Alcohol DetoxBecause alcohol is completely legal for those 21 and older, it can be a very easy addiction to fall into, as 1-2 drinks a night turns into binge drinking, which turns into dependence and alcoholism. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism over 15 million individuals were diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in 2015—making it not only one of the most prevalent addictions, but also one of the most dangerous, as many don’t admit they have a problem until they’ve experienced an accident.
Alcohol addiction can severely hinder one’s quality of life, interfering with relationships, causing people to miss time from work or school, and affecting their sense of judgment. Not only is this type of addiction difficult for the person who is suffering from it, it can also be very taxing on family members if their loved one refuses to get help.
Because alcohol is a powerful depressant that can produce an intense physical dependence, seeking supervised medical support can ensure safe alcohol detox for those who want to get sober. At the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine, we pride ourselves on being the premium outpatient alcohol treatment facility in Richmond, VA. We offer expert alcohol detox services that combine medical treatment plans with a network of professional support for both patients and families.
The Importance of Safe Alcohol DetoxTrying to get sober after prolonged alcohol dependence can often cause severe withdrawal symptoms, and in some cases result in a medical emergency. For this reason, it is important to consult a medical professional to develop a safe detox program that will allow your body to adjust to its normal chemical balance without undergoing shock. Certain medications and techniques can also be used to minimize alcohol withdrawal symptoms so that the effects are more manageable.
In a very small percentage of cases, patients who suffer from alcohol use disorder can experience a severe medical condition called delirium tremens (DT). This condition is rare, but according to the New England Journal of Medicine, about 1-4% of patients who are hospitalized because of adverse alcohol withdrawal symptoms die from delirium tremens.
At VCAM we carefully evaluate each patient based on their unique situation in order to develop a safe alcohol detox plan that will minimize adverse effects. In addition, our constant check-ins provide continuous monitoring allowing us to adjust patients treatment plans if needed.
Symptoms of Alcohol WithdrawalBecause the body develops such a strong dependence to alcohol during substance abuse, withdrawal symptoms can be intense. According to the US National Library of Medicine, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually start 8 hours after the last drink, peak between 24-72 hours, and can last up to several weeks.
In general, common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Mood swings
Stages of Alcohol WithdrawalFor many, withdrawal symptoms may present themselves in waves. In fact, the American Family Physician outlines the most common withdrawal symptoms into the following stages, and depending on your level of addiction you may or may not go through all of them:
Stage 1:Tremors, Nausea, Headache, Anxiety, and Abdominal Pain
Stage 2:Increased Blood Pressure, Confusion, Tachycardia, Sweating, and Temperature Fluctuations
Stage 3:Severe Disorientation, Hallucinations, and Seizures
In the most severe cases, the patient may experience delirium tremens (DT). This condition is experienced by about 3-5% of alcohol withdrawal patients and usually lasts 2-3 days. The symptoms of DT are very severe and include hallucinations, seizures, and in very rare cases, even death. Though withdrawal symptoms can become very serious if untreated, the good news is that with the right treatment plan, patients can manage their symptoms and achieve a healthy and safe detox.
Our Medical DetoxAt VCAM, we offer some of the most advanced medical treatment plans that can help patients detox their bodies, manage their symptoms, and prevent relapse. During triage, each patient will undergo an addiction evaluation to determine the medication and support resources that will best assist them in achieving sobriety. For many, this first starts with a diazepam taper treatment plan which is designed to stabilize the body and mind while preventing seizures and other adverse side effects. Diazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine (valium) drug with a half-life of 100 hours, which means that it can build up in a patient’s body for a long-lasting tapered effect.
The amount of time that the patient is on diazepam will depend on the severity of their addiction, but most patients undergo a 5-7 day detox with the dosage being tapered down in increments. In the middle of the detox period, the patient will meet with a medical provider to determine whether the detox period is sufficient or if an extended tapering period is necessary. Some patients will also be prescribed gabapentin at this time to help regulate their mood—as anxiety, depression, and/or irritability are all common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Many patients also experience insomnia towards the end of their taper period so a sleep aid may also be recommended at this time.