Alcohol Detox & When to Get Help

Alcohol Detox & When to Get Help

Many people who struggle with alcohol addiction may at some point end up thinking about detoxing at home. Whether it was a conscious choice to quit cold turkey or the result of abstaining from alcohol long enough for the effects of detox to occur, there are a number of inherent risks associated with alcohol detox, even some that are deadly. Due to the medical risks associated with alcohol detox, it is not recommended that individuals attempt to detox at home. Before you attempt to detox from alcohol at home, read these tips to learn more about the process of alcohol detox and when to get help.


When your body is used to consuming alcohol on a regular basis, your body starts to develop not only a mental addiction to alcohol, but a physical addiction as well. When alcohol cessation occurs, your body will begin to go through withdrawal. As alcohol withdrawal sets in, you may develop a headache, excessive sweating, a rapid heartbeat, shakiness, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. Mentally, you may feel anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritability, jumpiness, mood swings, nightmares, and an inability to think clearly. Although the symptoms appear within the first 8- 24 hours and peak within 72 hours, it may progress more rapidly and may continue beyond 72 hours, depending on the severity of your alcohol addiction. These are typical withdrawal symptoms; however, for many, the symptoms are more intense and can be severe.


For many individuals, alcohol withdrawal can become medically complicated and present significant medical risks. Half of all individuals who have an alcohol use disorder will develop alcohol withdrawal, and 3-5% will experience moderate to severe withdrawal, which necessitates medical attention. Moderate withdrawal consisting of agitation, high blood pressure, high pulse, risk for dehydration, tremors, and other physiological symptoms, typically require medical supervision and management. Untreated moderate withdrawal can quickly lead to more severe withdrawal, to include seizures. Often, seizures associated with withdrawal can lead to significant injuries associated with the seizure-related fall, in addition to breathing distress and/or lack of oxygen, among other serious medical issues. Although severe withdrawal mostly affects heavy drinkers, which is defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as 15 drinks per week for men or 8 drinks per week for women, this can differ from person to person depending on the individual’s physical condition, pre-existing medical diseases, and other factors. If you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms as a result of your alcohol detox, you’ll need to consider getting medical help quickly.

Severe withdrawal can also include a life-threatening condition called Delirium Tremens (or “DT’s”), which can include seizures, agitation, grand mal convulsions, severe confusion (a delirium), fever, hallucinations, etc. This condition requires emergency medical attention, including calling 911. Of those who experience severe withdrawal, 1-4% will die— however, a New England Journal of Medicine study reports that this number could be greatly reduced if an “adequate and timely diagnosis was made” in conjunction with adequate treatment.

Medical oversight for alcohol detox doesn’t have to take place in a hospital — some treatment facilities, like Crossroads, offer a safe place to detox under the expert supervision of medical professionals. If you are concerned that you may experience withdrawal from alcohol, contact us for help before you begin the detox process to ensure that you can detox safely. For those who may experience severe withdrawal or the most serious form of withdrawal, Delirium Tremens (DTs), it is strongly advised to call 911 and seek Emergency Medical Services promptly.


Alcohol detox is a process that is best managed through supervised medical attention, and is only the first step in what is typically a lifelong recovery process. It marks the point at which you stop drinking alcohol and what happens immediately thereafter. You’ll want to look into therapy and support meetings to help you work through the psychological and physical implications of alcohol cessation. Therapy can also help you understand why your addiction began and you can gain coping skills to promote a healthy lifestyle and to maintain your recovery. There is hope: you can overcome alcohol addiction and experience life-changing recovery, but make sure that you get healthy safely.

Oct 21, 2016 | Blog

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