If you’ve made the decision to quit drinking, then detoxing is the first step. When you first stop drinking, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal can be not only an uncomfortable experience, it can also be lethal. The best method for treating alcohol withdrawal is to consult with a doctor immediately, even before you stop drinking. Once you are stable, there are some practical ways to ease your symptoms and support your recovery at home.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
If you consistently drink alcohol heavily, or binge drink, and then try to stop or cut back, you will experience physical and mental discomfort. This is referred to as alcohol withdrawal.
When you drink alcohol, the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA, responsible for creating feelings of calm and euphoria, are increased. Meanwhile, alcohol decreases glutamate, a neurotransmitter that creates excitability. This is what causes your thoughts, speech and movements to slow down when you drink alcohol.
Over time, you build up a tolerance to alcohol, and it becomes harder for the brain to increase GABA and decrease glutamate, so more alcohol is required for the same outcome. Your body becomes accustomed to these changes and as a result, starts to produce more glutamate and less GABA.
Withdrawal occurs because even though you have stopped drinking, your body continues to over produce glutamate and underproduce GABA, causing your body and brain to stay in a hyper-excited state, which can lead to a range of withdrawal symptoms.
How Long Will it Take to Recover from Alcohol Withdrawal?
Depending on the person, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary on the amount of time that they last. Generally, mild withdrawal symptoms last for a few days, while more severe cases can last up to a couple of weeks.
Symptoms will gradually lessen over time, and although the experience is uncomfortable, the symptoms will not last forever. If there are any lingering complications or issues related to alcohol withdrawal, they should be treated by a doctor.
Common Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal is a tough process, and many people experience mild to moderate symptoms when withdrawing. Some symptoms include:
- Muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Restlessness and insomnia
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Chest pains or racing heart rate
- More intense symptoms include shakes, fever, severe vomiting, hallucinations, or even seizures, which are related to delirium tremens, which can be fatal, and is experienced by 3-5% of people who withdraw from heavy drinking.
Alcohol Withdrawal Severity Factors
Making the decision to withdraw from alcohol can be intimidating, since it’s hard to know what the severity of your withdrawal symptoms will be. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary significantly in severity, depending on a variety of factors, including your size, age, gender, drinking habits, and genetics.
The best way to determine what the severity of your symptoms will be is to speak to a medical professional, who can help you make an informed decision about whether detoxing at home or in a supervised facility would be best for you.
In-Home Alcohol Detox vs. Inpatient Treatment
Detoxing from alcohol in your own home is private, affordable, and convenient. However, withdrawing for alcohol can be extremely dangerous, and even deadly. No one who consistently drinks heavily should attempt to withdraw from alcohol at home. Instead, consult your doctor right away, who can help get you in touch with a treatment center who offers detox. In fact, medical professionals will often recommend that a person continues to drink until they get to a treatment center where they can be stabilized.
When you attend an inpatient facility for alcohol detox, you have constant access to medical professionals, who will make sure you are safe and stable every step of the way. It can also be helpful to get away from your usual environment, which can be full of temptation, and people or places from your past that can inflict feelings of hurt.
When undergoing an alcohol detox, your heart rate, as well as your blood pressure and blood saturation levels need to be closely monitored. If any life-threatening situation arises, the medical professionals will be able to provide the appropriate medication to ensure stabilization.
Tips for Improving Health Following an Alcohol Detox
Once you have been cleared by medical professionals to return home, there are a few home remedies that you can try in order to make sure you get your health back on track.
It’s very important to drink plenty of fluids in order to avoid dehydration. Dehydration can cause a number of physical problems, such as headaches, fatigue, and dizziness.
2. Eat a Balanced Diet
Eat nutrient-rich foods to stimulate the appetite and prevent cravings. Eat foods that are rich in protein, such meats, poultry, fish, beans, peas, eggs, nuts and seeds. Protein deficiency is common in heavy drinkers, and this can help to replete your stores of these important nutrients. Eat whole grains over refined grains.
Avoid caffeine, sugar and processed foods will only make things worse, and instead eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are important in easing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, because they contain high amounts of fiber, as well as folate and Vitamin A, which are often deficient if you drink heavily.
3. Take Your Vitamins and Minerals
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can often be eased with the help of vitamins B6 and B12. If symptoms such as restlessness, anxiety, nausea, and insomnia persist, take supplements or herbs like ginger or chamomile to reduce symptoms.
4. Light Exercise
Mild-moderate exercise can have a tremendous impact on your physical and mental health. It can help boost your mood, improve your sleep quality, and help you fight alcohol cravings.
Going for a short walk, or doing yoga at home can help ease uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Don’t push your body too hard, since it is still in recovery mode.
Is it Safe to Withdraw from Alcohol at Home?
In short: no, it’s not safe to withdraw from alcohol at home. When it comes to alcohol withdrawal, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, always consult a professional when looking to detox. Depending on the severity of your previous alcohol consumption, there could be side effects that you may not be aware of on your road to recovery.
You can give us a call if you have any questions about detoxing, or you would like support with your detox.
Secondly, make sure you understand the risks of attempting any of these home remedies. If you are a heavy drinker, you absolutely cannot quit cold turkey.
Quitting cold turkey can result in the most severe withdrawal symptoms, which could be fatal. In fact, it’s recommended that if you drink heavily, you continue to drink until you can receive professional treatment.
If you do attempt to withdraw from alcohol at home, you at least need to have 24/7 supervision. Have a friend or family member stay with you to support you during this time, to be there in case your withdrawal symptoms get worse.
Dangers of Treating Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms at Home
By treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms at home, you might end up inflicting serious long-term damage on your health and even cause mental health problems. It’s also possible that detoxification may actually trigger mental health issues such as depression and anxiety in those who are already vulnerable to them.
However, the most dangerous potential side effect of detoxing from alcohol is delirium tremens, which can be deadly.
When Should You Seek Professional Supervision for Alcohol Withdrawal?
Detoxing in a supervised facility is always recommended, as seeking medical help for alcohol detox helps ensure your safety and can be much more comfortable, which can also reduce the temptation to abandon the detox process.
If you have been drinking heavily for an extended period of time, it is essential for your health and safety to seek help from a professional detox center or rehab facility.
Detox from Alcohol at Paramount Recovery Center
Alcohol withdrawal can be a difficult and unpleasant experience. By seeking professional treatment, and following the home remedies listed in this blog, you can safely detox from alcohol and help to ease the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Paramount Recovery Center offers detox from alcohol in a safe, supervised environment, where you will have access to medical professionals 24/7. Learn more about our addiction recovery program, or contact our addiction counselors with any questions that you have. We are here for you on your journey to recovery.