With more than fourteen million Americans struggling with some form of alcohol use disorder, it is expected that some of these individuals will try to stop drinking on their own. However, many people who attempt alcoholism detox without medical oversight are often unaware of the risks inherent in alcohol withdrawal symptoms. In other words, severe reactions from sudden or even gradual abstinence from regular alcohol abuse have, in some cases, resulted in serious medical complications and even death. Although some individuals do manage to stop drinking without help, most people who self-detox typically experience a string of failed attempts before finally recognizing that they need help.
For Bonnie, a recovering addict that said she lost many years to alcoholism, this realization was the wake-up call that she needed to end her alcoholic lifestyle. “What really changed in me was that I knew I couldn’t stop alone” Bonnie said in her alcohol detox story. Professional alcohol detox services have the potential to not only save lives but also prevent a relapse from occurring before alcohol withdrawal symptoms have subsided. These often produce such severe cravings among other painful symptoms that many who are self-detoxing often resume drinking to alleviate the discomfort.
When this happens, the danger of alcohol poisoning is amplified because of the amount of alcohol that is usually consumed. Delirium Tremens (DTs) is another serious medical complication that can occur when people suddenly stop habitual drinking. The US National Library of Health defines DTs as a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes. This condition typically manifests as a series of symptoms that may include violent physical shaking, spikes in blood pressure and body temperature, seizures, coma and intense hallucinations. The severity of these symptoms can also escalate rapidly and be difficult to stop or control.
Studies show approximately 10% of alcoholics who experience DTs when they are alone do not survive them. And, since it is impossible to predict who will experience these symptoms or who will be physically able to endure them, it is extremely risky to attempt an alcohol detox without appropriate medical oversight. According to study outcomes, DTs can begin anytime during the first ten days of an alcohol detox with the most dangerous phase occurring in the first 72 hours. People that try to detox on multiple occasions and have a history of alcohol withdrawals are strong candidates for experiencing delirium tremens. It is also common among long term alcoholics who consistently exceed safe drinking limits on a daily basis for months or years to experience DTs.
Alcoholism detox is never recommended without medical intervention. However, for those who try to stop drinking on their own, it is important to seek immediate attention if withdrawal symptoms begin to escalate beyond mild discomfort especially in the first 72 hours. The American Medical Association has recognized alcoholism as a disease since 1991. The reason for development of this disease is based on the situation or circumstances that triggers the desire for alcohol that lead to dependence on this substance. Drinking triggers can be different for each individual. These factors may include, but are not limited to environment, genetics, mental illness, unresolved trauma or underage drinking. As such, these contributors to an alcohol problem are best addressed after the detox process is completed. It is therefore important to recognize that “alcohol detox” is only the first phase of recovery and does not address the core issues that drive alcohol use disorders or enable sustained sobriety.
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