, and sweating. If an individual has had an alcohol addiction for a much longer period of time, they are more likely to experience severe symptoms. In these individuals, withdrawal symptoms increase in severity as more hours of alcohol abstinence pass. Mere hours may seem like an eternity to an individual who experiences withdrawal. However, individuals who are able to endure the initial challenges to getting sober can change their lives and experience the freedom of recovery from alcohol addiction. A medically supported detox program can keep addicts comfortable by administering medication to ease withdrawal symptoms during the detox phase.
Alcohol Detox Timeline
During an unsupervised, unsupported detox process, withdrawal symptoms roughly follow a timeline. After approximately six hours without alcohol, an addict will likely begin to experience mild symptoms of withdrawal. At approximately the 12th hour following the last drink, the individual may begin to experience hallucinations. These hallucinations typically last from hour 12 until approximately one full day following the last drink. For the first 24 to 48 hours of abstaining from alcohol, the individual may believe they see, feel, or hear things that are not present. Approximately 48 to 72 hours after the person consumed their last drink, a small percentage of people may experience even more delusions and hallucinations known as delirium tremens. Undergoing supervised detox at a medical detox center can make the process of allowing alcohol to exit the body much more comfortable.
Alcohol Detox Program
Detox is the first step on the road to recovery. Some treatment programs offer an on-site detox facility while others refer patients to an off-site facility prior to beginning the rehab program. A medical detox program offers around-the-clock supervision with medical, mental, and spiritual support as well as encouragement to people who struggle with alcoholism. During the detox process, clinicians may administer FDA-approved medication to curb alcohol cravings and to eliminate withdrawal symptoms. Clients who choose residential detox also have the benefit of medical personnel remaining close by in the event that they experience a medical emergency during the critical detox phase. The detox experience may vary slightly from patient to patient. For many individuals, peak withdrawal symptoms pass within a few days. For others, it may take weeks to get through the worst of the withdrawal experience. Once a patient completes detox, they may begin the alcohol rehab curriculum. Some detox centers allow patients to visit the center during the day and return home at night until they complete the detox phase.
Outpatient Alcohol Detox Programs
Patients who require medical support but are unable to spend the night at a detox center due to family or work obligations may be able to participate in an outpatient detox program. These programs usually allow the patient to receive detox support and treatment during the day and return home at night. Patients who do not require 24-hour care sometimes choose outpatient detox because it is more cost-effective than detoxing at a residential facility.
From Detox to Treatment
Most treatment centers will either offer an on-site detox center or coordinate with off-site detox resources to plan the transition from detox to their treatment program. There are several different options for patients to choose from when deciding on a treatment program. Residential treatment is typically the best option for people who have a severe addiction or who may otherwise benefit from isolating themselves from outside influences as they learn how to remain clean and sober. People who have family responsibilities or jobs from which they are unable to request time off may choose an outpatient program.
Outpatient treatment allows the client to attend counseling, participate in program activities, and receive any other related services at times that work with their family responsibilities and work schedule. Some patients may enroll in an outpatient program because they reside in safe, healthy home environments that offer the support and stability they need. In these cases, the patients attend an intensive rehab program during the day and return home late at night to sleep in the familiarity of their home environment. Outpatient treatment is best for individuals who reside in healthy, safe, supportive surroundings and who have family members who are committed to supporting them in getting sober.
Types of Treatment Therapies
Treatment centers vary in terms of the therapies they offer. For example, some rehab facilities offer holistic therapies such as massage, meditation, acupuncture, and physical exercise. There are broad similarities that most treatment programs share. The 12-step model is a very popular one used by many organizations. Most rehab programs follow a 12-step curriculum, or they offer their own customized curriculum that is based on the 12-step model. Most programs require clients to participate in one-on-one therapy with a counselor in addition to group therapy with a counselor and other program participants. Some treatment facilities also offer family therapy to support clients’ loved ones as they work toward a life of recovery. Case managers and addiction counselors are typically available at treatment centers to help clients determine the types of therapies that are likely to be most beneficial.
Medications for Alcohol Abuse Treatment
There are several FDA-approved drugs that help people overcome their addiction to alcohol. Doctors have been able to prescribe some of these drugs for decades. Nevertheless, only approximately 10 percent of patients who can benefit from using these types of medications report awareness of their existence. Lack of patient awareness is largely attributed to a lack of focus and training in using these medications at most medical schools.
Medications for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Acamprosate, or Campral, is a medication that specifically eases alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including lingering insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, and a depressive mood. This particular drug works by rebalancing two key chemical pathways in the brain to control the anxiety and fear people who abuse alcohol experience when those pathways become overexcited. In order for the treatment to be effective, the patient must have already stopped drinking and allowed alcohol to leave their system prior to beginning taking the medication.
A doctor may prescribe certain medications that are not exclusively prescribed for labor pains such as antipsychotics, anticoagulants, and beta-blockers.
Alcohol detox and treatment centers sometimes prescribe benzodiazepines to ease alcohol-related withdrawal symptoms. This medication can be used to help treat the anxiety, panic, and seizures that may accompany alcohol withdrawal.
Disulfiram to Make Alcohol Abuse Less Pleasurable
Known commercially as Antabuse, Disulfiram discourages patients from abusing alcohol by making drinking unpleasant. If a patient consumes alcohol after taking Disulfiram, the individual will experience headache, facial flushing, blurred vision, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. Disulfiram begins to take effect as quickly as 10 minutes after ingestion. Effects may last an hour or more. If the addict consumes alcohol while taking Disulfiram, he or she will begin to associate the negative reaction with alcohol and eventually no longer have a desire to drink.
Naltrexone Reduces the Urge to Drink
While scientists are unsure why Naltrexone works, the drug remains a proven effective medication to support treatment for an addiction to alcohol. Naltrexone helps to reduce the patient’s urge to consume alcohol, leading to a general desire to abstain. Even if an individual takes a sip of alcohol after taking the medication, they generally have no desire to continue drinking. Before taking Naltrexone, patients should consult their doctor if they have a liver condition such as hepatitis or another liver ailment.
Great Treatment Facilities for Alcohol Abuse
Green Mountain Treatment Center
Nestled in the scenic New Hampshire countryside in Effingham, Green Mountain is a coed facility that offers residential alcohol and drug addiction treatment and an on-site inpatient detox facility. Clients at Green Mountain enjoy scenic views of the White Mountains and the Lakes Region as their backdrop while they go about the intensive work of self-care and recovery. Fresh mountain air and the scent of fragrant fruit orchards calm the senses as program participants complete their individualized treatment plans. Clinicians and staff combine a diverse selection of clinical psychotherapies, holistic practices, and peer support to help clients discover the origins of their addiction and gain the confidence they need to overcome it.
New Freedom Academy
Located in the rolling countryside of Canterbury, New Hampshire, New Freedom Academy is a coed drug and alcohol treatment center. With a maximum capacity of 20 beds, New Freedom is a perfect option for people who require more personalized attention or those who simply desire a more intimate setting during their recovery. Clients participate in workshops and social excursions in addition to working on their individualized treatment plans. Clinicians provided individual therapy, group sessions, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectic behavior therapy, grief and loss therapy, motivational interviewing, and treatment for co-occurring mental disorders. Patients may also support the traditional therapies they receive by participating in yoga, meditation, and exercising in the facility’s outdoor gym.
New Freedom Academy has a 24/7 medical staff on-site and offers medically supported treatment options for clients who may benefit from receiving prescribed medication. An on-site chef prepares nutritious meals for program participants.
Battling addiction can be difficult, but it’s important to know you’re not alone. If you are looking for more information on how to enroll yourself into an alcohol detox or rehab center, reach out to us and speak with one of our compassionate counselors. Our case manager will consult with you to determine the nature of your addiction. We want to make sure that you find the right center and that you have everything you need to make recovery possible. Call today to learn more about how we can help you achieve an amazing life free of addiction.