If you have been drinking heavily for a long time, you will go through a period of detoxification, or ‘detox’ when you first begin to abstain from alcohol, as your body experiences withdrawal.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal range in severity from person to person and not everyone will experience every symptom listed. These symptoms include: shaking, sweating, headache, nausea or vomiting, anxiety, diarrhea and stomach cramps, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and trouble sleeping. Alcohol withdrawal can become life-threatening in some cases. Call 911 or go to the emergency room if any of the following occur: severe vomiting, confusion or disorientation, fever, hallucinations, extreme agitation, seizures or convulsions.
These severe symptoms could indicate a serious form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens, or DT, which can be fatal.
People who only experience mild symptoms of withdrawal can usually complete the detoxification period without medical supervision, in two to five days. Those with more pronounced symptoms may wish to withdraw from alcohol under medical supervision, with or without medications to ease symptoms.
Whether or not detoxification is necessary depends on a number of factors, including an individual’s medical status, age and history of alcohol use. For example, someone who binge drinks and seeks treatment a week after last using alcohol may not require detox in order to begin other treatments for alcohol addiction.
Individuals who have been abusing alcohol for a long period of time and who may need medical supervision to detoxify.
Alcohol detoxification can be appropriate for some individuals on an outpatient basis from a knowledgeable physician or some outpatient programs. Many inpatient programs also offer detoxification treatment as part of their program or as a stand-alone service.
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