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Detox Medication For Alcohol Withdrawal: What Is It?

Alcohol misuse and addiction can affect all aspects of your life, from your physical and mental health to your relationships and finances. The first step toward recovery is detoxification.

However, alcohol detox can be difficult without the right support. There are a range of detox options available to give you the best chance of success. Many people opt for a medical detox with medical supervision and detox medication.

At Help4Addiction, we can connect you with the most suitable addiction treatment providers. We will discuss your needs, preferences and goals to select the best options for you and your addiction.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

If you have a physical dependence on alcohol, then you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking, or when you drastically reduce your alcohol intake. As well as physical withdrawal symptoms, you could also experience psychological withdrawal symptoms – for example, changes in mood or mental health disorders.

The reason that you experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal comes down to the effect alcohol has on your brain. After drinking, you may feel calm and relaxed – as alcohol increases GABA effects (a neurotransmitter). Alcohol also decreases glutamate levels, which lowers excitability levels.

If you drink alcohol on a regular basis for a long period of time, or if you drink excessive amounts of alcohol/ abuse alcohol, your body gets used to these changes. This means that your body will begin producing less GABA and more glutamate to make up the difference.

If you quit drinking suddenly or drastically lower the amount you usually drink, your body will continue producing less GABA and more glutamate, leaving you feeling hyperactive, shaky, anxious, and restless.

You may benefit from withdrawing from alcohol in a medical environment. This is known as a medically supervised detox. However, if you have a milder addiction, you may prefer to complete an outpatient detox or use an at-home detox kit.

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How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last

The amount of time it can take to withdraw from alcohol can vary from person to person. No person’s recovery journey is the same, and it could take you longer to detox than somebody else in a similar situation.

There are many factors that can affect the detox timeline including:

  • How long you’ve been drinking alcohol
  • How much alcohol your body is used to/ how much alcohol you previously drank
  • Your genetic profile
  • Your height and weight
  • Your age
  • Your addiction history or the severity of your addiction

 

The severity and the length of alcohol withdrawal depend a lot on the severity of your addiction. Typically, if you have a mild alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence, then you may experience withdrawal symptoms for a week or two.

However, if you have a severe addiction, then you may experience withdrawal symptoms for several weeks – or even longer, depending on other factors.

Many people notice withdrawal symptoms within a few days of quitting drinking. However, if you have a severe addiction, then you may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms within just a few hours after your last drink.

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

If you’re an alcoholic, then you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop consuming alcohol. You may experience a combination of both physical withdrawal symptoms and psychological withdrawal symptoms, varying in severity.

Some physical withdrawal symptoms that many people experience during alcohol detox include:

  • Headaches
  • Fever or flu-like symptoms
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Tremors
  • Nausea and/ or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Red face
  • Stomach ache
  • Changes in appetite

 

And some psychological withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hallucinations
  • Other mental health problems

 

Some of these withdrawal symptoms are manageable, but others can be particularly unpleasant. It is important that you have a support network to help you through the withdrawal process, whether it be friends, family, or medical support. Seeking professional assistance can reduce the risks associated with alcohol withdrawal.

What is Severe Alcohol Withdrawal?

It is possible to experience a more severe form of alcohol withdrawal. The most severe form of alcohol withdrawal syndrome is delirium tremens (DTs).

The mortality rate of DT is estimated to be 37% without the right treatment. This is why it’s so important to monitor the signs of withdrawal, as severe alcohol withdrawal can be fatal.

Some signs of severe alcohol withdrawal or acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome include:

  • Fever and/ or flu-like symptoms
  • Excessive sweating
  • Seizures
  • Extreme agitation
  • Extreme confusion
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fast breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Tactile hallucinations
  • Auditory hallucinations

 

If you’re withdrawing from alcohol alone and are experiencing severe symptoms (for example, alcohol withdrawal seizures), you should seek help. DTs is a medical emergency.

Hospitals, rehab clinics and detox centres can provide you with the assistance you need to get through alcohol detox, as they have the tools to provide the appropriate alcohol treatment.

What Medication Can Be Given For Alcohol Withdrawal?

During alcohol detox, you may be given detox medication. Medication during detox has two main purposes – first of all, managing alcohol withdrawal syndrome and the associated symptoms, and secondly, reducing the amount of alcohol that you consume.

Medication should always be managed by medical professionals when prescribed to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Certain medications may not be appropriate for your situation, and one size does not fit all when it comes to alcohol withdrawal medication.

Some medications pose interaction risks – so be sure to avoid self-medication when withdrawing from alcohol or managing alcohol dependence.

Prescription drugs alone can’t solve your alcohol addiction. Although medication can make the process easier, it is not a cure – it requires willpower, patience, and hard work to stop drinking.

Typically, alcohol rehab involves three stages – and detoxification is just the first. Therapy and additional support are also key stages in rehabilitation.

Vitamins

Recovering from alcohol dependence can take its toll on your body, but vitamins can help. Although not technically a form of medication, vitamins and natural supplements can help to ease your recovery.

Excessive alcohol consumption/ alcohol abuse can take its toll on your body’s vitamin B stores, which can lead to a deficiency. This can cause a variety of issues, including wet brain.

Some vitamins can ease certain symptoms. For example, withdrawal may leave you feeling nauseous or you may be vomiting – but a vitamin supplement can help to replenish these vitamins and keep you nourished – especially if you’re unable to eat properly or keep food down.

Vitamins and other medications don’t treat alcohol withdrawal but are used as part of a larger treatment plan.

Benzodiazepines

Some alcohol withdrawal patients may be given benzodiazepines to help ease certain symptoms. They can help to ease a variety of symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal and addiction. They can work to prevent insomnia, mood swings, seizures, sickness, muscle convulsions, panic attacks, seizures, and much more.

They work by calming the central nervous system and relieving feelings of stress and anxiety. They relax the muscles, which can be very helpful during alcohol detoxification. A

benzodiazepine that is frequently given to those going through withdrawal includes chlordiazepoxide. However, in some cases, you may be given diazepam, oxazepam, or lorazepam.

However, it is important to follow medical advice when taking benzodiazepines. Prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines can be addictive.

Acamprosate

Another drug that is often given to detox patients as part of their treatment is Acamprosate. This drug works by stabilising certain signals within the brain that are impacted during the withdrawal process. It alters the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) level, which can help to ease alcohol cravings.

Unlike benzodiazepines, the key aim of Acamprosate is to help those who have already detoxed from alcohol prevent relapse. This drug is best used as part of a larger support programme, whether it be therapy to build strength or psychosocial support. It can help to reduce cravings but is not a cure – therapy, counselling, support groups and rehab treatment work best with this drug to treat alcohol dependence.

Disulfiram

This is a different type of drug, as it is used as a deterrent. It creates an unpleasant physical response when you drink alcohol – instead, turning the ‘reward’ sensation when you drink alcohol into a negative feeling, ultimately reducing cravings.

If you drink alcohol while taking Disulfiram, you will experience a range of negative effects. You may be sick or feel nauseous, or experience dizziness and loss of breath. Some people may also experience chest pain.

The drug is sensitive and detects very small amounts of alcohol, so even using mouthwash could trigger this unpleasant bodily response.

The effects of Disulfiram can last up to a week – so if you take Disulfiram on a Monday, you may be sick if you drink alcohol on Friday, Saturday, or even Sunday. Although it can be unpleasant, it can help to reduce alcohol cravings over time, as you’ll no longer associate alcohol with pleasant feelings.

We Can Help To Find The Best Alcohol Detox For You

You don’t have to deal with addiction alone. At Help4Addiction, we are in contact with rehab clinics all around England and Wales and can find the best place for you to receive treatment for alcohol dependence.

We help people with alcohol use disorder every day and can help you to get sober and make a long-term recovery.

Whether you’re looking for just a detox or a complete rehab treatment plan, we can listen to your story and needs to find the right treatment for you. Some people prefer a medical detox, whereas others prefer to detox at home with a home detox kit.

Contact our friendly team today or complete our initial assessment to begin alcohol addiction treatment. We can also help if you have a drug addiction, and find the best substance abuse treatment for you.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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