What is Alcohol Detox?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 April 2020
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Alcohol detox, sometimes called drying out, is the first step in ending addiction to alcohol. When people have been alcoholic, they frequently have extremely adverse physical reactions when they stop drinking. Many people suffer from delirium tremens (DTs), which when not managed medically, has a high death rate. This is why most people undergoing alcohol detox do so at a hospital or at an alcohol or drug treatment center.

During this process, medications are given to help people through the DTs and any adverse health effects can be carefully monitored and treated. There is possibility of alcohol detox causing seizures or extremely erratic behavior, so people need help during this time. Not everyone will require medical treatment for detoxification, but it’s important not to take that risk. However, young people who are relatively new to alcoholism or who are binge drinkers may not require detoxification if they don’t drink all the time. Usually, detox is most helpful to people who drink daily, since the body grows dependent on alcohol.

This dependency creates serious problems when alcohol is suddenly withdrawn, and it makes quitting “cold turkey” at home a very dangerous risk. If people wish to stop drinking, it is best to do this in a hospital or a detox facility. You can’t always know if stopping drinking will be life-threatening or not. Doctors and medical professionals are capable of making this judgment and watching for signs that you need medical intervention.


Alcohol detox to treat delirium tremens may be considered the first step of treatment for alcoholism. Sometimes the term is used to describe not only the physical part of ending addiction but also the next step, which is working on emotional addiction to alcohol. This may be undertaken at the same treatment facility where detox began, and may consist of several weeks to several months of treatment to address learning how to live without alcohol. Some people prefer to work on this at home, and attend regular meetings sponsored by groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Others feel that a few days where they’re removed from the temptations of their former life can help them better.

For most people with alcoholism, ending grave physical addiction is not enough. Once they’ve made it through the alcohol detox process, the work truly begins to find ways to live life without alcohol. Many people who return to drinking after alcohol detox find themselves quickly abusing alcohol, and reestablishing their addiction. Focus in this next step becomes how to stop drinking for life.

Though this process can be difficult to undertake and requires much work on the part of the alcoholic, there are many people who are extraordinarily grateful for the day they began alcohol detox and were able to quit drinking. Former alcoholics often comment on how many positive things fill life once alcohol is removed from it. Yet it is important to bear in mind the physical risks of detoxing without medical assistance. Fortunately, there are many programs that are offered for low prices or even free, that can help you take this valuable and life-changing step.


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Post 2

This article is spot on in every respect.

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