The procedure of alcohol detoxification is usually done at a rehab center, where around-the-clock treatment and counseling is given to the inpatients. However, it is possible to have an outpatient alcohol detox at home as well, where the patient is allowed the privacy and space to recuperate.
Detoxification is the initial phase of any comprehensive and holistic alcohol treatment program. Alcohol detoxification is the attempt to reduce alcohol dependence under medical supervision, wherein the patient’s withdrawal symptoms are monitored and controlled. The objective of detoxification is to reduce the urge of consuming alcohol and gradually weaning from it. Even though this procedure is effective for some, it may not work for everybody. Prior medical permission is mandatory for being eligible for detox. One should never attempt to detox on their own, as the consequences can be life-threatening, often resulting in permanent damage or even death.
Detoxification must not be confused with total recovery. The two are extremely different from one another. Once the stage of detoxification is finalized, the patient is required to undergo counseling sessions and meet the requirements of aftercare. The guidelines of aftercare are framed by medical practitioners and in accordance with the rehabilitation program, so as to ensure that the patient remains sober and does not relapse.
Although, detoxification is performed at alcohol rehabilitation centers as well, many do not prefer this option for several reasons. Firstly, the facilities offered are extremely expensive and unsuitable for people who are financially constrained. Secondly, many individuals prefer being treated within the confines and safety of their homes, thereby keeping personal matters as private as possible. On the other hand, outpatient alcohol detox at home helps in minimizing expenses to a large extent. It also allows the individual’s family to participate and help during the detoxification process.
Outpatient Alcohol Detox
After having decided to quit drinking, a complete health assessment must be carried out by a medical practitioner, in order to know whether the patient is suitable for outpatient service or not. The permission of a medical practitioner is imperative for any detoxification program to be credible and for it to be successful. The doctor would also conduct several tests to determine the level of alcohol in the system through a baseline blood test, along with monitoring motor functions. In case the patient’s medical results are unfavorable and show underlying health conditions, the outpatient service will not be allowed and immediate medical intervention may be required.
Once the patient is given the permission to go ahead with the alcohol detox at home, a suitable date will be fixed for initiating the procedure. It is also recommended that a family member or close friend is requested to stay and support the patient during this arduous period. The patient and the family members must be made aware of what to expect, the various complications that may arise, what to do in case of an emergency, and the things to avoid during the detoxification process. The whole process of detoxification may take at least 7-14 days, during which time the patient will be assisted and supervised everyday. The patient will either need to visit the clinic daily, or will be monitored at home by a visiting nurse who will carry out the daily tests and record the progress. A breath analysis test is also done regularly in order to ensure that no alcohol has been consumed during the period of detox.
People usually begin to experience withdrawal symptoms 24-48 hours after having their last drink. Such withdrawal symptoms may include experiencing tremors, fever, fatigue, excessive sweating, panic attacks, and sensitivity to light and sound. The patient may also experience loss of appetite and difficulty in sleeping. Medications will be prescribed in order to reduce the withdrawal symptoms and replenish vitamins and minerals that have depleted from the system. These medicines also act as sedatives which shall help the patient relax and sleep. Initially, high doses of medicine shall be prescribed so as to prevent the body from entering into a state of shock, and simultaneously cleaning the system. The medicines will also help delay and minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms. These high dosage shall continue during the initial few days and will be gradually reduced after the first week, once the doctor is assured that patient’s condition and alcohol levels in the body have reduced to permissible limits.
Once the procedure begins, it is also imperative to follow the instructions given by the doctor. It is extremely crucial for the patient to remain hydrated by consuming water and fresh juices every two hours or so. During this treatment, the patient must not be allowed to drive or wander unaccompanied. Everyday substances that contain alcohol, such as mouthwash, cologne, and perfumes must not be used or made accessible, as these might induce the urge to drink or worsen the symptoms.
Once the detox is done, the next step is to enroll into an appropriate alcohol rehab, where they will help the patient overcome the incessant urge to drink. While the body has been safely detached from alcohol during detox, the mind needs to be dealt with utmost caution and care. During rehabilitation, a more holistic approach is taken to rejuvenate the mind and body. Support groups, help in discussing underlying emotional issues that led to drinking and how to avoid alcohol in the future. Counseling sessions help in dealing with past traumas and insecurities, that may have plagued the patient and led to the addiction.
It is ill-advised and never recommended for habitual drinkers to suddenly stop consuming alcohol. Sudden cessation of alcohol in the system can put the body in a state of shock, which can lead to the malfunction of organs and nervous system. Another way to eventually give up drinking is to taper-off, by gradually reducing your alcohol intake one drink at a time. This is a self-imposed restriction that allows people the freedom to enjoy a drink or two, while not exceeding their limit. Exercising, eating healthy, and drinking plenty of water are known to help reduce the cravings caused by alcohol. This process is beneficial for those who do not suffer from underlying health problems and are not heavy drinkers. Nonetheless, approval must be taken from a doctor before attempting to taper-off from alcohol as well.
The detox procedure requires immense determination and willpower for it to yield positive results. One must remember that detoxification from alcohol is the first step towards recovery, and a step closer towards permanent abstinence.