Drug and Alcohol Detox in Wisconsin

Choosing to enter recovery for alcohol addiction is a major decision. It’s a major step toward a life of health and sobriety, but can sometimes be very physically grueling. Alcohol has a particular process for detoxing that can be physically difficult to undergo. There are specific stages and points where things can go very badly if not addressed right away.

When it comes to alcohol detox in Wisconsin, we here at Wisconsin Recovery Institute know it can be difficult to consider detoxing from alcohol. It can be a hard process and many people become nervous about starting it. But with medical supervision and an accurate idea of what to expect, you’ll be ready to take this important step toward a healthier future.

man with alcohol problem taking detoxAlcohol detox is a process wherein the body completely eliminates alcohol from its system. It typically involves supervised withdrawal in a controlled environment, so the people involved can manage potentially dangerous symptoms such as tremors, hallucinations, and seizures. Not everyone experiences these effects as a result of alcohol addiction.

But longtime drinkers, such as functional alcoholics, are more likely to suffer severe withdrawal symptoms. This is largely due to how their body has adjusted to accommodate the presence of alcohol. Withdrawal is the system of the entire body reacting to and adjusting to functioning without the presence of a substance. Most addictive substances affect various parts of the body, and the chemicals and biological environments adjust to working in harmony (or at least to compensate for) the substance itself.

The alcohol detox process is different for everyone, but there are a few features that are true across the board. It’s important for the person to stay hydrated throughout. Medical professionals may administer medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. The goal is to safely manage the physical and psychological effects of withdrawal while preparing the individual for ongoing treatment or recovery. It’s an essential first step for those with alcohol addiction that seek sobriety.

What to Expect During Alcohol Detox

During alcohol detox, individuals can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms as their body adjusts to the absence of alcohol. These symptoms may include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Irritability.

In severe cases, hallucinations, seizures, and delirium tremens (DTs) may occur, necessitating medical intervention.

The detox process typically lasts several days to a week, sometimes with symptoms lingering after this timeline. But the timeline can vary depending on the severity of alcohol dependence and individual health. Age can also play a major factor, because older people may not be able to recover as quickly from younger people. If properly conducted, individuals undergoing detox will receive medical supervision and support to manage symptoms during the process.

Alcohol Detox Timeline

For most people, they’ll experience the full detox effects of alcohol within 96 hours. But this is highly dependent on the addiction, its severity, and the person’s existing health. Alcohol has a profound effect on the body, even on aspects like the nervous system. Removing it safely and without lasting damage to the body takes intention and consistent monitoring by a medical professional.

Generally, withdrawal symptoms may begin within hours after the last drink. They will typically peak within the first 24 to 72 hours. Mild to moderate symptoms like anxiety, sweating, and tremors typically occur during this initial phase. In more severe cases, symptoms such as hallucinations and delirium tremens (DTs) can manifest within the first 48 hours. These may require medical intervention to prevent lasting medical damage.

The acute withdrawal phase usually subsides within about a week, although some symptoms like anxiety and insomnia may persist for longer periods. It’s important for individuals undergoing detox to have medical supervision. But it’s also important to ensure they will have support during these lingering symptoms, such as planned individual therapy appointments or check-ins from friends.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

It’s important to emphasize that symptoms of alcohol withdrawal differ highly by the person and severity will differ highly according to personal health. Someone who identifies as a social drinker will likely have a much different experience than someone who consistently drinks alone every night.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include the following, listed in order of least harmful to most potentially harmful:

  • Anxiety: Feelings of nervousness or unease, even if there isn’t an immediate cause.
  • Sweating: Excessive sweating, especially during sleep or physical activity.
  • Nausea and vomiting: This includes the sensation of needing to vomit and actual vomiting.
  • Headache: Pain or discomfort in the head, often described as a throbbing sensation.
  • Tremors: Involuntary shaking, typically in the hands (“the shakes”). But this can occur in other parts of the body.
  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, leading to disrupted sleep patterns. This symptom may continue after the initial symptoms of withdrawal have passed.
  • Irritability: This is an easily provoked or aggravated negative mood, often accompanied by restlessness.
  • Increased heart rate: People may experience an elevated heart rate, also known as tachycardia.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure can lead to various complications if not managed.
  • Hallucinations: This can happen in extreme circumstances. People may perceive objects or events that are not present, often visual or auditory in nature.
  • Seizures: Severe cases of alcohol withdrawal may lead to sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain. People may experience convulsions and loss of consciousness.

It’s important to note that the severity and onset of these symptoms can vary widely among individuals, and medical supervision is crucial, especially for those with a history of heavy alcohol use or previous withdrawal complications.

What is Delirium Tremens (DTs)?

Delirium tremens (DTs) is a severe and potentially life-threatening complication of alcohol withdrawal, typically occurring in individuals with a history of heavy, prolonged alcohol use. It’s caused mostly by withdrawals of alcohol as it leaves the nervous system. Alcohol acts as a depressant for the entire body, and delirium tremens is the nervous system “coming back on” without this depressive effect.

Symptoms of DTs often manifest within 48 to 72 hours after the person’s last drink. Symptoms can include:

  • Severe agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations (often visual or tactile)
  • Tremors, beyond the extent of “the shakes”
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Profound sweating

In severe cases, individuals may experience seizures, severe hypertension, hyperthermia, and even cardiovascular collapse. In addition to having a history of alcohol dependence, delirium tremens are more likely to occur in individuals with a history of prior alcohol withdrawal seizures or comorbid medical conditions. Medically supervised detoxification is crucial for individuals at risk of delirium tremens. Prompt medical intervention can prevent complications and ensure safety during the withdrawal process.

Dangers With Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal poses significant dangers, whether it’s from mild discomfort to life-threatening complications. Mild symptoms such as anxiety, sweating, and tremors can progress to severe symptoms like seizures, hallucinations, and delirium tremens (DTs). This is why it’s important to not go through detox alone or without informing your healthcare professional of your plans. Seeking medical supervision during alcohol withdrawal is crucial to mitigate these risks and ensure a safe and effective detoxification process.

Without proper medical management, seizures and delirium tremens can lead to serious injuries or death. Additionally, alcohol withdrawal can exacerbate underlying health conditions such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease. This can drastically increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Psychological symptoms like severe agitation and paranoia may also endanger the individual and those around them. If you’re currently using any psychoactive drugs or are receiving psychological support, talk to your personal medical professional and ask about dual diagnosis support.

In general, it’s important to prepare yourself and the people in your life for when you begin alcohol detox. Gather your support system and do your best to articulate your needs as clearly as possible. Educate them on what your symptoms may be, and communicate that your emotions may be altered or sensitive regardless of how they may act. Communicate clearly on what they can expect from you, and under what circumstances they should seek medical attention. This is especially important for the period after you initially leave medical supervision.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Plans at Wisconsin Recovery

Alcohol addiction is difficult to heal from, and the healing process can be intimidating. At Wisconsin Recovery, we understand when people are nervous and work to answer their questions in a way that puts their minds at ease. We view detox as an important first step of treatment, and intend to provide support throughout to set the tone for the rest of your recovery journey.

Ready to begin your recovery from alcohol addiction? Contact us today and start your life of sobriety and healing.

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