For those seeking recovery from an alcohol dependency, detoxing from alcohol is typically an extremely challenging experience. Throughout the detox process—which, according to Medical News Today, initially takes about a week—there is a high likelihood of experiencing negative, even dangerous symptoms of withdrawal.
Even milder symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be too uncomfortable to tolerate. Withdrawal from alcohol can also cause psychological symptoms of depression and anxiety. If one begins experiencing these effects, in addition to the physical withdrawals, it may seem easier to continue drinking than it is to stop. This is why many who attempt to go through detox at home often don’t make it through the withdrawal process successfully.
If recovery from alcohol dependency is the desired goal, in order to achieve success in this important endeavor and to avoid serious risks to one’s health and even one’s life, seeking medical help at a treatment center for your alcohol detox is highly recommended.
At addiction treatment centers, medical doctors who are also trained addiction professionals use specific kinds of medications to help a person detox from alcohol. Also, having the presence of both medical support and continual monitoring throughout one’s alcohol detoxification ensures the safest and smoothest possible detox experience.
The medical staff at a treatment center will use the patient’s initial clinical assessment to determine which medication(s) may be necessary to make the physical and mental withdrawal symptoms during one’s detox easier to tolerate. Depending on one’s withdrawal symptoms, some medications will be more appropriate to utilize than others.
For example, if a patient’s withdrawal symptoms are causing heart problems, a beta-blocker (e.g., atenolol) may be prescribed. If seizure-related symptoms arise, the medical staff may prescribe an anticonvulsant medication. Benzodiazepines are commonly used by addictions specialists to help ease the withdrawal process, especially when significant anxiety emerges.
To avoid adverse consequences of a patient’s withdrawal symptoms during alcohol detox, the following are medications typically used in treatment centers:
- diazepam (Valium)
- lorazepam (Ativan)
Given the extent to which a person’s detox can cause severe physical and mental effects, it’s vital to go through alcohol withdrawal in a medically supervised environment. This is not simply to ensure the greatest amount of safety and comfort, but also to establish the conditions such that the patient doesn’t return to drinking alcohol to ease his or her withdrawal symptoms, and thereby be forced to undergo withdrawal multiple times.
Further, having continuous medical support—which is offered in a treatment facility—provides that a medical professional will monitor a person throughout their entire detox period, checking up on them every few hours to administer whatever medical treatments are necessary (if any), check IV fluids and blood pressure, etc.
Since detoxing alone has been shown to be insufficient for establishing long-term sobriety, in order to maintain such after detoxing from alcohol, most treatment centers provide supportive processes that include therapy, counseling, recovery network-building and other evidence-based modes of treatment.
To summarize the benefits of completing a detox program at a treatment center and moving forward with your recovery in a certified rehab facility:
- a safer environment
- peer support
- medical support
- lower risk of negative physical and mental symptoms
- prevention of relapse
- aftercare (support following treatment)
Detoxing from alcohol at home is not wise, nor recommended. Even if your alcohol withdrawal symptoms don’t initially include the more severe symptoms, they very possibly could arise unexpectedly. Medical supervision of one’s alcohol detox—and going into treatment following detox—can safely assist with the detox process, lessen the pain of withdrawal symptoms, and significantly increase the chances of a successful recovery.