What is Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detox is the process by which a person who is dependent on alcohol is safely and medically withdrawn from the substance: the body adjusts to no longer having alcohol in its system, and rids the body of waste products and toxins that are present due to long term alcohol consumption. Alcohol detox is the first step in treatment for alcoholism, as it is only after removing all alcohol from the body and getting sober, that the alcoholic can begin to address the underlying factors which have underpinned and motivated their addiction.
Clinically, a supervised and medically-managed detox is the safest way for anyone who is physically dependent on alcohol to stop drinking. The process lasts between 5 and 10 days, and can be painful and uncomfortable due to the range of withdrawal symptoms that are experienced when a dependent drinker suddenly stops drinking. The collection of symptoms, both physical and psychological, are most commonly known as Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS). They may begin as soon as 2 hours after the person’s last alcoholic drink, and will be felt most strongly during the first 48 hours. The severity of symptoms will vary according to how much the alcoholic has been drinking and for how long.
Alcohol is arguably one of the most dangerous drugs from which to detox, due to the nature of withdrawal symptoms that can occur. Stopping drinking too quickly, or without the right help, can be fatal. That’s why it’s so important to ensure you go about the detox process correctly, and with the right medical advice and support.
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What’s the science behind alcohol withdrawals?
When someone drinks alcohol, it increases levels of dopamine in the brain resulting in a flood of pleasurable feelings for the drinker: elevated mood, lower inhibitions and more self-confidence, to name a few. But physical dependence occurs when the ongoing consumption of alcohol, and repeated altering of dopamine levels in the brain, mean the body and brain have adjusted to the presence of the drug, and come to expect alcohol in order to maintain a stable state of equilibrium in the system.
Remarkably, the brain of the alcoholic seeks to restore itself to a normal state in the presence of alcohol, by adapting to the chemical changes that are produced by the drug. The more the person drinks, the more they build up a tolerance to alcohol, and the more dependent the brain becomes on its interference. Neurotransmitters in the brain will begin to change so as to create a balancing effect, to maintain normal brain function and compensate for the negative effects that alcohol produces. This is why heavy drinkers will respond differently to alcohol than moderate drinkers would – their body has learned to adapt to a new state of ‘normal’, with alcohol present.
Similarly, a sudden drop in levels of alcohol in the brain, such as when a person stops drinking suddenly through alcohol detox, will lead to another kind of balancing effect as the brain tries to adapt and readjust. This reaction manifests itself in a number of unpleasant physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, known as Alcohol Withdrawals. The exact nature of the symptoms a person will experience can range from mild, to severe and life-threatening, and this depends on the nature and severity of their drinking problem.
Physical Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal During Detox
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting and Nausea
- Delirium Tremens (DTs)
- Heart palpitations
- High Blood Pressure
Psychological Effects of Withdrawal During Alcohol Detox
- Panic Attacks
- Hallucinations (Auditory and Visual)
- Suicidal and self-harm urges or ideation
Home Alcohol Detox vs. Private Alcohol Detox
Home Alcohol Detox
Due to the demands of modern life, it simply isn’t possible for everyone who needs and wants to stop drinking to enter a private rehab to undergo medical detox from alcohol. Some aren’t able to choose the alcohol rehab option, due to work obligations, children and family commitments. Others simply can’t afford it due to their financial circumstances. Whatever the reason, if rehab is out of the question, some dependent-drinkers may consider a home detox.
Here at the Providence Projects, the safety of the individual is paramount. We are dedicated to providing people with as much information as possible, explaining the risks and the advantages of every situation, so they are armed with the facts. Especially when you’re dealing with a drug as dangerous as alcohol. There are some important things to be aware of prior to making any decisions between a home alcohol detox and a medical alcohol detox.
A home alcohol detox is carried out in the comfort of your own home and is a way for those with ongoing and unavoidable commitments to detox from alcohol, or for those whose budget won’t stretch to afford private rehab treatment. It may not be the most recommended option if you have other physical health issues, a lack of support at home during and after the detox process, or if you have a history of relapse in addiction. It’s true that obtaining a professional medical detox in your own home is the more affordable option, and that your normal daily life won’t be disrupted in the same way as if you were to enter a private rehab clinic. But the benefits of a home detox tend to stop there.
Private Alcohol Detox
We cannot emphasise enough the importance of safety when stopping drinking. Alcohol withdrawals can be fatal. That’s why undergoing a medically-managed detox in a private rehab centre, with professional support, guidance and supervision is your safest and most recommended option. Detox and treatment within a private rehab clinic poses several advantages. Remember, alcohol detox is only the first step on the path towards lasting and successful recovery from alcoholism. We know first-hand how intense and powerful the withdrawal symptoms can be, and we also know the benefits of having trained professionals around you while you get well.
Firstly, the level of care, structure and support on offer in a rehab centre is difficult to find elsewhere. At the Providence Projects, counsellors are always on hand to help clients with the detox process, as well as thereafter. It is only when the alcoholic has successful detoxed and rid the body of all alcohol and toxins, that they can really start to heal, move forwards, and address the underlying psychological factors to their addiction.
By entering a treatment facility, you are provided with group therapy, individual counselling and workshops about addiction and its effects. This helps you to understand the nature of the disease of alcoholism, but also to explore why you drank in the first place. You see alcohol is merely a symptom of the problem, a band-aid you put on to pacify the trauma, mental health problems, negative feelings and low self-esteem that you couldn’t previously cope with. Alcohol was not your problem, it was your solution: but one that only made things worse. Going to rehab provides you with the therapeutic help to discover this, and equips you with healthy skills and coping mechanisms to manage your feelings in future.
Undergoing alcohol detox in a private rehab centre also provides you with a safe space, away from your old drinking environments, triggers and associations. Another advantage to the option of private rehab is the relationships you will build with your peers whilst in treatment. Addiction is an incredibly isolating and lonely disease: as alcohol becomes the centre of your world and takes up more and more space in your life, there is little room for much else. It has been said that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but connection. Learning how to form friendships, build interpersonal and communication skills, and develop a support network of friends in recovery is crucial, and something that we greatly encourage here at the Providence Projects.
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Alcohol Detox at the Providence Projects: Our Approach
Since opening our doors in 1996, the Providence Projects has consistently provided safe and medically-managed alcohol detox at our private rehab clinic in Bournemouth. We place the safety and comfort of our clients before everything else. Upon arrival, you will visit our GP at the Providence surgery who will assess whether or not you require a medical detox.
If you do, you will detox in a specific alcohol detox house that is supervised 24/7. Our trained professionals are there for you as you go through the detox process, to talk about how you’re feeling, explore thoughts you may have of drinking, and fears around getting sober. We are here to make the process as comfortable as possible.
The detox process can be difficult, as all substances leave your system, with no new drugs or alcohol to take their place. The longstanding damage caused by alcoholism is slowly starting to be repaired, but the body will take time to readjust and to cope without the previous levels of alcohol present. At the end of your detox, when clean and sober, you may physically be feeling much better. However, the brain still needs time to get used to sobriety, and to build new neural pathways to replace the old ones from your addiction. That’s what our therapeutic rehab programme is designed to treat.
It is only when you have detoxed from all substances that you can really begin to unpick the roots of your alcoholism. Through daily timetabled group therapy, individual counselling and workshops on topics such as trauma, relationships, anger, guilt and shame, you will address the underlying issues that motivate your alcoholism, and develop tools and preventative measures to help you in future. You will also develop a relapse prevention plan with your focal counsellor prior to leaving treatment, to ensure you feel safe in your newfound recovery and that you can identify that which is helpful to your sobriety as opposed to what is detrimental. All of our timetabled activities are designed to help individuals develop a more rounded and wholesome understanding of who they are, substance-free, and who they are becoming.
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Find Out More About Alcohol Detox
If you’re reading this and think that you or a loved one may require an alcohol detox, we want to affirm you for trying to get help and find out more. It takes much bravery and honestly to admit, even to yourself, that you may have a problem. Please remember, you or your loved one are capable of getting clean and sober. We know how scary and overwhelming this all is, and how alone you must feel right now. But we have seen thousands of people walk through our doors, broken by the demon that is alcoholism, only to go on to lead extremely happy, fulfilled and successful lives in recovery. It is possible.
Alcohol detox is undeniably a difficult process, but it is so worth it. Recovery is worth fighting for, and we are here to help you in any way we can. You can call us today on 0800 955 09 45 to find out more about our full range of detox and treatment programmes, or fill out this quick and easy contact form and one of our counselling team will be in touch as soon as possible. You can do this.