People may associate alcohol with being hungover, but few know the potentially deadly consequences alcohol detox can bring. First of all, if a person is drinking alcohol in excess, there is no question that they should stop, but it needs to be done right, ideally in a medically-supervised environment.

Alcohol Detox Done Safely

Because of the severe effects alcohol detox can have, it is important for a person to detox under medical supervision. In this kind of environment, a person can be checked for any underlying medical conditions that could potentially complicate withdrawal, and be treated for them. Also, preventative medicine can be given to keep symptoms under control. Doctors and nurses will monitor the person around the clock in case any complications arise.

Detox usually last about 3-7 days, and it is recommended to do so in a facility. Withdrawing from any substance can cause so much discomfort that the person will give up on sobriety and choose to pick up a drink again to make themselves feel better.

Symptoms of Alcohol Detox

While detoxing from alcohol, symptoms can range from mild to severe. Everyone has heard of a hangover, and most people have probably experienced one. In a mild hangover, someone will feel symptoms excessive thirst, a headache, and possible nausea. This usually occurs in people who don’t drink regularly but who had one night where things got a little out of hand.

Alcoholics generally have a much more difficult time quitting alcohol. Symptoms can range from those of a hangover with the addition of anxiety, tremors, indigestion, and disorientation. In the worst cases, people will have Delirium Tremens (DTs) which is a medical emergency and potentially fatal condition.

Symptoms of DT include:

  • Shaking
  • Hallucination
  • Fever
  • Seizure
  • Dangerously high blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nightmares
  • Confusion
  • Profuse Sweating
  • Heavy breathing

While DT is rare, it occurs in about 5-10% of alcoholics. If a person is alone when it happens, there is a high chance of them having serious medical complications that could even lead to death.

If You Are Drinking Too Much, STOP!

Some alcoholics are afraid of DT, but that is not a reason to not stop drinking. It makes no sense to be scared of DT but not afraid of things like deadly car wrecks, accidents, or alcohol overdose. Those all happen much more frequently than DTs do.

If you have an alcohol problem, the best thing you can do is seek treatment as soon as possible. The best way to detox is in a treatment center that offers medically-supervised detox.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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