People, who have a dependency on alcohol consumption or otherwise known as the heavy drinkers, always need to detoxify their bodies in order to get rid of all the toxins that drinking alcohol may have caused. This is important because, alcoholism can lead to severe consequences, if left untreated. In the entire process of medical attention to alcohol withdrawal, the alcohol detoxification program is an essential initial step that is recommended by the doctors. As alcoholism is a serious problem, causing more than 100,000 deaths every year alone in the United States of America, it is very much important that those, who have an addiction to alcohol, go through a thorough alcohol detoxification program.

Alcohol Detoxification Program

What is Alcohol Detoxification Program?

Alcohol detoxification is a medically supervised period in the process of alcohol withdrawal. It is usually coupled with substitution for cross tolerant drugs, when the alcoholic person develops a tolerance for the drugs that are given to help the person withdraw his or her habit of alcoholism. This program is administered by a medical professional or a doctor, who will not only help to get rid of the desires for alcohol, but will also educate regarding the problems of this habit and its possible treatments.

Why is Alcohol Detoxification Program Needed?

Those, who have a strong dependence over alcohol, start to develop withdrawal symptoms immediately after their last drinking session. This can occur within 3 to 8 hours of the completion of the previous drink. This is because as the blood alcohol level stabilizes after some time, the blood craves for more alcohol. Hence, it is very much important that the blood alcohol toxin levels are cleaned properly. It is reported that more than 15 million Americans have alcohol problems. However, less than 5 percent of them receive formal treatment.

What are the Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

When an alcoholic person, tries to get rid of his or her habit of alcohol dependency, he or she encounters quite a number of withdrawal symptoms. It is a clinical syndrome that every person, who suddenly reduces drinking or stops drinking completely, develops. These can be quite dangerous at times, but the usual symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are:

  • Sweats
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea or feeling sick
  • Anxiety, depression, fatigue
  • Paranoia, nightmares
  • Seizures and rapid heart rates
  • Tremors
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of fluid in body or dehydration
  • Craving for more alcohol
  • Delirium tremens, including agitation, confusion and seeing as well as hearing things that are absent

Usually the withdrawal symptoms last for 5 to 7 days, if one does not have any more alcohol. However, the craving for more alcohol can last for days.

Different Kinds of Alcohol Detoxification Programs:

Alcohol detoxification programs can take place in quite a number of settings. These are hospital- or medical-clinic-based alcohol detox programs, residential rehab alcohol detox programs, partial hospitalization or day treatment, outpatient programs and intensive outpatient alcohol detox programs. In case of the hospital based alcohol detox programs, patients have to stay within the clinic premises for treatment. They are now quite rare practices. In case of the residential programs, the patients are kept in a residential environment, virtually cut off from all other friends and relatives and family members, in order to grow a primary relation with others, who are also seeking treatment there. Gradually this helps them to recover from their problems and the treatment process of alcohol detoxification lasts for few months, and at many times may last for more than a year.

Different Kinds of Alcohol Detoxification Programs

In case of the day treatments programs for alcohol detoxification, the patients have to be hospitalized for four to eight hours, every day. This is recommended for those, who have a supportive family as well as a stable home environment. Outpatient and intensive outpatient alcohol detox programs are those in which the patients can continue to work, while continuing their treatment at the health clinics, hospitals, mental health clinics or counsellor’s offices.

Process of Alcohol Detoxification Programs:

Whether the patient is in a residential setup or being treated as an outpatient; the alcohol detox treatment follows a basic routine at the initial stage in both cases. Alcohol Detoxification Program begins with an initial assessment of the medical or clinical condition of the patient to find out the amount of damage that has been caused to the patient which will further determine the amount of response he or she will give to the alcohol detoxification program.

The assessment includes:

  • How long the patient has been drinking alcohol and in what age did he start drinking
  • Alcohol amount consumed in a day
  • Medical history of the patient
  • The effect of alcohol on his health and personal life
  • Other medical issues (both relating to alcoholism and others)
  • Mental health
  • Familial, social, cultural, legal and financial issues
  • Medicines that are being taken
  • Educational background
  • Home environment and current living standards
  • Whether the patient has had any previous visits to rehabs
  • Employment history

Steps to be followed for Alcohol Detoxification Program:

  1. Working out a Plan:

    Depending on the initial assessments, a plan of treatment for alcohol detoxification will be worked out by the counsellor or case manager. This plan will be carried out by a team of trained professionals, including a social worker, nurse, psychiatrist, counsellor, psychologist and others.

  2. Counselling:

    This is the most important and an integral part of the training program. This helps the patients to overcome their denials, become motivated to solve problems, change their behaviour, create a recovery lifestyle, befriend those who do not have alcohol dependency and also develop a deep relationship with their family.

  3. Medications:

    Those, who are in need for medications to detoxify themselves off of the toxins that dependency on alcohol has endowed upon them, are given certain medications in this process. The most common medicine of choice that is used for the management of alcohol withdrawal symptoms is Benzodiazepines. It reduces delirium and seizures. The common drugs of this category are Chlordiazepoxide (Librium), Lorazepam (Ativan), Diazepam (Valium) or Oxazepam (Serax).

    In the very beginning, a standard dose of the benzodiazepine is given to the patient in every half hour until a light sedation is reached by the patient. Gradually the dose is changed and is continued for 3 to 10 days.

    Apart from the Benzodiazepines, Acamprostate is also given to those, who have a strong craving for alcohol and need to control that. Sometimes, the General Physician also recommends Disulfiram so that whenever you drink, you encounter some unpleasant feelings such as vomiting, flushing, headache and thumping heart. This helps the patient to stay off alcohol. Those, who have an alcohol consumption of more than 40g (5units) per day for women and more than 60g (7.5units) per day for men, are recommended with Nalmefene. Baclofen is also used at times to reduce the amount or quantity of alcohol consumption. However, it is not licensed anymore.

  4. Vitamins:

    Patients with alcohol dependency are often found to have vitamin deficiency. High protein multivitamins and thiamine dosage are also recommended.

Factors to consider before starting the Alcohol Detoxification Program:

The alcohol detoxification programs are inadequate when done alone, without the support of medications. However, the proper procedures must follow some precautionary measures and they are:

  • Using only safe and efficient clinical and medicinal programs
  • In case the clinician is using a program that has not established its safety, the patient or the family members must be notified with that
  • The patient’s access to the drugs should be controlled

Self Help For Alcohol Detoxification:

If you are confident about yourself and can take the responsibility of quitting alcohol all by yourself, you could choose the self alcohol detoxification programs that do not require you to stay within a rehab or residential treatment. However, this also requires you to follow certain procedures and they are:

  • At the very beginning, you need to consult with your GP to make sure if self alcohol detoxification is a good idea for your particular case or not. If you need assistance of drugs and medicines to get rid of the withdrawal symptoms that too will be recommended by the GP.
  • Your first step would generally not include quitting alcohol all of sudden, rather continuing to taper off. The idea of quitting alcohol by continuing taking alcohol is an ancient practice as sudden quitting may make it difficult.
  • Finding a support system by discussing your decision to quit taking alcohol and sharing it with them is quite helpful.
  • Keep yourself hydrated and drink a lot of non-alcoholic beverages to dilute the alcohol level in your blood.
  • You need to take Vitamin C, Vitamin B and other minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium to keep yourself strong enough to sustain the resistance from alcohol. Nutrition from protein such as poultry is also useful.
  • Stay away from excess coffee or cigarettes. This is because the alcoholic persons often have a tendency to develop a dependency on caffeine to compensate the alcohol deficiency. Also do not eat too much of processed food.
  • Try exercise, natural and healthy diet to detoxify your body of alcohol and its effects.

With all these procedures, it will be quite easy for you to detoxify yourself. However, it is very important to discuss your process with your GP. Keep yourself from alcohol and you will stay healthy.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 16, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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