For people living with substance use disorder, it can be tempting to try and quit alcohol cold turkey.
Movies and T.V. shows make it seem unpleasant but not too dangerous, so how bad could it be?
The unfortunate fact is that alcohol detox can be hazardous. In the most extreme cases, alcohol withdrawal can kill you.
The risk of death from alcohol detox increases much more for people who try to detox from alcohol alone. The danger increases if they have suffered from substance use disorder for a prolonged period. Another risk factor is consuming large amounts of alcohol before attempting detox.
Fortunately, people who detox in MA have many options to lower the risk. Residential treatment, along with medically-supervised detox, is a much safer method.
To understand why residential addiction treatment in MA is the better option, it’s important to understand what alcohol detox is and why it’s dangerous.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detoxification, or alcohol detox, is simple on the surface. Two things happen when a person stops drinking alcohol: first, the body finishes breaking down the alcohol already present. As the alcohol level drops, the central nervous system (CNS) is no longer suppressed.
Processing alcohol is hard on the body. Alcohol is poisonous, so the liver has to filter it and convert it into something less deadly. The liver produces other compounds that cause unpleasant, dangerous side effects. Some of those side effects can be dangerous, too.
As the alcohol level lowers, the central nervous system tries to come back up to speed. But long-term alcohol use trains the nervous system to work harder to compensate for the depressant effects of alcohol. It’s like a person getting used to carrying 50-pound weights and then trying to run without them all at once.
How Long Does Alcohol Detox Last?
On average, alcohol detox lasts about a week. Some people with substance use disorder detox faster, and some detox more slowly. The initial symptoms of alcohol withdrawal typically appear within six hours of the last drink.
The symptoms intensify over time. They often peak about 72 hours after the last alcoholic beverage. Sometimes the most dangerous symptoms only last a few hours, but they can last for up to two or three days. Milder symptoms of detoxification linger a few days after that.
Why Detoxing from Alcohol Alone is Dangerous
The initial symptoms of detoxing are what most people associate with the process, but they aren’t the only symptoms. Starting at about six hours after the last drink, people with substance use disorder can experience things like:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Headache or migraine
But these are just the start of the withdrawal process. After 24 hours and up to 72 hours after the last drink, people may experience symptoms like:
- Uncontrollable tremors
- Lack of physical coordination
- High blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Loss of consciousness
It’s Impossible to Predict Who Might Develop Serious Symptoms from Alcohol Detox
While people who consume lower levels of alcohol tend to experience less severe symptoms from alcohol detox, there’s no rule. Someone who drinks small amounts often may experience more intense symptoms. Someone who drinks more alcohol less often may experience less severe symptoms. The reverse can happen, too.
The uncertainty around how severe detox symptoms will become is a primary reason why it’s dangerous for people to try and quit drinking alone. It’s challenging to watch symptoms that can become dangerous. It’s even more difficult if you don’t have the equipment or someone with medical knowledge.
It’s even more challenging to administer emergency medication for life-threatening symptoms.
Even Milder Symptoms Can Cause Serious Problems when Detoxing from Alcohol
Even if a person only develops the milder symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and detox, the situation can be dangerous. Vomiting and diarrhea, along with sweating, can cause dehydration very quickly. Without medical assistance like people can get in addiction treatment in MA, dehydration can lead to serious problems.
Tremors and lack of coordination can also cause major injuries, which a person in detox can’t treat properly. Even mild hallucinations can cause a medical emergency, without proper supervision.
For all of these reasons, the safest course is to undergo alcohol detox in MA with a medical professional.
How to Detox from Alcohol in MA Safely
The best way to ensure that a person undergoes an alcohol detox in Massachusetts safely is to enter residential treatment at a facility specializing in drug detox in MA. While the rehab process can seem daunting, medically-monitored detox lowers the dangers that come along with severe withdrawal symptoms.
The process of entering alcohol rehab is fairly simple.
First, patients undergo assessment, where treatment specialists ask questions about physical and mental health, family history, and behaviors to understand the underlying causes for the substance use disorder. Specialists will also ask about any early symptoms the patient experiences and other information that might help ensure safe treatment.
Next, patients begin the alcohol detox process. In some cases, this only requires supervision and occasional checking by a medical professional to make sure everything is going smoothly. Other times, this may include different medications to control or prevent the most serious detox symptoms.
Once the patient completes their detox process, they begin residential treatment. This treatment can take many different directions, depending on the different factors that influence each patient’s substance use disorder.
Medical supervision means that patients can focus on getting through the detox process and preparing for the more active treatment phase of their recovery. Medication and trained professionals make a big difference in preventing detox from becoming an emergency.
Alcohol Detox in Massachusetts Doesn’t Have to be Dangerous
Undergoing alcohol detox alone is a dangerous proposition, and it can even be hazardous to experience withdrawal with an untrained person present. The safest way to detox in MA is to enter a facility with medical professionals.
Trained professionals can monitor, prevent, and treat potentially dangerous symptoms before they cause problems. By taking the risk out of alcohol detox, people with substance use disorder can put all their efforts into recovery.
To learn more about the alcohol detox process and its benefits, contact Mayflower Recovery today