What Happens When You Detox From Alcohol

how to detox from alcohol

Detoxing from alcohol can be a strenuous act. It can’t be stopped all at once without triggering withdrawal, which is why many patients don’t complete detoxification without help from a professional.

What Is Alcohol?

Although it’s not often considered to be one, alcohol is a drug. It’s classified as a depressant, which means it slows the vital functions in the body. If you drink, you may have some side effects, like slurred speech or lowered inhibitions.

Even though alcohol is a depressant, it does give an initial stimulating effect. However, if a person drinks more than his body can handle, then the depressant effect can come into effect and result in the body reacting with physical symptoms of drunkenness.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

There are some signs that a person is being affected by alcohol. Some common side effects include:

  • A loss of coordination
  • Feeling stupid or having trouble putting together thoughts
  • Unsteady movements
  • Slurred speech
  • Disturbed perceptions
  • The inability to react quickly

Alcohol enters the body through the mouth, enters the stomach, and then is absorbed into the bloodstream from the walls of the stomach and small intestines. It takes only minutes for the alcohol to travel from your stomach to your brain; people with low tolerances may be affected quickly while others may need more alcohol before they begin to feel the effects.

When the alcohol reaches the brain, it begins to slow the reactions of the nerve cells. As alcohol continues through the body, it passes through the liver to be metabolized. At this stage, it’s converted into a nontoxic liquid. If this doesn’t happen or if the liver is too overwhelmed, it’s possible to feel drunk or eventually be poisoned.

If alcohol poisoning starts to take place, the body’s respiratory system slows down and can even begin to shut down. This can lead to breathing slowing down or stopping. When this happens, the brain can’t get oxygen, and comas or death are possible.

brain behind shot of whiskey

What are Some Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal?

Severe alcohol withdrawal can be deadly. Some signs that a person is in withdrawal include:

  • Agitation or aggression
  • Fever or sweating
  • Hallucinations, or feeling or seeing things that aren’t actually present
  • Severe confusion
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Delirium tremens
  • Pallor
  • Headaches

If a person is suffering from delirium tremens, this can be a fatal form of withdrawal that needs immediate assistance. Delirium tremens causes seizures, confusion, fever, and hallucinations.

Why Is It Important to Detox From Alcohol Correctly?

Detoxing from alcohol correctly is vital to your health. If you stop “cold turkey,” then it’s possible that you could suffer seizures or even die from the side effects of withdrawal.

Some of the symptoms that can be treated in detox include:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shaky hands
  • Night terrors
  • Headaches
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia

guy passed out with beer in hand

Detoxification programs focus on reducing or eliminating withdrawal symptoms, preventing complications, and then providing the therapy needed to abstain from drinking in the future. There are two kinds of detoxification, inpatient and outpatient.

With an inpatient program, patients with moderate-to-severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal receive treatment for moderate-to-severe withdrawal symptoms. Medications can be used to prevent or treat seizure activity, help maintain the person’s respiratory control, and to maintain other functions. During the inpatient treatment, the patient’s body temperature, blood pressure, blood levels of various chemicals in the body, and heart rate are monitored. Dehydration is prevented through IV and medications may also be injected via IV. If needed, sedation medications can be used until withdrawal is complete.

Outpatient programs are different because they are used for those with mild-to-moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Someone must stay with the person detoxing at all times, but other than that monitoring, the patient only has to go to the outpatient facility on a daily basis to check the symptoms of withdrawal and the process of recovery. Some kinds of treatment may include blood tests, patient and family counseling, and sedative drugs, which can help reduce withdrawal symptoms.

How Can I Get Started With Alcohol Detoxification?

If you’re ready to work on your alcohol addiction and want to learn more about the detoxification process, our helpful specialists are standing by to take your call. Call us by dialing 1-866-802-6848, so you can speak to us about the process and the symptoms you currently have. You can also visit our website online at CoastalDetox.com, where you can read more about alcohol addiction and recovery, the types of treatment available to you, and how living a sober life is possible with help from the right facilities. Your addiction doesn’t have to control you, so if you’re ready to abstain, we can help you move forward toward your goal.

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.