What is alcohol detox?

Alcohol detox is often necessary for those who have become alcohol dependent. It is the first stage of alcohol rehab, and is medically managed by our team of experienced healthcare professionals. Detoxing from alcohol can be a difficult process if unmanaged, so it’s imperative to get the right medical help and support to ensure that the individual can withdraw from alcohol without complications. We typically provide alcohol detox medication (a benzodiazepine called Chlordiazepoxide), which is effective at managing serious withdrawal symptoms such as Delirium Tremens.

Upon arrival at our treatment centre, you will be seen by our medical team. A medical assessment will be carried out prior to alcohol detoxification, to ensure your safety or the safety of your loved ones.

An alcohol detox can take between 7-14 days depending on the severity of alcohol dependence. Throughout the process, medical supervision will be provided until the team are satisfied with your physical and mental well being.

You will then continue to the second phase of alcohol addiction treatment, consisting of therapy and other holistic approaches for treating alcoholism.

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Why an Alcohol Detox is Necessary

Alcohol withdrawals will occur when a person has become physically dependent on alcohol and tries to cut down or quit drinking. Unfortunately, this is often a very tricky situation. Home alochol detox can be dangerous and the medical advice is very clear that people should not stop immediately due to the risk of seizure. Alcohol detox should be carried out only after being assessed by a medical professional, and ideally accompanied with 24-hour support.

When you drink alcohol, it is broken down in the liver, hence why excessive drinking can result in liver damage. The alcohol that does not get metabolised is absorbed by other parts of the body and this is what results in the effects of alcohol. For example, the alcohol that does not get metabolised by the liver may be absorbed by the brain. Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, this will result in anything from feeling relaxed to complete drunkenness.

Like all drugs, long term usage will affect the tolerance of the individual and therefore the body requires more alcohol for the same effect. For example, when a young person starts to drink, they will feel the effect after one or two drinks. After many years of drinking, they would need 3 or 4 drinks for the same feeling.

Although factors such as quantity, length of dependence and general health play a part, alcohol withdrawal side effects will vary in each person. It is for this reason that medical professionals tread carefully in this area and those drinking heavily daily are advised not to stop immediately as this can lead to uncomfortable and very dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

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Psychological alcohol withdrawals

As well as the clear physical dangers of alcohol withdrawals, there may also be a range of psychological alcohol withdrawals that occur during alcohol detox. Depression, insomnia and anxiety are three of the most common psychological effects from alcohol withdrawal.

What is not always clear is what came first. Many people that present for alcohol rehab or alcohol detox state that they initially drank to cope with anxiety. When the alcohol wears off, the anxiety returns. For others, the excessive alcohol consumption is the cause of the anxiety.

There is also a clear relationship between alcohol and depression. Alcohol is a depressant and excessive consumption greatly increases the chances of feeling depressed. The vicious cycle of alcoholism, unfortunately, lulls the drinker into a belief that drinking more helps to overcome the depression, whereas it exacerbates and prolongs the depression.

Insomnia can also be very hard to cope with. Heavy alcohol drinkers tend not to sleep well anyway and report waking up very early or regularly feeling as though they have not slept well. However, when trying to cut down or stop drinking, they find that sleeping becomes even more difficult.

Both physical and psychological withdrawals are managed as part of the detox and rehab programme.

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When do alcohol withdrawals occur during detox?

Here is a guide of a when alcohol withdrawals will occur during alcohol detox:

Depending on the severity of the dependence, withdrawal symptoms can occur within an hour of the last drink, however most commonly the withdrawal symptoms will be at their worst between 24 and 48 hours into an alcohol detox.

Withdrawals can range from mild to severe. However it is important to point out that alcohol withdrawals are very dangerous and can result in seizures.  Another very dangerous symptom are DT’s. Delirium Tremens generally consist of shaking, confusion, hallucinations, agitation and increased blood pressure.  This can be terrifying for the individual and their loved ones.  This is another reason why alcohol detox should only be prescribed by a medical professional to ensure the correct regime is identified.

Below is a timeline of the possible withdrawal symptoms and when they may occur.  This is only a guide:

Withdrawal timeline during alcohol detox:

Up to 12 hours after last drink

  • Shaking
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Cravings
  • Headaches

Up to 24 hours after last drink

  • Confusion
  • Shaking
  • Seizures

Up to 48 hours after last drink

  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Delirium tremens
  • Sweating
  • Shaking

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Alcohol detox and physiological withdrawal symptons

Alcohol detox at Providence Projects

Due to the risks associated with alcohol withdrawals, the recommended option is an experienced alcohol rehab clinic. At The Providence Projects, you will be under the care of our medical team, who will alleviate the withdrawal symptoms. The therapeutic team will guide you through the alcohol detox process.

During your initial assessment with the medical team, you will run through your drinking history, the quantities you are drinking, the length of the problem as well as other general health indicators. Once this initial assessment is complete, you will commence your alcohol detox regime. Throughout this time, you will be given 24-hour support and monitored to ensure that your regime is having the desired effect. The team of doctors are always available to review or amend regimes where required.

Alcohol detox will generally last between 5 and 10 days, depending on how the individual responds. The detox will consist of medication to ease withdrawals, medication to assist with sleep and vitamins where required.

As well as the 24-hour supervision and medical input, you will start the early stages of the alcohol rehab programme. This will enable you to get all the emotional and psychological support required at this stage.

You will have a dedicated 1-1 counsellor who is always available should you need any extra support, advice or just a listening ear. With your 1-1 therapist, you will formulate a plan for your rehab programme to ensure you get the most out of it.

Michael Drake

Michael Drake reviewed Providence Projects - 5
21 November 2019  

I have been a client at the Providence for over 6 months, my experience has been a feeling of emotion of every extreme from sadness to joy but the overriding thought has to be connection, a sense of family, a place of love, unity, friendship, and a real sense of belonging to something so real. Whatever counsellor you have been allocated to, the other counsellors are there for you with genuine advice of any nature and are all very approachable. Their knowledge is without compromise, and all of them have a very caring nature, my praise is sincere and I believe what I have learnt fr... See more

After alcohol detox and withdrawals

There has been significant research into what happens after the initial withdrawal. The symptoms experienced during this stage are often referred to as PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome). The recovering person may not always be aware of these, but loved ones tend to identify them.

This is why the alcohol rehab programme element is so important. It is a great achievement to stop, but the key is developing the ability to stay sober.

Common PAWS symptoms:

  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Irritability
  • Angry
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Low energy
  • Mild depression
  • Anxiety

It is generally agreed that PAWS occur around 4 weeks after the cessation of alcohol and is one of the key factors in why alcohol rehab is key and that detox alone is rarely effective.

If you or a loved one needs help to stop drinking and not sure what to do next, our team of alcohol experts are always here to take your call. Call today on 0800 955 09 45 and we can advise you of the options available.

The following are some links to other useful websites, where you can find more information on alcohol detox and withdrawals:


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