Over 15 million adults in the United States suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder. The costs of excessive alcohol use are dire. The CDC found “approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010”, with the lives of those who died “shortened by an average of 30 years.” With alcohol abuse linked to such deadly consequences, it is vital that those suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder take the necessary steps to end their dependence on this substance and get the treatment they need. Alcohol detox and withdrawal should be done safely.

How to Detox from Alcohol

Depending on the severity of one’s dependence on alcohol, an individual may choose to taper off alcohol slowly or to quit “cold-turkey”. While the cold-turkey approach may work for some milder cases, it can cause extreme and dangerous withdrawal symptoms in those with more severe alcohol issues. Whether one has a moderate or severe case of AUD, individuals discontinuing use will typically experience a number of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. These are collectively known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Alcohol Detox Symptoms & Timeline

The timeline of alcohol withdrawal syndrome depends on how badly one abuses alcohol, and how dramatic their reduction in the use of alcohol is. Symptoms often begin at around 8 hours after the last drink, peak at 2-3 days, and resolve after about 5 days.

Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • rapid heartbeat
  • shaking
  • hand tremors
  • anxiety
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • mood swings
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • nightmares

The severity and occurrence of these symptoms may depend on the amount of alcohol one typically uses; more alcohol abuse naturally leads to worse withdrawal symptoms.

Delirium Tremens: Severe Cases of Alcohol Withdrawal

While far less common than the symptoms above, severe complications of alcohol withdrawal can occur. These typically include alcohol withdrawal delirium – also known as delirium tremens or “the DT’s” – which occurs in approximately 3 to 5% of cases.

Typically, delirium tremens presents over 48 hours past the last drink and is characterized by:

  • severe disorientation
  • hallucinations
  • seizures
  • heightened temperature
  • elevated blood pressure
  • prolonged vomiting

DT can be life-threatening and needs to be treated by medical professionals.

The Importance of a Safe Alcohol Detox Setting

No form of withdrawal is easy and any case can present dangerous symptoms. Therefore, withdrawal under the supervision of a professional is recommended. In severe cases, undergoing a medically-supervised drug detoxification at an inpatient treatment center may be the best option. These settings ensure the patient’s safety and comfort, and prevent them from relapsing due to the strong cravings associated with alcohol withdrawal. They also allow for treatment of any co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions that decrease the individual’s quality of life which often contribute to alcohol abuse.

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment at Granite Recovery Centers

As with many other substance addictions, detoxing from alcohol is only the first step to recovery. Transitioning from a detox setting to a treatment program is highly advisable in order to give individuals the tools they need to maintain sobriety. These can include 12-step work, therapy, a support community, and lifestyle changes that help the individual create a healthier, more purposeful life.

Granite Recovery Centers, with a medical drug detoxification facility in Effingham, New Hampshire offers a full continuum of addiction treatment care. We will help you or your loved one achieve and maintain sobriety on their path to a better life free of substance use.