When is alcohol withdrawals detox medically safe
Determining whether a person is appropriate or will have problems if they abruptly stop their alcohol intake is a very common questioned asked. Usually by families that are faced with a loved one that has been binging on alcohol for a couple of weeks or slightly more and reached a point where their loved ones feel that they need to stop drinking and “dry-out”. When is it safe for alcohol withdrawals detox to be done without medical supervision?
Certainly the behaviors associated with alcohol abuse can easily drive a family to high necessity level to intervene and most drinkers do not want to be institutionalized, so they will attempt to withdrawal at home. We even have a website page dedicated to helping families detox someone at home. http://rehab-drug.net/detoxathome.html Most family member naturally feel pretty helpless and want our advice on what to do and expect during this process.
If you or a loved one is considering alcohol withdrawals detox from sustained, continual drinking, there are certain considerations that need to be addressed before a person can safely abstain from alcohol (a process know, in slang, as going cold turkey). When someone experiences withdrawal symptoms from alcohol consumption and abuse, it is necessary that one gets an accurate history of how much alcohol intake they have had over what period of time. Your loved one may not give you an accurate history of his drinking. He may not remember or he may not be willing to tell the truth. You shouldn’t take any changes. You should always seek medical advice before you assume that you don’t need medical alcohol withdrawals detox.
One indicator is to look for whether the person is awakening in the night with the “shakes” from alcohol withdrawal symptoms and requires an ounce or more of “hard liquor”, such as vodka, to feel relaxed enough to return to sleep. If this is the case, you can assume that the person is physiologically addicted and total abstinence could be life-threatening, which means that you need professional help to withdraw safely from that level of abuse and addiction.
In alcohol rehab field, there are two levels of detox. For those conditions that don’t require medical support, being the least restrictive level of withdrawals, is called“Social Model Detox”. This consist of helping the person withdraw from alcohol without the use of any more alcohol or other chemical/medicines to ease the physiological response to cessation of alcohol intake. This type of detox usually consist of some level of observation where a trained person will be monitoring vital signs, like blood pressure and pulse rate and the administration of vitamins and minerals to replace the “poisoning” that alcohol as done to ones nutritional needs. The monitoring of vitals signs is necessary since alcohol withdrawals will be stable and safe during the first twenty-four hours or so, but may become more severe with time and require medical attention.
Even if you are detoxing at home, you should definitely read as much as you can about the physiological symptoms of alcohol detox so that you can circumvent any life-threatening problems that can arise and need medical support. It is understandable the many people want to detox at home, but it is a much higher risk situation than being in a formal detox setting and it is recommended that you only withdraw at home if there is absolutely no other alternative.
Alcohol withdrawals can be dangerous and it is impossible to identify the danger-signs if you don’t have experience with this process. Withdrawing from opiates and many other drugs are not life-threatening and detoxing at home is safe and may be even more comfortable, but alcohol withdrawal detox can be dangerous and even though this is repeated over and over, there is good reason for this emphasis.
The other form of alcohol detox for more severe cases is called “medical detox”, which consist of having Registered Nurses and Physicians available to prescribe medications that will keep the patient comfortable while they are in a high-risk posture for seizures or other responses that can be medically dangerous.
Long-term use of alcohol creates physical tolerance and at the later stages of alcohol addiction, reverse-tolerance is sometimes seen. This means that as a person drinks heavily, they will require more alcohol intake to get the same and desired effects, but with reverse-tolerance, a person becomes very inebriated with as little as one beer or an once of liquor. If a person is experiencing reverse-tolerance, then they will definitely need medical detox and one should not consider any other level of care.
The withdrawal symptoms of all of drugs, including alcohol, comes from the conditioning and changes that the body has made to tolerate the “poisons” of these drugs. There is also an accumulation of metabolic byproducts from the metabolism of alcohol that causes much of the sickness of withdrawals.
When alcohol is first ingested, the body recognizes it as a foreign substance and not a natural food source, so metabolic changes occur to handle this “poison” as well as neuro-adaptation, which is responsible for the changes in tolerance. Many people that die from alcohol-poisoning do not realize that they have taken a lethal dose of the drug and it will sneak-up on them. This is why many novice drinkers at fraternity parties where they are trying different methods to get alcohol into their systems by bypassing the gag-reflex of the throat, will find that they have crossed that limit without the body giving them the signs that they are in danger. When this happens, a person can very quickly go into seizures, a comma and death where even emergency medical support cannot stop the process.
For those persons that can detox at home or with a social model detox, alcohol withdrawals can be as benign as having sleep disturbances and a headache, much like a severe hangover. At this level, the body has adjusted to the drinking and when it is ceased, the metabolic changes take time to readjust to a more normal scene. These physical changes are uncomfortable but are not life-threatening.
As a person continually stresses his body by regular and frequent drinking at an excessive level, these metabolic systems change over time in response to this continual stress. These change prepare the body for the repeated presences of alcohol, but when it is abruptly stopped, the body cannot resume normal metabolism without going through a period where the central nervous system and other metabolic systems in the body are readjusting back to their normal state. There will also be metal confusion and a lack of mental acuity. This period of readjustment is the basis of the pain and stress that one feels from alcohol withdrawals.
When the body has to adjust to heavy drinking over a long period of time, the mental confusion can be so severe that a person will experience hallucination or psychotic thoughts, which also speaks to why medical support is necessary in these cases.
After severe alcohol intake or extended use of alcohol on a daily basis conditions the body to be expecting alcohol intake and to abruptly stop is a shock to one’s system. However, in the thirty-five plus years that we have been helping people detox from alcohol and other drugs, I have yet to see anyone that has been successful in tapering down on a gradient on their use so that the body and mind can adjust to this change in intake. Therefore, it is important to have someone help you through the process and seek professional support to ensure that you are not taking unnecessary risk in doing what you know is the right action; to quit abusing alcohol. You can call our help-line anytime and you will get a licensed alcohol and drug counselor to help you find the best professionals to assist you.