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What to Expect From Alcohol Detox

Alcohol detox can be really intimidating if you don’t know what to expect. If you are currently struggling with alcohol addiction and are considering treatment, you are one step closer to freedom.

By learning what to expect from alcohol detox, you can get a better handle on what’s to come. Familiarizing yourself with the detox process will help smooth the transition into recovery. Oftentimes, the unknown poses more challenges than the actual battle.

What Is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is the first step towards treatment in overcoming alcohol addiction. Detox is a natural process the body undergoes as it attempts to rid the system of waste products and toxins from excessive, long-term alcohol consumption.¹

Those who have a more extended history of alcohol addiction should seek help from detox professionals for their own safety and wellbeing. At minimum, we highly recommend that you consult with your doctor before attempting to detox from alcohol on your own. Your doctor may offer support with temporary over-the-counter or prescription medications that can help mitigate the symptoms of alcohol detox. Sharing your detox plans with your physician can help you anticipate risks and create a safer strategy for care.

Dealing with Alcohol Addiction Detox Symptoms

Detox symptoms typically happen in stages based on severity. While most symptoms tend to resolve within a week, detox and recovery are part of your ongoing journey with constant upkeep. Even though there isn’t a clearly defined “finish line” in terms of detox and recovery, this journey and your wellbeing are absolutely worth the effort.

You can support your detox efforts by mentally preparing, educating yourself about common symptoms, and incorporating a few of these detox tools:

  • Hot showers
  • Journaling
  • Resting
  • Hydrating
  • Eating simple nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest
  • Sleeping
  • Spending time outside

Reading through the list of symptoms below may be overwhelming, however, please know that while these symptoms are all associated with alcohol detox, it’s not likely that you will experience every symptom.

Symptoms Associated with Alcohol Detox

Everyone reacts differently to detox, as it is mainly contingent on your dependency on alcohol. Someone who has only been drinking for a few weeks isn’t likely to be affected in the same way as someone who’s been drinking for years. That being said, even drinking heavily for a short period can result in detox symptoms when you try to quit.

If you have been drinking heavily for an extended period, you may experience detox symptoms for weeks or even months after quitting. This is known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS. However, these effects will eventually subside, and setting your expectations will help you better prepare for detox.

So, what are the symptoms you can expect when detoxing from alcohol addiction? Let’s observe each in greater detail.

Cravings

Most people who stop drinking will experience intense cravings or sudden urges to drink again. Regardless of the substance you struggle with, cravings are a natural part of quitting. Cravings stem from the body’s desire to stop feeling the symptoms commonly associated with detox.

The other notable factor associated with cravings is the desire to feel alcohol’s effects. There is a reason that people choose to drink or use, and it is often to feel better, but that relief is only temporary and doesn’t work to resolve any issues. Addiction of any kind causes a lot of damage.

There is undoubtedly a double-edged sword associated with detoxing from substance and alcohol use. Thankfully, you can remind yourself that change is needed, and with the right help, that change can become a reality.

Sleep Disturbances

Alcohol detox will likely make it very difficult to sleep. Although your body and mind may feel worn out, insomnia is a very real possibility following the commencement of detox. You may experience restless legs and sweating, making getting comfortable and falling asleep more challenging.

Speak with a physician about your concerns and be completely open and honest about your plan to detox from alcohol. Sleep is vital for your overall wellbeing, and your doctor needs to be informed to make sure that you’re receiving the appropriate level of care.

Sickness

Some people experience very physical symptoms during detox, similar to the flu. You may become nauseated and vomit more than once. For this reason, it is advised that when you detox from alcohol that you have quick and easy access to a bathroom.

You may also experience a lack of appetite or even cravings for certain foods. Try to stay hydrated, and if you find yourself struggling to hold down liquids and solids, be sure to seek medical advice from your doctor.

Tremors

Some individuals going through detox experience physical tremors. Your body and extremities may shake all over, causing balance issues and discomfort. This can become a very serious risk; in some cases, tremors can trigger seizures, which can be especially problematic. If you experience tremors, call 911 immediately, as suffering a seizure without medical treatment can have grave risks. This is why it is so crucial to detox in the presence of a loved one or trained professional. If something happens to you that’s out of your control, you will have someone there to call paramedics or provide medical assistance if necessary.

Hallucinations

Hallucinations are some of the more extreme symptoms someone can face when going through detox.² Not everyone who goes through alcohol detox will see or hear things that aren’t there.

If this happens to you, don’t try to cope with it on your own. Talk to your doctor so they can provide the care you need. As bad as hallucinations are, know that they don’t last and are likely to subside after you have completed detox or individual therapy.

Changes in Mood

Detoxing from alcohol significantly impacts your mood, and you may feel sad, angry, frustrated, impatient, or emotionally exhausted. These emotions are normal; just as consuming alcohol can change your mood, the same is true when you stop drinking. It’s essential to bear in mind while you are experiencing these mood changes that your body is crying out for normalcy.

For so long, alcohol consumption radically changed how you thought, felt, and acted. After extended periods of addiction, your body and mind have forgotten what it’s like to feel sober.

Fortunately, this turbulence doesn’t last forever. After you have reached a certain point in detox, your body and mind will start to feel good without the need for alcohol or drugs. Working with a therapist can help to speed up this process. A therapist will offer you more coping strategies to navigate detox and life in recovery.

Remember: alcohol consumption often starts because we want to feel good or escape. Detox is just the opposite: instead of feeling good, happy, and relaxed, you are likely to feel anxious, sad, and miserable as your body levels out. This is completely normal and won’t last forever.

A woman stands at the top of a hill, overlooking the snowy Colorado landscape below.

Managing Mental Health Through Detox

Alcohol detox is a journey. Consider what alcohol did for your emotions: many people choose to drink because they want to mask feelings of sadness, pain, guilt, or another unwanted emotion. Hiding these emotions for so long is bound to cause them to come springing forth when you take away the substance that was blocking them.

Some people going through detox may experience PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as they try to overcome the onslaught of mixed emotions. This is a natural side effect of alcohol detox; the body is trying to assess a threat and react appropriately but may get confused during detox when old coping mechanisms aren’t available.

Detox Support

As you face the challenges of alcohol detox, it is essential to do so with the support of others. A therapist can help you navigate detox with compassion for yourself and the support you need to be successful. A physician will help you address the physical symptoms of detox. A community of support will be there to help remind you why you want to complete detox in the first place. This is why it’s so important to share your goals with friends and family.

Your community of support needs to know that you may be difficult to be around for a few days or weeks as you go through withdrawal. What’s more, they need to know how they can support you as you wrestle with this process.

If you do not have a community of support close by, you don’t need to try to go through detox on your own. Residential treatment and alcohol detox at a facility may be an excellent fit for you. Detox and assessment centers are designed to help safely and effectively guide you through the process with customized care and support.

Detox at All Points North

After reading about what you can expect from alcohol detox, it’s understandable if you feel anxious or afraid. There is no question that what you are about to face will be challenging, however, you must remember that what you are feeling is only temporary. Your detox may feel like the longest time of your life. But when it’s over, you will be thankful that you stuck with it and rode it out.

At All Points North Detox & Assessment Center, our world-class therapists and medical experts will help you get the care you need to feel comfortable as you work through detox. Working with a treatment center gives you a better chance of success with detox and recovery.

Detox can be the perfect jumpstart before you continue to pursue recovery in residential treatment. You can get personalized, professional care and attention for your symptoms, and you will be surrounded by people who have your best interests in mind.

At All Points North, we believe in the power of the individual. We’re here to help you with detox and recovery. The APN Detox & Assessment Center in Denver, Colorado, is the latest addition to our continuum of care, combining luxury accommodations with world-class clinical experts for a more comfortable, completely custom detox experience.

In addition to detox and assessment services, we offer treatment options for addiction, mental health, and trauma at All Points North Lodge in Edwards, Colorado, along with telehealth services in the APN Connection App.

With determination and a solid treatment plan in place, you can look forward to restoring your life and health. Call us at 855-510-4585 or contact us online or via to get started with your recovery today and live a life beyond addiction. 

Reference

  1. “Alcohol Detox.” Addiction Center, Addiction Center, 30 Aug. 2021, www.addictioncenter.com/alcohol/detox/.
  2. Fowler, Paige. “Hallucinations.” WebMD, WebMD, 26 July 2021, www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/what-are-hallucinations#1.
Jess Johnson

Jess Johnson

Content Marketing Specialist

As a fierce proponent of mental health services, Jess believes in the compassionate care and person-centered approach at All Points North. She works to create content that inspires clients and families to advocate for the support they deserve.