When a person is an alcohol addict, they need to undergo detox before they proceed to traditional, structured treatment. Historically, this was called “drying out” and people were kept in cells or isolated at home and made to wait until the alcohol was out of their system. It was a fairly cruel process and modern detoxification developed as a way to humanely guide people through the process of eliminating the alcohol in their body.

Alcohol detoxification, in particular, can be quite dangerous, so it is recommended that people wishing to detox, specifically those with severe alcoholism do so at a supervised facility.

The basic concepts associated with alcohol detox will be covered in the following discussion.

What Is Detoxification?

Most people know about detox from fad diets and alternative medicine. In these contexts, the term is interchangeable with “cleanse.” People who are doing a yoga cleanse or a yoga detox are trying to eliminate toxins from their system by doing a lot of yoga.

Drug addiction detox has a similar aim: get the bad stuff out. But addiction medicine is complicated and the transition from acutely intoxicated to a state that is alcohol and drug free is a process that has been specifically developed.

Is Alcohol Addiction Detoxification a Cure?

No. Detox is one stage in a longer series that helps you to achieve and maintain sobriety and not a replacement for treatment.

There Are Stages?

Yes, there are stages. In fact, detox actually has its own stages. There are three of them:

  1. Evaluation
  2. Stabilization
  3. Fostering the patient’s entry into treatment.

During “stage one”, clinicians measure the amount and concentration of alcohol and drugs in the patient’s system. In addition, patients are screened for any co-occurring physical and mental disorders. There is also a complete assessment of medical, social, and psychological situation surrounding the patient. All of this information contributes to the overall treatment plan.

“Stage two” is the one most associated with deox. It is the period when abstention begins and withdrawals set-in. Staff members work to assist the patient through the transition both medically and psychosocially. This stage ends when the patient is in a fully supported, medically stable, substance free state.

The final stage is simply the one that helps prepare the patient for continued treatment. The importance of further treatment is stressed and patients are given the support and resources they need during this time.

Is All Care the Same?

No. There are actually differing levels of care and the one that a patient is placed in is decided by their initial assessment. There are five main levels of care:

  • Ambulatory detoxification without extended onsite monitoring: this is just simple outpatient detox through a home health care agency or doctor’s office.
  • Ambulatory detoxification with extended onsite monitoring: at this level, the care is monitored by licensed and credentialed nurses, usually through a day hospital.
  • Clinically managed residential detoxification: this is social detox and it typically takes place in a non-medical setting; this level is for patient’s whose intoxication and/or withdrawal is severe enough to need 24-hour support.
  • Medically monitored inpatient detoxification: patients in this level of care receive 24-hour a day medically supervised services, usually in a freestanding detox center.
  • Medically managed intensive inpatient detoxification: this is 24-hour care in an acute care setting, typically a psychiatric inpatient program.

In addition to levels of care, each facility will offer its own particular approach, causing services to differ between providers. People thinking about detox should learn as much as they can about the program they intend to attend.

What Are the Dangers of Alcohol Detox?

Kindling is one potential danger.

The withdrawal symptoms are scary to consider, and that scariness is increased when you take into account that each alcohol withdrawal episode may increase in harshness.

People with an alcohol addiction generally alternate binging with abstention. When they do this, the body gets confused. It compensates during the binge, but that’s overcompensating when it’s a period of abstention. This sort of pattern increases the severity of each period of withdrawal.

Kindling makes each period of detox more dangerous than the last and given the seriousness of symptoms like seizure and tremors, increases in danger could be life threatening.