How to Detox from Alcohol | Step by Step Guide

Jessica Lewis
July 4, 2016

Alcohol can cause severe health issues when is consumed irresponsibly in large quantities. It is widely known that alcoholism is a disease that can change a person’s life and transform that person’s lifestyle, perceptions and general understanding of life.

Usually, a person might start drinking of pure pleasure, but it might end up continuing drinking because the alcohol suppresses the emotions. It is a way not to feel and not to be in touch with your emotions and feelings.

So, we can say that alcoholism is an emotional disease and sometimes can be genetic as well. The alcoholic people have, in many cases, chromium deficiency (a mineral essential for the health of blood sugar metabolism). If a child grows up in a family dealing with alcohol problems, he might not get the proper attention, and he might start drinking as well when he becomes a teenager. People from Adult Children of Alcoholics have created groups all over the country for these kinds of cases.

Sometimes alcohol becomes an allergy-addiction issue. Intestinal and cerebral symptoms are generated by sugar, wheat, and particular grapes. As in the case of barley, wheat or corn, which can create allergic reactions, alcoholism might be an addiction that causes severe symptoms when the addictive substance is not consumed (see the alcohol withdrawal symptoms).

We often read how nourishing alcoholic beverages can be. It is true that wine has vitamin C, and beers and ale have vitamin B and minerals. But when you compare it with the percentage of the alcohol contained in all these drinks, you realize that they are not offering nutrients for the body, but they are really high in calories. [1]

Because alcoholism developed in such accelerated manner, specialists and doctors have created treatments and programs for people affected by it. These programs are usually called alcohol detox programs or alcohol rehab programs.

When a person decides to follow an alcohol rehab program, some things are involved. First of all, this is the first step for that person to take full responsibility and to manage this disease. This stage is called the alcohol withdrawal.

This period it is associated with specific symptoms that appear when a person who has been drinking a lot stops all of a sudden to drink alcohol of any kind. Even if alcohol withdrawal is common in adults, it can manifest in children or teenagers who have exposed themselves to alcohol.

The thing people should know is that the more a person is used to drinking alcohol, the more that person is likely to develop these symptoms when he or she stops drinking.[2]

If you decide to stop drinking, or you know, someone who wants to stop drinking is recommended to do so while assisted by medical specialists, because the symptoms we were talking about can be life threatening. They might include:

Symptoms from drinking:

  • Sweats
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Nightmares
  • Not thinking clearly
  • Shakiness
  • Rapid change in moods
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Clammy skin
  • Headache
  • Dilated pupils
  • Pallor
  • Tremor of hands
  • Loss of appetite

When the person is drinking large quantities of alcohol daily, several times a day, is developing the so-called delirium tremens, which is a very severe form of alcohol withdrawal. The symptoms are:

  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Developing hallucinations

Symptoms related to drinking (hangover and long term consequences)

  • Car accidents, serious injuries, crimes, and jail. It is known that more than 25.000 deaths a year are caused by car accidents. When a person is drunk has little to no control over his actions. It is proved that alcoholic people are more likely to commit suicide than people who are not consuming alcohol. Even if the laws are getting more and stricter about alcohol abuse and driving, people have to become responsible as well of their health.
  • Developing liver diseases. Alcohol affects the liver directly and can cause hepatic cirrhosis. A large quantity of alcohol metabolized in the liver can cause severe damages to the liver. It seems like alcohol transform itself in fat, not in glucose. A person can develop obesity because of drinking alcohol and in time, the poor functioning of the liver leads to this health issue. Even varicose veins and hemorrhoids can appear. The low levels of necessary substances in detoxifying the liver (niacinamide and thiamine) can unbalance reactions in the body and, at some point, damages the liver.
  • Stomach issues. Most of the stomach ulcers are caused by the consumption of large amounts of alcohol. Less and less digestive enzymes responsible for processing the food are found in the stomach of an alcoholic person. This thing increases the level of acid fluids which are migrating and irritating the intestinal mucosa.
  • Gallstones and pancreatitis
  • Problems of the nervous system. Alcohol is famous for damaging the brain cells. Because of the lack of vitamin B, the nerves develop specific inflammations called polyneuritis. Severe brain damage can occur like senility and a degenerative brain syndrome called encephalopathy.
  • Cardiovascular diseases. Most of the patients with high blood pressure are advised to reduce or stop the amount of alcohol they are drinking. The alcohol is affecting the lipid metabolism, increasing the triglycerides levels, triglycerides which are raising the blood cholesterol rapidly.
  • Lack of vital nutrients. Alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body leading to dehydration. Alcohol uses essential nutrients necessary for the metabolism. Vitamins B1 and B3 when in low levels can make the liver sick, because this one doesn’t have the power anymore to process the alcohol. Anemia is very frequent in alcoholic people along with malnutrition. Having less and less vitamin D and calcium, the body can develop osteoporosis. When a person drinks a lot of alcohol has low levels of minerals, such as zinc and magnesium.
  • Impotence and lack of sexual desire
  • Low immune system. You might be surprised but alcoholically is more likely to develop infections than people who are not drinking alcohol. Pneumonia is a health issue that frequently occurs in the organism of alcoholic people.
  • Occurrence of cancer
  • Birth defects in infants born from alcoholic parents

Not everybody who drinks alcohol is experiencing these symptoms. The severity of the symptoms depends on how much alcohol that person is drinking. It is recommended for the alcohol detoxification to be made in a hospital. The alcohol detox period usually is from a few days to one week.

It is important to consult a doctor before you decide to enter an alcohol rehab program. The physical exam is important, and it might function as alarm signal for your doctor if you have the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shaky hands
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Dehydration
  • Abnormal heart rhythm

If you want, you can also go for blood and urine tests. The toxicology screen is relevant in the case of alcohol intoxication.

Where can you go to start an Alcohol Rehab Program?

There are specialized clinics or hospitals who are offering alcohol detox and alcohol rehab. Less and fewer people choose this option nowadays, mostly because of the status of the insurance.

Other people go for a residential rehab program. This program lasts an extended period depending on the severity of the disease that a person has (from a month to a year or more). It is necessary for the individual’s recovery that the contact with friends and family members be limited.

The relationship that an alcoholic person develops with other patients struggling to overcome their alcoholism is important in that stage. After a period, the person is integrated again in his or her normal life, meaning that: the person is having contact with family and friends, and she or he can go back to work or school while returning daily to the rehab facility to be treated.

Are there different types of Alcohol Rehab Programs?

For those people who have a functioning, supportive family is recommended to go for a partial hospitalization or day treatment. The program offers support four to eight hours a day. The program can be followed for three months.

There are also the outpatient programs. The person can benefit of one of these programs in a health clinic, a hospital, in a community mental health clinic or a residential facility. Most of them are available in the evening and weekends. This particular schedule is made for people who decide to keep their job, and they continue working during the program.

There is, of course, the option of an intensive outpatient program. These programs are designed for people who are motivated to change their lives, and they have the full support from their family. These programs are offering from nine to twenty hours of treatment a week, for two months to one year.

How an Alcohol Rehab Program Looks Like?

No matter if the alcohol rehab programs are residential or outpatient, they all are following these steps:

Initial evaluation

After the person goes through this initial evaluation, the doctor can determine the best treatment for that particular person.

The alcoholic person will be asked a series of questions:

  • How much that person drinks a day
  • For how long that person drinks
  • What social issues have caused by alcohol drinking
  • The general effect that alcohol had on the life of the person
  • Medical history
  • Other medical issues
  • What medicines the person is taking
  • Mental health
  • Family situation and the type of relationship the person has with the members of the family
  • If there are any financial issues
  • The education the person has
  • Current home environment
  • If the person has any prior experience with alcohol rehab programs

Creating the personalized plan

After the initial evaluation, and a detox program if the case, the person will be guided next by a counselor. The counselor’s job is to identify the specific issues, goals and other details necessary for creating the recovery plan for that particular person.

The person will be assisted the whole time by different specialists such as: counselor, psychiatrist, nurse, social worker and psychologist.

Individual and group therapy

The therapy is critical because it assists the alcoholic person for the entire recovery period. During treatment, the person acquires specific tools to overcome the urge of drinking alcohol. Here are a few tools that an alcoholic person learns to use through therapy:

  • Coming out of denial phase
  • Problems recognition
  • Finding the right motivation to solve the issues
  • Healing depression or anxiety
  • Changing toxic behavioral patterns
  • Learning how to reconnect in healthy ways with family and friends
  • Finding new friendship which are not based on alcohol drinking
  • Developing the new lifestyle based on a recovered behavior

Specific individual tasks

During the rehabilitation period, the person will have to go through different materials (video, audio) and the person will have to give feedback and frequently write about its feelings, behavior and responses to treatment.

Classes about substance addiction and disorders

In the beginning, all the alcoholic persons have a hard time recognizing even for themselves that they have a problem, and they developed a dangerous addiction. During the program, as part of the recovery, the person has to learn about the abuse of consuming alcohol and effects. By the end, this person has to be able to recognize the problem as it is.

Life coaching sessions

The person addicted to drinking, during the rehab period, needs to learn how to deal with stress and anger without going back to drinking. This person has to learn how to find and keep a job (if it doesn’t have one anymore), how to spend the time when she or he is not at work, which sometimes can be challenging if the only hobby the person had before was drinking alcohol. Other skills the person has to learn are related to communicating healthy with others (family, friends, and coworkers) and managing properly time and money.

Training on how to avoid relapsing

An ex-alcoholic person needs to learn how to avoid going back to drinking. There are specific moments when the person might feel vulnerable and sensitive. That’s why it is so important to learn to recognize the situations like this and how to keep calm and sober during these emotional trying moments.

Support groups

After the rehab period is over, the alcoholic person is oriented towards a support group. This is part of the recovery. The person maintains some degree of continuity of the treatment this way, by talking about the new experiences and new skills acquired.

Most of the people know the Alcoholic Anonymous program. This program uses a 12 step plan, but it’s not always preferred by individuals because it takes a spiritual turn sometimes. Another important program which recorded a high success in the number of people recovered is SMART.

This program uses specific tools like cognitive methods to help people to stop drinking. Women for Sobriety helped many women to stay sober and Moderation Management it is a program that helps people to monitor the amount of alcohol they are drinking instead of quitting completely.

Besides these programs, specific medications helped many people to remain sober. Disulfiram is one of these medications. It is not that used anymore because its side effects. Topiramate is another one, known as an anticonvulsant drug. Naltrexone reduces the need for drinking alcohol, and the same effect has the Acamprosate medication.

No matter for how long was in a program or how rigorously a person took the medications, there is no saying for sure that the person will not go back to drinking again. That is why it is so important for that person to continue to visit regularly a support group.

What you should look for when you search for and Alcohol Treatment Program

  • It is important that the program accept the insurance or to offer an alternative (a payment plan)
  • The people should be assisted in this program by trained licensed specialists
  • The facility must be organized and clean, and the psychiatrist doctor has to see the patient often
  • Different needs have to be addressed, from vocational, medical and legal
  • It is a program that doesn’t exclude the sexual or cultural minorities
  • The person is taking care of during the program, and it is encouraged to continue with a support group after the program is over
  • The program offers individual and group therapy
  • The program provides specific coaching to the family members for them to understand the role they are playing in the recovery of the alcoholic person