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If you have a history of heavy alcohol use, you may be ready to take back control over your life. Recovery is launched by a series of steps. These include completing alcohol detox, completing a treatment program, and engaging in continuing care efforts. To learn the best way to detox from alcohol, keep reading.

What is the Difference Between Alcohol Dependence and Addiction?

Because there are different degrees of alcohol use disorder, it helps to understand the difference between dependence and addiction.

Alcohol dependence. Dependence develops over time as brain chemistry and neural pathways become altered by the continuous exposure to alcohol. As tolerance increases, the impulse is to drink more, which can result in dependence. This means that the body needs alcohol in the system to not feel sick. This starts a cycle of cravings, alcohol seeking behaviors, and then withdrawal symptoms that keep the person enslaved.

Alcohol addiction. Addiction is the most extreme state, as it involves compulsive drinking. This means you have no control over the cravings and feel compelled to drink. This happens regardless of the negative effects it is having on your life. This is the result of the brain’s reward system tricking you into believing you must drink or you will die.

Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is the umbrella term for a range of disordered drinking patterns. These range from alcohol abuse to dependence to addiction.

The criteria for diagnosing alcohol use disorder include these questions:

  • Have you consumed more or longer than intended?
  • Have you attempted to cut back or stop drinking more than once, but couldn’t?
  • Do you spend a lot of time drinking or recovering from its aftereffects?
  • Do you have alcohol cravings?
  • Has your alcohol use caused you to neglect family matters, or caused problems at work or in school?
  • Have you kept drinking regardless of these problems?
  • Have you lost interest in or stopped activities or hobbies you once enjoyed?
  • Have you engaged in high-risk behaviors due to drinking?
  • Do you continue to drink even if it causes mental health or medical problems or a blackout?
  • Have you had to increase your consumption to achieve the desired effects?
  • Do you have withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the alcohol start to wear off?

Answering “yes” to 2 or 3 questions is mild AUD, 4 or 5 is moderate, and over 6 is severe.

Detox from Alcohol Safely

Detox is the first step in breaking free from alcohol dependence or addiction. The best way to detox from alcohol safely is while under the supervision of a medical detox program.

Detox is the process by which your body expels the alcohol from your system. It takes about one week to complete on average. Medical interventions are offered throughout the detox to reduce withdrawal symptoms and ease discomfort.

To detox safely, you will also require mental health support. This is because alcohol detox can induce symptoms like anxiety or even hallucinations. Some people experience symptoms of depression during the detox. With mental health support, you are able to safely complete the alcohol detox.

Alcohol Detox Timeline

The length and severity of the alcohol detox can vary based on different factors. These include how long the drinking problem has been in effect, and how much alcohol is consumed daily. Also, your age and your overall health can affect withdrawal severity.

The detox team closely monitors your vital signs and will intervene with medications and emotional support as needed. The alcohol detox timeline includes three stages:

  1. Emerging symptoms. Early symptoms in the first 24 hours include nausea or vomiting, sweating, irritability, shaking or trembling, and increased heart rate.
  2. Acute symptoms. On days 2-4 symptoms peak. They include restlessness, agitation, insomnia, increased nausea, cold sweats, high blood pressure, hallucinations, fuzzy thinking, and possibly seizures. This is the phase of withdrawal when the delirium tremens can occur.
  3. Subsiding symptoms. On days 5-7 symptoms begin to lessen in severity and then start to subside.

What are the DTs?

The delirium tremens, or DTs, is considered a serious health emergency that may emerge during alcohol detox. The DTs are usually present during days 3-4 of alcohol detox and catch most off guard.

The DTs may occur in people with a long history of heavy drinking, impacting about 5% of those in detox. Of those who experience the DTs, 5%-15% will die from the condition.

The DTs are also more common among those who have made several attempts to go through detox and then relapsed.

Symptoms of the DTs include:

  • Uncontrollable tremors.
  • Fever
  • Severe mental confusion.
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme anxiety.
  • The sensation of insects crawling under the skin.
  • Seizures
  • Heart failure.

Treatment for the DTs involves benzos and/or barbiturates or phenobarbital. These drugs along with hydration are given through I.V. infusion for quick relief and stabilization.

What is the Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder?

After completing step one of recovery, detox, and withdrawal, it is time to tackle step two, treatment. Treatment for alcohol use disorder involves a multi-modal therapeutic process. Each modality is designed to assist you with adjusting to and maintaining sobriety.

Treatment includes:

  • Psychotherapy. There are multiple therapies that are helpful for addiction recovery. These include CBT, DBT, and CM.
  • Group therapy. Group therapy is a highly effective format during the treatment process. It allows peers to support each other while bonding during treatment.
  • Family group. Including close family members during treatment offers many benefits. Family members learn how to be supportive, while also learning how to set boundaries and expectations.
  • Education. During a variety of class sessions, you will acquire new life skills and coping techniques to help you strengthen your recovery.
  • 12-Step program. A.A. provides a step-by-step process for achieving success in recovery.
  • Holistic. Stress can impede the treatment process, so rehabs include holistic methods to help clients learn to manage stress.
  • Fitness and nutrition. To restore health and wellness in recovery, new healthy lifestyle habits are encouraged in treatment and beyond.

LifeSync Malibu Comprehensive Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

LifeSync Malibu offers a unique blend of treatment elements to provide the tools needed to sustain sobriety in recovery. If you are seeking the best way to detox from alcohol, our trained detox team will guide you through the process. Call us to learn more at (866) 491-4426.