What Is Alcohol Detox?
Although they are often confused for the same thing, alcohol detox is a separate process from alcohol rehabilitation. Detox is the process of ridding your mind and body of the toxic effects brought on by long-term alcohol abuse. During alcohol detox, the body of an alcoholic will undergo alcohol withdrawal and end its dependence to alcohol, also called ethanol.
Alcohol rehab, on the other hand, describes the longer undertaking of treating psychological dependence to alcohol, as well as the causes and effects of alcohol addiction.
While detox is a temporary program that lasts only as long as alcohol withdrawal, rehab is the long-term treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder and (hopefully) helps the patient to achieve a healthy, sustainable, and sober lifestyle.
Alcohol Detox In Your Body
People with Alcohol Use Disorder generally drink anywhere from 4 to 10 or more alcoholic drinks each day. This means that their bodies are rarely (if ever) given the chance to cleanse away the toxins that run through their veins. When an alcoholic suddenly becomes sober, the body is thrown into a state of confusion and chaos.
First, the brain is inundated with excitatory chemicals that have no counteracting sedative neurotransmitters to balance them out. This imbalance causes the mental and emotional symptoms associated with withdrawal, like muddled thought processes, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and mood swings.
Meanwhile, without the pain-relieving effect of ethanol to soothe them, the esophagus and stomach begin to ache in response to the corrosive effect of long-term alcohol abuse. The liver and kidneys kick into high gear, working to cleanse toxic ethanol from the blood, organs, and tissues. This process results in a variety of aches and pains, heavy sweating, vomiting, headaches, and heart palpitations.
If it sounds like a harrowing experience, that’s because it is; however, alcohol detox and withdrawal are the most important steps in eradicating physical dependence to alcohol. Once the physical addiction has been defeated, you will be ready for the psychological rehabilitation process.
Don’t Detox From Alcohol At Home
Alcohol detox is so unpleasant and difficult that most who attempt to do it at home cannot resist the temptation to relieve the pain with “just a touch” of alcohol. Of course, this counterproductive methodology almost always ends in failure.
In addition to the ever-present temptation of drinking, there are a range of other reasons that detoxing from alcohol at home may be a bad idea, or even dangerous:
- With no medical doctors on hand to prescribe medications that relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, the symptoms of withdrawal will be most severe.
- Mental confusion, anxiety, and hallucinations could lead to bad decisions or unsafe behavior
- Anyone who has experienced depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts in the past may be more likely to undergo intense suicidal feelings that were not previously present before alcohol detox.
- If alcohol is available or only a short drive away, relapse is much more likely.
- The potential onset of delirium tremens is a real danger. The condition can cause seizures, heart failure, or death. Delirium tremens would likely be detected and treated in the presence of trained medical staff.