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Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous – detox safely!

Fear is a common symptom of addiction and something that keeps many people from seeking help. Having spoken with thousands of people about their fear of stopping drinking, we wanted to write about the detox process and how it needn’t be as frightening as people often think.

A structured, medically supervised detox programme is the safest and most effective route to recovery. It’s also often a lot easier and less painful that many people fear.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms



Whilst the journey towards sober living can involve a few uncomfortable days initially, the effects of alcohol withdrawal are rarely as pronounced as people expect. The rewards that follow certainly make it all worthwhile.


Effective alcohol detoxification

When a person has become physically dependent on alcohol, the recovery process starts by addressing their physical needs through a process known as detox, which safely and effectively removes substances from the body. This can be done at a private residential clinic or as a home detox, but in both instances requires the close medical supervision of healthcare professionals.

Detoxification is typically carried out on an inpatient basis, at a residential treatment centre, where clinics have the medical expertise and resource to facilitate a safe and comfortable detox. The choice of treatment setting depends on a range of factors, like the patient’s age, the history of abuse, psychosocial issues and co-existing medical conditions. Detox from alcohol normally lasts from three to 14 days. However, it depends on the person and the severity of their alcohol abuse.

While admission to a private residential rehab centre often offers the best possible route to recovery, it isn’t always appropriate or applicable to everyone’s situation. A home detox, where a registered clinician over-sees a structured detox programme at your home, can prove to be far more practical in certain cases. You can begin immediately, with no waiting lists or risk of delay.

Facts about alcohol detox

  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are at their worst for the first 48 hours. They gradually improve as your body adjusts to being without alcohol through a process known as detox which usually takes three to seven days.
  • You may find that your sleep is disturbed and that you wake up several times during the night or experience difficulties falling to sleep. Your sleep patterns should get back to normal within a month.
  • During detox, be sure to drink plenty of fluids (around three litres a day) but avoid drinking large amounts of caffeinated drinks, including tea and coffee, because they can worsen your sleep problems and cause anxiety.
  • Try to eat regular meals, even if you’re not hungry. Your appetite will gradually return to normal.
  • Avoid driving or operating heavy machinery if you’re taking medication to ease your withdrawal symptoms because it can make you drowsy.
  • Detox can be a stressful time, so try to relieve stress by reading, listening to music, going for walks and taking a bath.
  • Detox from alcohol is an important first step to overcoming your alcohol-related problems but detox isn’t an effective treatment in isolation. You’ll need further treatment and support to help you in the long-term.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Often, the fear of the unknown can be far more daunting than the reality itself. For that reason, it is good to know exactly what you might expect from the alcohol detox process. Please don’t be alarmed by the following list of symptoms though – you might not experience any of them and even if you do, the clinical staff overseeing your detox will make sure you’re as comfortable as possible.

The most common symptoms that people can experience when withdrawing from alcohol include:

Aggression; agitation; anxiety; blurred vision; confusion; exaggerated emotions; headaches; hyperactivity; insomnia; lethargy; memory loss; muscle cramps; nausea; panic; poor concentration; seizures; shakes; sleepiness; soreness and stiffness; stomach cramps or upset; sweating; and restlessness.

WARNING: If you or a loved one have symptoms of a physical dependency on alcohol, do not attempt to stop or detox without consulting a medical practitioner or addiction specialist. Failure to do so could result in a serious threat to your life. Serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including delirium tremens (DTs), can result in death.

Port of Call can secure an appropriate alcohol detoxification and drug rehabilitation treatment programme for you quickly and discreetly. We will give you a free and confidential assessment over the telephone and can then help you to navigate towards the most appropriate course of treatment and support.

Please call us for free addiction support on 08000029010, we are ready and willing to help you through your addiction.

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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