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The Dangers of Alcohol Detoxification

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a national concern as many people become addicted to alcohol and struggle to find the help they need. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that as many as 88,000 people die each year due to alcohol-related causes, of which 26,000 are women and 62,000 are men. Based on a 2015 survey by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there were 15.1 million adults in American that year that had a form of AUD. The dangers of alcohol detoxification coupled with the high number of alcohol abusers is the reason for so many preventable deaths.

4 Minute Read | Published Aug 14 2023 | Updated Feb 27 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
David Levin
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
David Levin
Reviewed by

Alcohol Detoxification – How to Recover Safely

The high risk of complications, especially when the dependency is severe, is why it is advised to seek alcohol detox hospital admission before attempting to go through the process unassisted.

Alcohol Dependence Withdrawal Symptoms

As a person continues to habitually consume alcohol in high quantities, a tolerance develops. This causes the individual to have to consume alcohol in increasing quantities to achieve the same results. However, having so much alcohol in the body is not natural and the body tries to adjust its chemistry to counteract the presence of alcohol. Not only does the person eventually become dependent on alcohol, they suffer from very severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking or try alcohol detoxification.

The symptoms experienced by each person varies depending on their health status, how long the abuse has gone on for and how much alcohol they consumed daily. For most people with AUD, the following symptoms are common when ceasing alcohol consumption:

  • Fatigue
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Shakiness
  • Nightmares
  • Depression
  • A haziness to their thinking
  • Mood swings

Other symptoms that are not always experienced by every person suffering from AUD include the following:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Headaches
  • Paleness of skin and lips
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
  • Clammy and sweaty skin
  • Tremors through the body and limbs
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

While most of these symptoms of alcohol detoxification can be managed fairly easily, delirium tremens (DTs) can be dangerous, even life-threatening. They usually occur in severe cases of alcoholism and require alcohol detox hospital admission to deal with effectively. The symptoms of DTs are as follows:

  • Severe confusion that can cause dangerous situations if unsupervised
  • Hallucinations that causes the persons to see and feel things that are not real
  • Fever
  • Agitation and aggression
  • Seizures

The combinations of symptoms during DTs are what make it dangerous. Alcohol detoxification should not be attempted alone, especially if the addiction is severe.

Alcohol Detox Timeline

Depending on the individual’s health and the severity of their dependency, the alcohol detox timeline may differ slightly. In general, there is considered to be three stages in alcohol withdrawal.

  • Stage one – After 6-12 hours since the last alcohol was consumed, a person will begin to experience early symptoms including stomach pains, nausea, anxiety and headaches.
  • Stage two – From 12-48 hours, the person’s heart rate and blood pressure begins to rise and the majority of common withdrawal symptoms are experienced.
  • Stage three – The final stage begins after around 48 hours and last for around 72 hours from the last drink. This stage is when DT’s usually set in.

Most people will be over the majority of their withdrawal symptoms after a week of detox. Some psychological withdrawal symptoms such as depression may continue for several weeks before finally disappearing.

Treatment for AUD

A detoxification period is essential in the treatment of AUD. A medical detox will ease the patient through the process with the aid of medical drugs to lessen the effects of the withdrawal symptoms. After detox, the patient is advised to seek further therapy through treatment programs at rehab centers to work on the issues that led to their abuse of alcohol. Since relapse is a concern if treatment does not follow detox, patients generally attend a rehab facility for several weeks to ensure that they learn new life skills to cope with stress and triggers, as well as relapse prevention techniques.

If supervised by professionals, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be effectively managed. Discover rehab centers in your area today that can help you or a loved one through AUD.


bullet MedlinePlus
"Alcohol withdrawal"
Retrieved on August 25, 2017
bullet National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
"Alcohol Facts and Statistics"
Retrieved on August 25, 2017

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