The overall detox process can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, even dangerous. Detoxing from drugs and alcohol comes with various withdrawal symptoms that often require medical care and monitoring for the process to be done safely.
When detoxing from substances of abuse, such as alcohol, medications can be given in order to alleviate many of the withdrawal symptoms associated with detox as well as eliminate cravings.
Detox medicine for alcohol is administered as part of a medical detox program. Medical detox can be done at a local medical facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment facility that also provides medical detox services like Magnolia City Detox.
For many substances of abuse, including alcohol, quitting “cold turkey” or attempting to self-detox can not only be uncomfortable, but it can also be life-threatening.
When your level of alcohol use has reached a point where your brain thinks it needs alcohol in order to function properly, depriving it of alcohol can send the brain into a shock-like state. This shock-like state is what produces withdrawal symptoms.
When not under the proper medical care and monitoring, these withdrawal symptoms can lead the person experiencing them to relapse in order to relieve them and feel better.
When under the proper medical care and monitoring of a medical detox program, FDA-approved medications can be administered in order to alleviate pain and discomfort, stop withdrawal symptoms from getting worse, minimize the chances of major medical complications occurring, and reduce or eliminate cravings, thus greatly reducing the chances of a relapse.
Before you’re administered any type of over-the-counter or prescription medication during alcohol detox, you’ll be evaluated by treatment and medical professionals. Based on your medical and addiction history, certain medications may be recommended over others.
Below are some of the most common, and successful FDA-approved medications used during alcohol detox:
Acamprosate is one the medications that have been approved by the FDA to specifically treat Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Acamprosate helps to restore a balance in the central nervous system which, in turn, helps reduce the brain’s overall dependence on alcohol.
While Acamprosate doesn’t prevent symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, it cuts down on cravings and reduces the want or need to drink. Additionally, Acamprosate is safe to use for those with liver disease or hepatitis since Acamprosate is not metabolized by the liver.
While Naltrexone is often administered to those in treatment for opioid addiction, it can also be used to help with alcohol detox. Naltrexone binds to and blocks the opioid receptors in the brain, thus blocking the pleasurable effects that come with drinking alcohol or taking opioids.
When on Naltrexone, you may notice that your urge to drink alcohol has either gone down considerably or gone away completely. Additionally, if someone on Naltrexone does take a sip of alcohol, they will immediately be turned off by it and not want to continue drinking.
Disulfiram is used to essentially prevent the body from processing and breaking down alcohol. Someone that’s taking Disulfiram will experience unpleasant physical effects if they attempt to drink alcohol including:
These negative physical effects will often keep the person from wanting to drink alcohol.
While Benzos are not prescribed specifically to treat alcohol addiction, they’re often administered during alcohol detox in order to help manage and alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol detox such as anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks. They can also be administered to help reduce the risk of seizures in those with severe AUD.
Benzos that have been FDA-approved specifically to help manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin to occur as soon as eight hours after your last drink. While early symptoms tend to be mostly psychological in nature, it’s still important that you enter into a medical detox program immediately once you make the decision to stop drinking.
Symptoms you may experience during alcohol withdrawal include:
While the average stay in our alcohol detox program is 7-10 days, your time in detox may vary based on your needs and the recommendation of our treatment professionals.
Below is a timeline of what you can expect during alcohol detox :
As we touched on, withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as several hours after your last drink. During the first 12 hours or so after you have had your last drink, the majority of the withdrawal symptoms that you experience will be largely psychological in nature, centering around your cravings and the fact that you can’t drink anymore.
As a result, you may experience mood swings as well as feelings of stress, anxiety, irritability, and depression. In some cases, you may also start getting headaches and begin to notice that you have the shakes.
Over the next 24-48 hours, your withdrawal symptoms will begin to worsen and get more extreme. If you haven’t already entered our alcohol detox program, it’s crucial that you do so at this time. As symptoms begin to worsen they can start to become life-threatening if not properly addressed by medical professionals.
During this time period, you will be under medical monitoring and your medical professional may begin to start administering alcohol detox medications if they deem neccesary. The risk of seizures is also at its highest during this time period.
As your time in detox continues, your symptoms will continue to get worse before they peak, and then gradually start to go away. During the “peak” period of alcohol withdrawal, you will be administered various medications (if you haven’t already been given them) to help address and alleviate these withdrawal symptoms and manage cravings.
After a week, you will begin to notice that most, if not all, of your withdrawal symptoms have gone away. At this point, alcohol addiction treatment can begin.
In rare cases, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can linger for days, weeks, or even months after medical detox has been completed. This is known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). Those suffering from PAWS may require additional medical treatment and may continue to be administered withdrawal medication as part of a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program.
Once you have successfully completed your alcohol detox program, the next step is to start addiction treatment.
At Magnolia City Detox, we offer inpatient treatment for those in need once they have completed their medical detox program. With residential treatment, you live at the treatment facility for the duration of your treatment program where you will attend various therapy sessions and other addiction recovery-related programs.
Inpatient treatment provides a safe environment where you can focus all your time and energy on your recovery, without any of the outside distractions or temptations that come with everyday life.
In addition to residential treatment, other treatment options for alcohol addiction include:
Entering into a medical detox program right away once you or a loved one has made the decision to stop drinking is crucial not only to their overall health and well-being but also to the success of their addiction treatment.
Attempting to self-detox or quit “cold turkey” not only increases the risk of relapse but doing so can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Detoxing from alcohol requires medical care and monitoring, as well as the administering of special, FDA-approved medications that are meant to help with the overall detox process.
At Magnolia City Detox we understand the importance of medical detox as it pertains to addiction treatment. In addition to inpatient residential treatment, we offer medical detox for the following substances of abuse:
It’s our goal to make sure your detox experience is as smooth and comfortable as possible. We will administer any medications that we deem necessary in order to help address your withdrawal symptoms as well as any cravings that you may have.
If you or a loved one are looking to stop drinking and get started with medical detox, contact us today.
Dr. Olaniyi O. Osuntokun is a Neurology & Psychiatry Specialist based in Conroe, Texas, and Lafayette, Indiana. He has extensive experience in treating Individuals with substance use disorders and addiction. He earned his medical degree from University of Ibadan College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.