Alcohol is a commonly abused drug. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 27 percent of people ages 18 and over engage in binge drinking in a single month, while roughly 14 million adults have alcohol use disorder (AUD). Because alcohol is socially acceptable and even encouraged at times, it’s no surprise why this is a frequently abused drug. However, it is possible to grow physically dependent on alcohol, which can eventually lead to an addiction.
If you’ve come to the point where you know you need to cut down on drinking, you may be wondering how you can stop and if it’s safe to detox at home. What you may find surprising is that alcohol withdrawal can be potentially fatal due to the hallucinations and seizures that can occur. This is why it’s recommended to detox in a safe and supportive facility.
Let’s learn more about the alcohol withdrawal process, what to expect through the various stages, and why detoxing in a medically supervised setting is the best option for your health.
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
Detoxing from alcohol is not an easy process. But it is possible. People do it every day and are able to maintain their sobriety. Here is the timeline to expect from the alcohol withdrawal process.
- 6 hours. Once the body processes the alcohol, you’ll start to feel withdrawal effects. This usually happens around 6 hours from your last drink and includes symptoms like nausea, headaches, tremors, and anxiety.
- 12 to 24 hours. By now, the “alcohol shakes” usually start. It’s also possible to have hallucinations. As long as you’re in a safe environment, these hallucinations are usually not a cause for concern.
- 24 to 48 hours. Withdrawal symptoms continue for the next couple of days. The most common symptoms include tremors, stomach upset, and headaches.
- 48 to 72 hours. At this point, you may experience delirium tremens (DTs), particularly if you had a serious addiction to alcohol. DTs are serious because they can lead to increased heart rate, seizures, or a high body temperature. This is what makes alcohol withdrawal potentially fatal.
- 72 hours. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are usually at their worst around this time. People often want to start drinking to relieve the symptoms, which is why a safe, supportive setting is critical. A rapid heart rate and illusions are also common.
Longer Lasting Withdrawal Effects are Possible
Once the detox process is complete, you’re not out of the woods yet. It's possible for some symptoms to linger, though the worst is over. PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) refers to a group of symptoms that some people experience after acute withdrawal. These symptoms are generally mood-related and can last for months or years.
Here are some common PAWS symptoms:
- Alcohol cravings
- Trouble thinking
- Poor concentration
- Mood swings
- Inability to feel pleasure
Is it Safe to Detox from Alcohol at Home?
We always recommend choosing a medically supervised facility to detox in, regardless of the drug you're addicted to. This is only because we have your best interests at heart, and we know that these environments can make you more comfortable and successful in your recovery.
But, there is a special consideration for alcohol detox. This is one drug that you should not detox from at home. Because there is a risk for seizures, hallucinations, illusions, and delirium tremens, being at home alone raises your risk for serious complications. Aside from that, these symptoms usually come on very rapidly, usually within the first 48 hours. This means that you can go from 0-100 in a matter of days, which most people are not prepared for.
Some of the dangers of detoxing from alcohol at home are:
- Head injuries from seizures or delusions
- Dehydration from vomiting or diarrhea
- High blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke
- Return to alcohol to combat withdrawal symptoms
How a Detox Center Can Assist with Alcohol Detox
Awakenings Treatment Center is proud to be opening a brand new detox facility in 2021. Our licensed residential detoxification program will offer around-the-clock care from a highly qualified medical team in a safe, comfortable, and supportive environment for those detoxing from drugs and alcohol. Most insurance plans will be accepted.
Here are some benefits to detoxing from alcohol in a detox center
- Safe, effective detox process. You don’t have to detox from alcohol alone. In a facility like Awakenings Detox, you receive 24/7 support and are surrounded by people who know what you are going through. We’ll make sure that you have everything you need to be successful in your recovery.
- Managed symptoms. The reason why so many people are unsuccessful with at-home detox is that they have no way to treat their uncomfortable symptoms. Awakenings Detox has a number of medications we use to ensure your symptoms are well-managed.
- Medical care for serious symptoms. If you do begin to experience serious medical complications like high blood pressure or seizures, a licensed detox facility will have the appropriate staff and medications available.
- Improved outcomes. Because your symptoms are better tolerated, and you have around-the-clock medical supervision, your outcome is greatly improved. In fact, you can go straight from detox to an outpatient treatment program for continued structure and support.
- Supportive environment. Rather than detoxing at home with distractions, you can go through the withdrawal process in a safe, sober setting.
Medically supervised alcohol detox is more affordable than you think. Many insurance plans will cover some or all of these services if they are deemed medically necessary.