Not many people need to be convinced about the negative effects of alcohol addiction. Its physical and behavioral damage can threaten an alcoholic’s job, family, and life. Quitting drinking isn’t as easy as putting down the bottle, though. Even if an alcoholic works up the willpower to stop drinking cold turkey, alcohol withdrawal symptoms may make it too dangerous to attempt without physician-managed treatment.
Alcohol withdrawals vary in severity depending on how strong the person’s dependence on alcohol is. Mild withdrawal symptoms are little more than uncomfortable nuisances: mild shaking, nausea, headache and the like. Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to only have these symptoms. Some people suffer these mild symptoms after only a few hours without alcohol. If a severe alcoholic goes longer without drinking, withdrawal may begin to get nightmarish.
In as little as six hours without alcohol, some alcoholics may develop hallucinations. These are usually visual, but can also manifest as sounds, smells, or feelings like bugs crawling over skin. These hallucinations, especially when coupled with the discomfort of the milder withdrawal symptoms, can make for an extremely stressful, unpleasant experience for the detoxifying alcoholic.
The most notorious and life-threatening symptom of alcohol withdrawal is the dreaded delirium tremens, also known as DTs. This state involves severe involuntary convulsions, fever, extreme confusion and disorientation, and terrifying hallucinations that completely override the victim’s awareness of reality. There is no known method to stop delirium tremens once it starts, aside from waiting for it to take its course as the body violently adapts to the absence of alcohol. It’s not uncommon for people suffering from DTs to experience dangerous, often fatal medical emergencies like grand mal seizures, heart attacks, and stroke. Although not all alcoholics will experience delirium tremens, the enormous risk it carries if experienced is too significant to ignore. Professional treatment is the best option for an alcoholic’s safest possible detox.
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Luckily, there are way that professionals can alleviate or possibly even eliminate alcohol’s withdrawal symptoms, leading to a much safer detoxification experience. The primary treatment method is to prescribe the detoxing alcoholic a regimen of benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” powerful tranquilizers that slow the nervous system and mitigate the worst aspects of alcohol withdrawals. A specially-designed dosage schedule can help alcoholics get through the worst parts of detox, then tapering off the amount of benzos taken before weaning the alcoholic off them completely. The process generally takes 3-5 days but can go longer.
Of course, there are hundreds of people seeking treatment for benzodiazepine addiction, too, so this treatment is not without its own risks. It’s important that the alcoholic and his/her doctor are aware of what dosage of benzos should be taken, and when, to make sure that the alcoholic doesn’t simply trade their addiction to alcohol for an addiction to benzodiazepines. Considering that benzos also have a dangerous withdrawal process, a safe dosage schedule that doesn’t engender addiction is essential for any real progress to be made.
After a successful detox, addiction treatment is needed to get into recovery. Without behavioral treatment, the alcoholic/addict may likely relapse soon after detoxification since their habits and thinking haven’t changed. A stay in a residential treatment facility like The Ridge along with continued commitment to aftercare programs is the best way to stay sober and healthy for life.