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Alcohol Detox Risks


If you are ready to stop abusing alcohol, you are probably researching treatment centers and programs and that is a very good thing to do. But, are you giving much thought to alcohol detox, the first step in any complete treatment? Traditionally, people think of “cold turkey” detox, a process in which you simply stop drinking on your own and weather the crippling pain of withdrawal independently. This is the sort of detox that is often shown in the movies and on television shows. And although it may appear to be a common method of detox, it is also incredibly dangerous and comes with many alcohol detox risks.

During alcohol detox, the withdrawal symptoms are severe and they get worse with each detox treatment, meaning that you face more danger during your third alcohol detox that you do during your first. When you think about alcohol detox, you need to plan for some level of qualified care from addiction specialists. There isn’t one type of detox that will work for all people, so don’t be afraid that a professional detox program won’t work in your case. Your needs, your situation, and your addiction will all be taken into account.


Alcohol Detox Risks

Severe anxiety and paranoia may be experienced during alcohol detox.

Before considering the risks of alcohol detox, it is best to know what detox actually is. If you are thinking it’s like a juice cleanse or a fad diet, you are wrong. This is a lot more comprehensive than eliminating gluten or carbs and drinking lemon water.

Detox is the process by which you will go from acute intoxication to a state completely free of drugs and alcohol. It isn’t an easy process, but it is one that you can make it through.

Two common forms of detox are the medical model—where you are guided through the process by medical professionals and medications—and the social model—where you are guided through by a support group of peers and staff.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) identifies 3 components of detox: evaluation, stabilization, and fostering a patient’s entry into treatment.

  • During evaluation, you are tested for the presence of drugs in your system and the amounts are measured. You will also be screened for mental and physical conditions. Prepare to have your medical, psychological, and social circumstances assessed.
  • During stabilization, you transition from drunk to a “medically stable, fully supported, substance-free state.” Both medical and psychological methods will likely be used.
  • After the transition, the program will urge you to enter treatment and teach you its importance in your ultimate recovery.

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During detox, you will experience severe withdrawal symptoms and these symptoms are often so serious that you need a professional on hand to maintain your safety.

Between 6 and 24 hours after your last drink, you will feel the first of your withdrawal symptoms; they may begin while you still have alcohol in your system.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration identifies the following possible withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • Shakiness (usually tremors)
  • Elevated heart rate, and increased blood pressure
  • Powerful dreaming (often nightmares) and insomnia
  • Diminished memory, judgment, and concentration
  • Increased sound and light sensitivity
  • Auditory (sound) or visual (sight) delusions
  • Mistaken beliefs about being victimized and paranoia
  • Grand mal seizures, which can cause loss of consciousness, short-term lack of breathing, and rigid muscles—after this, you experience jerking muscles, a small period of sleep, and some level of confusion when you wake up
  • High body temperature

Intense Danger

One of the most dangerous aspects of detox is delirium tremens, a condition marked by both delirium and shaking. Between 5 and 20 percent of alcoholics in detox are affected and 5 percent of them will actually die because of it.

Other serious risks include:

  • Enlargement of the heart with unproductive pumping
  • Infections
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Generalized impaired brain functioning
  • Decreased blood sugar
  • Gastrointestinal (intestine and stomach) bleeding
  • Liver failure

To minimize these detox risks, you should be part of a structured detox program. To find one that will work for you, call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) and get help today

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