What Happens in Alcohol Detox Centers?
Because the withdrawal syndrome caused by alcohol dependence is so unpredictable as a result of different factors, it is important to take a person showing signs of alcohol withdrawal to a detox center right away. But what happens in an alcohol detox center?
Tests and Diagnosis
One of the first things that will occur in alcohol detox is the individual will go through a series of tests. These may include an assessment of
- The patient’s current level and degree of intoxication.
- The type of withdrawal syndrome the patient is currently undergoing. This can include alcohol withdrawal, delirium tremens (a serious case of withdrawal that can be deadly), or withdrawal from multiple drugs.
- The severity of the patient’s symptoms.
- Whether or not the patient has undergone withdrawal and/or detox in the past.
- “The presence of co-occurring psychiatric, medical, and surgical conditions that might require specialized care.”
Once these assessments are done, the doctors and nurses caring for the patient have a better idea of the individual’s needs as well as which treatment methods they should use.
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Alcohol Detox Withdrawal Management
The symptoms of the withdrawal syndrome will then be managed, often with medication, and the patient will be supervised. Depending on the severity of their condition, the management of it may be done in different ways. According to the NLM, “Treatment may include:”
For those in inpatient detox
- “Sedation using medication called benzodiazepines until withdrawal is complete.” This is in the case of severe symptoms such as hallucinations, delirium, and seizures.
- Monitoring of vital signs.
- The giving of fluids and medication by IV.
For those in outpatient detox
- Sedative drugs will be given but complete sedation is not necessary.
- Blood testing.
- Treatment for any other physical or psychological problems associated with alcohol abuse.
Patients will usually be monitored regardless of their current condition for any signs of a dangerous turn in their symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal can become severe very quickly, and it is important that clinicians are able to catch it if it does.
“Therapy to get [patients] to stop drinking” is often a part of alcohol detox as well. Because those who experience withdrawal from alcohol are dependent on the substance, they must stop drinking or face even worse consequences. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most commonly used behavioral treatments for alcohol dependence, and patients are able to change the way they view their drinking as well as learn ways to cope with their cravings and the triggers associated with their excessive alcohol use.
In addition, family counseling is often a part of detox and allows both the patient and their loved ones to hear each other’s feelings on the subject of alcohol abuse. This can strengthen the patient’s social support system which will make recovery much easier in the long run.
Alcohol detox centers provide patients with the medication, therapy, and guidance they need to get through withdrawal from this substance. It also protects patients from the dangerous consequences that could result from this condition without the proper treatment.