For those people who have an alcohol use disorder (AUD)—i.e., reliant on alcohol to “normally” function—stopping drinking is more demanding than simply saying “no” to the next drink. The withdrawal symptoms that can arise when one attempts to decrease one’s alcohol consumption or quit drinking entirely can quickly become intense, even so severe as to be life-threatening.
And while for some, withdrawal symptoms can be bearable, they can prove much more serious for others, including:
- Extreme anxiety
- Nausea and vomiting
- Acute depression
- Intense fatigue
- Severe headaches
- Unstable changes in blood pressure and heart rate
- Bodily shakes
- Insomnia, prolonged difficulty sleeping
- Delirium tremens (DTs), a life-threatening condition that can make you restless, upset and confused, and cause high fever, hallucinations and seizures
Given the potential for danger during alcohol withdrawal, medically-assisted detox (undergoing the process of detoxing from alcohol while monitored, supervised and cared for by medical professionals) is oftentimes a highly recommended path to safely begin recovery from alcohol dependence.
The fact is, people can have very different needs when it comes to treating the withdrawal symptoms during detox from alcohol. The care one needs depends in part on the effects of withdrawal on the person’s body and mind, including how uncomfortable and dangerous they become.
And though the choice to do medically-assisted detox should not be considered “recovery” or even “treatment,” it can be viewed as the first step for both – that is, it’s the first step to getting better for people who have a chemical dependency on alcohol.
If you’re wondering whether or not you need medically-assisted detox for an alcohol addiction, one helpful question to ask yourself is: “Do I need alcohol for my body to feel normal?”
The truth is, getting through the alcohol detox process isn’t easy and it isn’t just a matter of will power. As mentioned above, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be a huge challenge to get through and actually put one’s life at risk. A medically-assisted detox program provides professional care, expert support and medical supervision and monitoring to help a person safely through their withdrawal symptoms. This can include giving medicine to help ease one’s symptoms, as well as care for any medical or mental health conditions.
When seeking to get and stay sober from an alcohol dependency, a medically-assisted detox program offers a number of important benefits:
- It ensures a greater likelihood of safety. While alcohol withdrawal is not necessarily dangerous for every person, it’s also not possible to predict who will experience severe or life-threatening symptoms. Being in a medically monitored environment under 24/7 supervision can provide the peace of mind of knowing any complications that arise will be managed by medical professionals.
- It can help a person avoid relapse. Even symptoms that aren’t particularly dangerous can be challenging or uncomfortable to deal with alone, any one of which can trigger a relapse back to alcohol in order to get some relief. The professional care and medically-supervised medications available in a certified detox program can smooth out the discomfort, pain and anguish of withdrawing from alcohol.
- It is a valuable entry point into alcohol addiction treatment. Though typically viewed as a vital part of recovery from alcoholism, detoxing itself does not constitute a comprehensive course of treatment and does little to change one’s addiction to alcohol. It only addresses one’s immediate physical alcohol dependence, but not the psychological, emotional and social issues that have contributed to a person’s alcoholism. Still, entering a detox program very often provides the impetus for one to go directly into treatment.
Withdrawing from alcohol dependency can bring on a wide array of physical and psychological symptoms, with varying degrees of intensity, severity and discomfort. Entering a medically-assisted detox program is the surest way to safely and most comfortably get through the detox process.