The 5 Steps of Alcohol Detox

Man in consultation with doctor

It’s possible alcohol has taken a serious toll on your body.

When you’ve been drinking for many years, or possibly the majority of your life, entering alcohol detox can seem scary, but it’s the first step towards lasting recovery.

The act of detoxification is a process in which all harmful substances are removed from your body. This process usually takes from three days to a week. During this time, a wide range of symptoms may be felt depending on how heavily you used alcohol.

Once the substances are removed, you can concentrate on learning how to live a life free from those substances.

Here is what you can expect in alcohol detox in five short steps.

1. Intake Assessment

When you are admitted to addiction treatment or a detox facility, the first thing you’ll do is communicate with staff about logistics. It’s important during this step to be as honest as possible about your alcohol use so you can get the right type of detox services for you.

2. Treatment Assessment

Initial medical screenings will be completed to measure the levels of alcohol within your blood and urine. Other medical tests are performed to rule out any other diseases or co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or bi-polar disorder. These screenings are necessary in order to create a personalized treatment plan and to treat every aspect of your addiction.

3. Medication prescribed if needed

During alcohol detox, you’ll most likely experience some withdrawal symptoms. Most people begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms 5 to 10 hours after they stop drinking. These symptoms can range from fatigue, mood swings, nausea, sweating, tremors, irritability, confusion, fever, and vomiting to hallucinations, paranoia, and an irregular heartbeat.

Medical professionals will monitor your withdrawal symptoms to make sure no dangers arise and they will prescribe medication if necessary.

Benzodiazepines are normally the medication used to help treatment side effects from withdrawals, but these are not given in every case. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last from 6 to 12 months after you stop drinking. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms include impaired memory, clumsiness, occasional vertigo, headaches, oversleeping or insomnia, and irritability.

4. Maintain hydration and boost overall health

Other common side effects of alcohol abuse are dehydration and poor nutrition. These will be addressed during alcohol detox. Many detox programs use vitamin B supplements, folic acid, and iron supplements to boost overall health. Neutral broths and herbal teas are also given to maintain hydration needs.

5. Treatment plan put into action

Detox is only the start of addiction treatment.

Once treatment staff has properly diagnosed you and all harmful substances have been removed from your body, your personalized treatment plan will be put into action.

Addiction treatment not only helps you cleanse your body of alcohol, but it also treats the underlying psychological aspects of your disease. You’ll go on to uncover what triggers contribute to your drinking and develop new coping mechanisms for these triggers, as well as your emotions.

Alcohol detox does not cure your addiction. That’s why it’s imperative that after detox, you continue with your medically supervised therapies. This therapy will help guide you on your sobriety journey and give you the tools you need to live drug and alcohol-free for the rest of your life.

Detox doesn’t have to be scary. With the right medical treatment and caring staff, you’ll be in great hands. You should look on detox not as something painful and miserable, but as the first step of the rest of your life.

Written by: Kelly Fitzgerald 

Kelly is a sober writer based in Cape Coral, Florida, best known for her personal blog The Adventures Of A Sober Señorita. Follow her on Twitter.