If I Have Been Detoxing from Alcohol, Does That Make Me an Alcoholic?

detox from alcohol

It’s estimated that thirty percent of people in the US have experienced alcoholism or some form of alcohol dependency. Studies show that fewer and fewer of these people have been reaching out for treatment. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re an alcoholic, there are some methods you can use to tell.

Whether or not you think you’re an alcoholic, if you believe you need help to stop drinking, the best thing you can do is contact a treatment center. Treatment centers can ensure a safe, medically supervised detox. Alcohol detox can be dangerous when it’s undergone without medical supervision.

But if you do detox from alcohol, does that automatically mean you’re an alcoholic?

This is a complicated question that doesn’t always have a straight answer. Instead it can be broken down into manageable pieces.

Drinking to Unwind vs. Drinking Problem

Studies show that one drink a night doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem. In fact, most studies draw no correlation between a nightly drink and negative health impacts or declines into alcoholism. That said, there are a few stipulations:

  • The drink must contain 0.6 fluid ounces or less of alcohol
  • Your total weekly intake must be less than 14 drinks

If your alcohol intake is higher than these amounts, you increase your risk for physical dependency. Drinking more than these amounts on a regular basis is a budding sign of alcoholism. If you’re having trouble cutting back, you might be more dependent on alcohol than you realize.

Dependence vs. Addiction

Even though dependence and addiction often overlap, they aren’t necessarily the same thing.

Almost any substance can create a dependency if it’s part of your daily routine. Removing this substance from your daily routine might disrupt your ability to function in day-to-day life until you get used to its removal. Irritable and antsy feelings aren’t an indicator of full-blown alcoholism by themselves. But if stopping your alcohol use does make you irritable or anxious, there’s a good chance you have a physical dependency on alcohol.

Warning Signs of Alcoholism

The following are warning signs that you may be at risk for alcoholism:

  • You have a family history of alcoholism
  • You consume alcohol extremely quickly
  • You use alcohol to cope with emotion and stressful situations

If you need alcohol to deal with the stress of your day-to-day life, or you’re drinking to forget about your problems, that’s a serious sign that you may need help. Addiction is as much a psychological illness as a physical one, which makes reaching out for treatment twice as imperative. It’s extremely difficult for an alcoholic to get sober and stay sober without a strong support network and coping skills in place.

Ultimately, it may not matter whether you’re a full-blown alcoholic or not. If you have a dependency on alcohol, it’s a good idea to take a look at your life and the changes that you might need to make.

How to Detox Safely

The most important thing to remember when detoxing is that you aren’t alone. There are medical and mental health professionals who can help you. If you aren’t ready to commit to a treatment center yet, at least find a trusted friend or family member who can supervise your detox. The symptoms of detox can pose their own health problems, so you shouldn’t try to detox by yourself.

What Is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is the process of cleansing the body of alcohol. Usually detox begins a few hours after the person’s last drink. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms tend to appear at this time. The exact symptoms, along with their severity and length, depend heavily upon the individual.

The Dangerous Side of Detox

Addiction sets in when the body becomes chemically dependent on a substance that’s been put into it. When the body stops receiving this substance, it shocks the brain’s neurotransmitters and the body’s blood levels. Alcohol use represses the brain’s neurotransmitters. Once alcohol use ceases, the glutamate system floods the brain like a dam coming down.

Dangerous symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Delirium tremens (DTs)
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dangerous dehydration levels

If you experience any of these, seek medical help immediately.

Less Dangerous Detox Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • VomitingEven if they don’t become life threatening, none of these symptoms are easy to cope with. That’s why experts so highly recommend medically supervised detox, regardless of whether an individual is a full-blown alcoholic or not.

How Long Does Detox Last?

The exact length of a detox depends on the individual.

Usually, alcohol withdrawal occurs within eight hours of the last drink. In rare cases, withdrawal might not set in until days later. Usually symptoms peak within 24 to 72 hours, but in rare cases they might continue for weeks.

Several factors play a part in the length of a detox:

  • Amount of alcohol consumed
  • Length of time the person has been drinking
  • How often the person drinks
  • Nutritional variances
  • Age and weight
  • Co-occurring mental health problems

This is another reason to involve a treatment center – medical professionals will have a realistic idea of what to expect from your detox, and the best ways to help you through it.

What Now?

You’ve been given information about the difference between alcohol dependency and full-blown alcoholism. You know what to expect from your detox, and you know about the dangers involved.

If you’re ready to accept help for your alcohol dependency, or you have questions about treatment, our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Call 866-802-6848 to take the first step in your treatment today.