The title of this article is not a teetotaler’s threat. It’s a recounting of the infamous words countless doctors have told people who try to quit drinking on their own. Of course, the reasoning and science behind this declaration could easily slide right by a man or woman struggling with an alcohol dependency problem, making it challenging to make sense of what to do.
Nonetheless, if your doctor, after hearing “where you’re at” and conducting a basic evaluation, says you need to refer yourself to alcohol detox via a local treatment center, it just may be time to stop “thinking about it” and take action.
“Why?” you may be asking.
First of all, doctors say alcohol is often the most dangerous substance for the body to withdraw from – and still more so, when attempted without medical supervision.
The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics most recent study found roughly 15 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder, defined by the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s (NIAAA) as “compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.”
Unfortunately, according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), only about 7% of those people received any treatment that year.
To add a bit more perspective about the problem of alcohol use disorders, alcohol contributes to more than 18% of emergency room visits nationwide, 22% of overdose deaths related to prescription opioids, and 95,000 deaths annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
But back to the topic of alcohol withdrawal-related death. Is it rare for “stopping drinking” (particularly on your own) to be literally deadly?
Not at all. Per the latest CDC study, nearly a thousand deaths annually “could be characterized as related to alcohol withdrawal.”
It would seem wise, then, to adopt an unbiased, honest and open-minded attitude about some of the findings the preceding research has brought forward about alcohol use disorders and detoxing from alcohol dependency.
But it will also likely help to keep that same level of honesty and open-mindedness when responding to a few important (perhaps even life-saving) questions, bullet-pointed below. These questions may help you identify “where you’re at” regarding the need for going into either an inpatient or outpatient detox program at a local treatment center.
- Do you have a severe addiction or dependence syndrome?
- Are you addicted to or a user of alcohol as well as other drugs?
- Are you worried about relapsing, especially during withdrawal?
- Have you relapsed during or after withdrawal in the past?
- Is this your first time going through detox?
- Is it likely you might experience any severe—such as extremely painful or even life threatening—withdrawal symptoms?
- Are you suffering from any comorbid mental disorders?
- Are any of the common withdrawal symptoms you experience associated with alcohol or other drugs psychological in nature?
- Do you lack a strong support system of friends and family members who can help you through withdrawal?
- Do you believe you will be relying mostly on yourself to stay sober if you are not in treatment 24 hours a day?
- Is your home life dangerous in any way or not conducive to recovery?
- Are you afraid someone at home might hurt you or tempt you back to alcohol or other substance abuse?
- Have you tried to detox on your own or in outpatient care before and been unsuccessful?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is a strong indicator you would do best by entering an inpatient detox program in order to most safely and smoothly navigate any withdrawal symptoms that may arise. It’s vital to understand that alcohol withdrawal can often be painful, causing severe anxiety, physical pain, nausea, sleeplessness, and in some cases, can be extremely dangerous. This is why inpatient detox is so often recommended as a safe option for medically assisted detox from alcohol dependency.
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 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH-2019-DS0001)