When is Alcohol Detox Necessary?

Detox is necessary when an individual is unable to control the amount they drink and may drink daily or binge on high quantities of alcohol. While many people do not feel like they need alcohol detox, it may be necessary to conquer addiction.

Alcohol is one of the most socially acceptable, prevalent substances used in our society. For most people who do not have alcohol use disorder, drinking can be done socially and casually, for special occasions or on the weekends. 

Individuals must determine for themselves whether or not they are dependent upon alcohol to function normally, but there are some red flags that concerned individuals and their family members and loved ones can watch out for, which may indicate an alcohol dependence problem. These include:

Indicators of Alcohol Dependence

  • Regularly consuming more alcohol than you had planned on drinking
  • Drinking during the day or during work hours
  • Attempting to hide how much or how often you are drinking
  • Experiencing frequent blackouts or memory loss from drinking
  • Feeling uncomfortable or uneasy when alcohol is unavailable
  • Experiencing legal, financial, or emotional consequences from drinking
  • Being unable to take a break from drinking or control the amount you drink even when intending to do so
  • Having tremors or shakes when not drinking
  • Binging heavily
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol
  • Thinking about alcohol excessively
  • Drinking and operating a car or heavy machinery, or otherwise attempting dangerous tasks while intoxicated
  • Drinking alone
  • Feeling guilty about your alcohol consumption
  • Physical changes, such as gastrointestinal problems

Can I Detox From Alcohol Alone?

For someone with a physical dependence on alcohol, detox can be dangerous if not done properly. In order to prevent dangerous and occasionally fatal withdrawal symptoms, it is usually necessary for people with alcohol dependence to detox in a medically supervised facility.

Alcohol detox is different for each person based on a number of factors. These factors include the amount of time a person has been drinking excessively, underlying medical and emotional issues, overall physical health, and how much alcohol the patient was consuming. Generally, the more a person drinks, the worse a person’s detox symptoms will be. However, there is no set number of drinks that are “safe”; each person is different and requires an individualized approach to their detox plan. At Discovery Institute we understand how unique each client is, and we treat them as such, creating an individual treatment plan for each one of our patients.

Why Do I Need a Detox?

Trying to get clean without a medically supervised detox is unsafe, largely unsuccessful, and even more taxing than the already difficult process. We understand that alcohol detox can be scary, but the main focus of this next section is two-fold; if you struggle with an alcohol addiction you need alcohol detox, and unless it is medically supervised it is unsafe. 

Alcohol detox is one of the very necessary substance use disorders to detox from. The reason being is that alcohol is a depressant, therefore the effects of detox will be very effective in seeking a good start to treatment. Detox is an important stage in the process, however, it can also be dangerous. If you attempt to detox on your own, unsupervised, depending on the severity of the addiction it could lead to extreme sickness or death. This is why it is so important to get treated professionally for medical alcohol detox.

alcohol detox

Alcohol Detox in a Medically Supervised Setting

Alcohol withdrawal can occur as early as within four to six hours since the patient’s last drink, and residual symptoms can last for weeks (although acute symptoms usually subside after one week.) Alcohol detox can vary from mild discomfort to severe medical issues. Mild symptoms may include things like anxiety, restlessness, and stomach problems. The most serious cases of alcohol detox include Delirium Tremens (DT), a condition that is a medical emergency and must be treated as such. People with DT can develop fever, hallucinations, and seizures. It is rare, but Delirium Tremens can be deadly without proper medical care. Because mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms can rapidly progress into more serious conditions, it is vital to seek medical attention for alcohol detox immediately. 

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Mild to severe anxiety
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Abdominal pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature and sweating
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Agitation and mood swings
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations and disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Delirium Tremens
  • Nausea and vomiting

While a client is detoxing at Discovery Institute, we make sure they are as comfortable and safe as possible. Most alcohol detox patients require withdrawal medications that prevent seizures and the symptoms of Delirium Tremens. Our doctors are experienced in handling these medical conditions and ensure that our clients receive the proper medications, such as anticonvulsants, to protect them from the effects of these symptoms. In addition to medication, patients are given regular assessments throughout their detox process to monitor vital signs such as heart rate and temperature, to ensure that they are receiving the correct medication and care.

Safety is our main priority, but we also value our clients’ comfort.

We know that withdrawal is uncomfortable for patients, so we provide them with prescription and over the counter medications to treat the less dangerous but still uncomfortable aspects of detox, such as nausea. We also provide comfortable beds for patients to rest, as many of our clients need long periods of sleep during this time. Nutritious, appealing meals are provided for patients, helping them to re-establish healthy eating routines that will serve them in their recovery journey.

Alcohol Detox In New Jersey

In this section, we will outline the prevalence of the need for alcohol detox in New Jersey. The numbers and statistics we give you may seem depressing, but the point of this section is to emphasize the need for detox, as well as to let you know that you are not alone.

28% of those who suffer from substance dependence in New Jersey in 2018 were suffering from specifically alcohol. That is 25,000 people alone. Out of all the recorded admissions for substance use disorder (around 90,000), only 10,000 received a medical detox. The top five counties for admission from most admissions to least are the following: Essex, Camden, Ocean, Monmouth, and Atlantic. The age group which had (by far) the most admissions for alcoholism was 25-59, followed by 18-24, and finally 60 and over. Of all total drug admission, 64% had a mental illness and were diagnosed as having a co-occurring disorder.

The average amount of time spent in alcohol detox was 18 days for residential, while outpatient alcohol detox was an average of 28 days. Finally, of those who needed treatment, the percentage of unmet need over all of New Jersey’s counties was roughly 40%. We at the Discovery Institute want you to know that we have the most professional services available, but you need to be the ones to reach out and connect with us. We do not want you to not have your needs met.

The Unmet Need

The sad reality of addiction is while it is a chronic lifelong disorder, it is very treatable. While this treatment was never promised to be easy, it is the far easier solution to living a lifelong addiction. 40% of the total amount which needed treatment did not receive it. If you or a loved one struggle with an alcohol use disorder, please get help. You have an illness that can be treated, but you have to be open to having that illness treated. Please consider getting help today. We at the Discovery Institute are here for you for all the needs you have, below we will be discussing the specific process of alcohol detox.

The Process of Alcohol Detox in New Jersey

Because alcohol detox can be a difficult process, our dedicated and compassionate staff is available around the clock to clients to make sure their every need is met. At all times during their stay, patients will have access to medical professionals who can address any concerns they may have or adjust any treatment regimen as necessary. Because we administer medication to assist with the detox process, our doctors are also trained to assess patient progress and symptoms and wean patients off of detox medications when they get cleared to do so.

Our staff understands that oftentimes, patients enter detox with outside physical and mental health concerns, and our staff is experienced in identifying and treating these issues alongside withdrawal symptoms in our patients, in order to provide the best chance at a full recovery for our clients. In addition, we know that detox can be an emotionally charged and challenging time for many patients, so we have an amazing staff of therapists available to attend to each client’s needs.

Our Staff is Here to Assist You

Clients are encouraged to seek counsel from any of our staff members, including nurses, doctors, therapists, and technicians. Each and every member of our staff has a passion for assisting those who struggle with addiction and alcoholism to reach their full potential in life, which begins with a safe and complete detox from any mood and mind-altering substances, including alcohol. Support is critical during the detox process, and at the Discovery Institute of New Jersey, we pride ourselves on the fact that we provide all of the support a person could need during this journey, in a well-rounded, supportive, safe, and healthy environment.

For more information on our alcohol detox program, please contact us today.

Written by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. 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.