Starting the journey to overcome any substance addiction can be a daunting task. For individuals grappling with alcohol use disorder, the initial steps towards recovery are particularly challenging due to the physical dependency that develops due to chronic alcohol consumption. While it may seem straightforward to quit drinking, attempting to self-detox from alcohol can often prove ineffective and dangerous. In some cases, detoxing without medical assistance can even lead to death. Understanding the importance of medical detox is vital in the recovery process.
What Is Detoxing?
Detoxing is the process of abstaining from alcohol until the body is no longer physically dependent on the substance. It is the crucial initial step before proceeding with an alcohol treatment plan.
As a person becomes tolerant to a substance, such as alcohol, they will also become dependent on the substance. With repeated use, withdrawal symptoms of the substance will manifest as the opposite of the drug’s effects. These opposing effects become evident during the withdrawal process, which can involve severe symptoms like trembling, headaches, or vomiting as the body strives to regain equilibrium without the presence of the substance.
In a hospital or other medical setting, professionals specialized in alcohol treatment safely manage patients during this phase. When individuals attempt self-detox, they subject themselves to the risk of enduring an uncomfortable withdrawal process. They may even develop severe complications or face a life-threatening situation.
Dangers of Self-Detoxing
Self-detoxing is often ineffective and exceedingly unsafe. For those whose bodies have become dependent on substances like benzodiazepines, alcohol, or other depressants, abruptly quitting these substances (going “cold turkey”) can potentially trigger fatal seizures.
The brain attempts to counteract the depressant’s effects to create homeostasis. When someone abruptly stops using alcohol, the resulting rebound effect of central nervous system excitation can be so severe that it puts the brain at risk of a seizure. Alcohol withdrawal seizures may lead to permanent brain damage or even death.
Detoxing without the assistance of medical professionals may also bring about additional discomforts, such as profuse sweating, nausea, muscle cramps, insomnia, and elevated blood pressure. The intensity of these withdrawal symptoms often makes it difficult for individuals to manage the process effectively, ultimately discouraging them from attempting detox in the event of a relapse.
Benefits of Medical Detox
Medical detox significantly reduces the prominence of withdrawal symptoms. In a controlled environment, such as a hospital, alcohol rehabilitation center, or drug treatment facility, doctors can administer medication to stabilize brain function, shielding the patient from discomfort and harm.
The importance of medical detox is that it provides a chemical safety net to reduce the risk of dangerous withdrawal seizures. The risk of a life-threatening seizure can be minimized by substituting the drug with a similar medication and then gradually tapering it.
Moreover, research indicates that medical detox, followed by participation in an alcohol addiction treatment program, can substantially diminish the likelihood of relapse. It is important to understand that detox is just the beginning of the recovery journey. A continuum of care is required to ensure a sustained life of sobriety.
The Journey to Sobriety
The first step on the journey to sobriety is deciding to seek help. If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol abuse, our clinical professionals are available to help you find recovery. The Estate provides a safe medical detox and proven treatment programs. Our recovery advisors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-228-338-3483.