WHY MEDICAL DETOX FOR ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE?
Every alcoholic who imagines a new life, recovered at last from dependence on alcohol, has his or her own personal list of the potential rewards of sobriety — perhaps a resurgence of lost self-respect, the opportunity to heal damaged relationships, a return to good health, and a blossoming of productivity.
But imagining any future at all without alcohol first requires an admission to oneself that the alcohol dependence is real, and that alcohol is running — and ruining — one’s life.
With this leap of self-realization, the door to that imagined future opens — just a crack — along with the opportunity to make the most important decision of your life: To embark on the road to sobriety.
Part of that decision involves confronting what’s often been called ‘the worst of the worst withdrawals’ — alcohol detox. Without the right kind of help, withdrawing from alcohol can mean days of anguish, illness and pain. It can even cause permanent harm and death.
The right help for this momentous first step is called medical detox, an drug and alcohol detox method developed to address all the safety issues of drug and alcohol withdrawal, as well as to help ease the illness, discomfort and pain.
A good alcohol medical detox program addresses every aspect of one’s health, and all the physical and emotional discomforts. Patients are closely and carefully managed, round the clock, by a team of experienced alcohol withdrawal specialists.
ALCOHOL DETOX – THE FIRST BIG BARRIER TO SOBRIETY
The decision to do what it takes to achieve sobriety is probably the hardest decision of an alcoholic’s life. It requires an immense leap of self-confidence, the kind that shouldn’t really be expected until after months in rehab.
And that decision can be even more difficult when it’s being made for the second, third, fourth or after multiple failures to successfully travel all the way.
Recovering alcoholics tell us that if you haven’t personally made that decision, and traveled the rocky road of alcohol detox, you cannot possibly imagine the magnitude of the journey.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms start within 6 to 48 hours after your last drink. Without a medical detox team of specialists caring for you, symptoms can include:
- Loss of appetite
ALCOHOL DETOX COMPLICATIONS
For some people, there can be more serious and debilitating symptoms. These depend on their metabolism, how much they have been drinking, and for how long. Alcohol withdrawal can bring on the horrible and potentially life-threatening symptoms of delirium tremens (the ‘DTs’):
- Total confusion
- Panic attacks
- Convulsions and seizures
In fact, if not medically treated during withdrawal, one in every four people withdrawing from alcoholism are at high risk of life-threatening seizures. Only a medically supervised alcohol detox offers the required measure of safety for alcohol withdrawal.
ALCOHOL ABUSE, ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE AND ALCOHOLISM
Alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcoholism, are often used interchangeably. A more precise understanding of what each means helps determine the type and course of treatment.
A person is said to be abusing alcohol when they regularly experience these harmful effects:
- Harm to one’s health
- Harm to one’s interpersonal relationships
- Harm to one’s ability to work or fulfill responsibilities
- Harm to one’s judgment of risks, such as driving while intoxicated.
Of course, someone who has been chronically abusing alcohol to where these harmful conditions exist is dependent on alcohol to some degree, and needs treatment to address it. But it may be primarily psychological, and treatment would address the level of responsibility, respect for self and others, and the underlying personal problems that are driving such self-destructive behavior.
But unless the person is physically dependent he or she may not require a medical detox. The more serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms are associated with a true physical alcohol dependence.
ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE AND ALCOHOLISM
Chronic alcohol abuse usually leads to alcohol dependence, which means physically dependent, and true alcoholism, which is both physically and psychologically dependent.
A person suffering from alcohol dependence or alcoholism displays these symptoms:
- A strong craving for alcohol
- Continued use despite harm or personal injury
- The inability to limit drinking
- Physical illness when drinking stops
- The need to increase the amount of alcohol consumed in order to feel the effects.
A medical detox program tailored to your personal needs can safely ease you through the worst of alcohol withdrawal. But that’s only the first step in recovery. Alcohol dependence and alcoholism must be taken up in alcohol rehabilitation, and a program of two or three months is considered the minimum time needed to reach success and permanent sobriety.
ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE AND YOUR HEALTH
There are all kinds of situations that reduce one’s chances of surviving alcohol withdrawal, or even just surviving excessive alcohol intake. A medically supervised alcohol detox is absolutely necessary as a first step in treatment, and it can’t come a moment too soon for anyone.
Malnutrition is a frequent problem with alcoholics, because they chronically lack any appetite or interest in food — a side-effect of alcohol toxicity. Also, alcohol abusers often take over-the-counter or prescription medications, which contribute additional stress to the body’s defense systems.
‘Moderate drinking’ isn’t moderate if it’s daily. Moderate would be a couple or three drinks a week, not three or four a day.
Alcohol is a poison, and it builds up in the system and can gradually poison a body to death. Chronic ‘moderate drinking’ undermines general health, opens the door to liver disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious conditions, and worsens pre-existing medical conditions.
In other words, and without ever really getting drunk, a few drinks a day for a few years can lead to an early grave.
Alcohol is so poisonous it can kill anyone if they drink too much, even in just a few hours. Like narcotics, an overdose shuts down the central nervous system, rapidly leading to unconsciousness, coma and death.
CIRRHOSIS OF THE LIVER
Most of us have heard that cirrhosis of the liver is a side effect of alcohol abuse, but what is cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is derived from the Greek word “kirrhos”, meaning “tawny” (the orange-yellow color of a diseased liver). Cirrhosis of the liver is a condition where scar tissue replaces normal, healthy tissue, blocks the flow of blood and prevents the liver from working as it should.
Your quality of life is directly affected by the health of your liver, and no one can live without a functioning liver. Following are some of the common problems, or complications, caused by cirrhosis:
- Edema — accumulation of water in the legs and abdomen
- Bruising and bleeding caused by the liver not producing the proteins needed for blood clotting
- Jaundice — a yellowing of the skin and eyes when bilirubin, a product of liver metabolism, backs up into the blood stream because the liver is failing to remove it efficiently
- Gallstones — bile from the liver becomes abnormal and crystallizes in the liver and forms pellets or ‘stones’ in the gallbladder
- Behavioral changes — when the liver can’t do its job of filtering toxins they accumulate in the blood or brain, resulting in neglect of personal appearance, unresponsiveness, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, or changes in sleep habits
- Improper metabolism of medications — when the liver cannot metabolize medications properly it reduces the value of the medication, and can increase medication toxicity and side effects
- Type 2 diabetes — cirrhosis causes resistance to insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes as excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream.
Alcohol abuse, even daily ‘moderate drinking’ as described above, can eventually bring on cirrhosis. But so can binge drinking just once a week, as scientists have discovered only recently among people as young as 25. Cirrhosis is the twelfth leading cause of death by disease.
ALCOHOL MEDICAL DETOX — WHAT IT IS AND WHY YOU NEED IT
Obviously, in spite of its wide social acceptance in our culture, alcohol is a dangerous and toxic drug, especially when abused, and addictive, both physically and psychologically.
Recovering and rebuilding your life, without depending on alcohol to provide answers and solutions to the questions and problems of life, begins with the decision to change.
A personally tailored medical detox can then help a problem drinker safely move forward into a proven effective rehab program to fully recover a life of sobriety.