The Importance of Managed Alcohol Detox for Alcohol Withdrawal

The Importance of Managed Alcohol Detox for Alcohol Withdrawal
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It’s been said alcohol detox can be one of the hardest processes for the mind and body. The symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can be scary, exhausting, and even deadly. But medically managing alcohol detox for alcohol withdrawal can help patients recover, survive, and thrive after abusing alcohol.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal happens when a person stops drinking alcohol. Even casual drinkers can experience withdrawal. It’s what we know as a hangover. But for people who have abused alcohol, “alcohol withdrawal (AW) represents a period of significant clinical risk that requires attentive medical management,” according to the National Institutes of Health. [1] “AW also provides an opportunity to initiate treatments that may lead to extended sobriety.”

According to Harvard Medical, experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms is a key indicator that a person has consumed enough alcohol to damage other organs, like the liver and brain. [2] And if not managed correctly, alcohol withdrawal can further damage the body. Because some people experience withdrawal symptoms to such a devastating degree, they find comfort in returning to drinking to deal with the symptoms.

Here’s why.

Since alcohol has a slowing effect on the brain, heavy, long-term drinking forces the brain to adjust its own chemistry to counterbalance the alcohol’s depressant effect. The brain will actually overproduce stimulating chemicals. Once someone stops drinking, the brain will continue, for some time, to continue overproduction. Many of the withdrawal symptoms are caused by the overproduction of the stimulant.

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The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Symptoms can begin as soon as six hours from the last drink and can last for days. If the symptoms aren’t treated, the impact can last for the rest of a person’s life, like chronic memory disorder.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Trembling
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens (DTs), which includes hallucinations, mental confusion, and disorientation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Extreme hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system
  • Heart rate or blood pressure changes that can lead to a heart attack or stroke

The Stunning Case From Hollywood

Nelsan Ellis is the actor who portrayed Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Blood. He died in 2017 at the age of 39. At the time, his manager, Emily Saines, told the media he died of “complications with heart failure.” Later his family released a statement explaining Saines attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own. That statement read in part:

“During his withdrawal from alcohol, he had a blood infection, his kidneys shut down, his liver was swollen, his blood pressure plummeted, and his dear, sweet heart raced out of control.” [3]

Managing alcohol detox for alcohol withdrawal under medical supervision is vital, especially for people who have experienced withdrawal more than once. Often the symptoms of withdrawal worsen each time a person tries to detox. Moreover, as the painful symptoms rage and mood shifts persist, some will be motivated to relapse to heavy drinking. Or worse, a person may experience the life-threatening symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal.

Managing Alcohol Detox for Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is an indicator that other organs could be damaged from excessive drinking. That means it’s a good idea to have a medical provider carefully examine a patient. Blood tests are a good option to get a baseline for a patient. A medical provider will also want to check for alcohol-related damage to the liver, heart, the nerves in the feet, blood cell counts, and the gastrointestinal tract.

Because those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol often suffer from poor nutrition, a healthcare provider should also evaluate their usual diet and check for vitamin deficiencies. Alcohol abuse can create a shortage of several key nutrients in the body, including folate, thiamine, magnesium, zinc, and phosphate. [2]

Medicines called benzodiazepines will also lessen alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Commonly used medicines in this group include chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and lorazepam (Ativan). There are more than a dozen options, and these medications have been used for decades.

In the event of a major seizure, heart attack, or stroke, patients will need immediate access to life-saving medical devices.

Needing Help Isn’t a Sign of Failure.

Alcohol use disorder, or A.U.D., is a disease. It’s not the mark of some moral failing. Like any illness, alcohol use disorder and alcohol withdrawal require treatment. Research has shown that the most effective recovery process often involves long-term therapies, community and family support, and even medication.

At Clear Life Recovery, our team knows the importance of managing alcohol detox for alcohol withdrawal. We know it can alleviate some of the challenges of detoxing from alcohol, and our methods can help clients long-term. If you or a loved one is suffering from the effects of extended alcohol misuse, contact Clear Life Recovery today.