Everyone has different needs when it comes to treating alcohol use disorder (AUD), a condition that can be diagnosed when your pattern of alcohol use is problematic and causes significant distress. It can range from mild to severe, depending on how many symptoms you have. The care you’ll need depends in part on where you fall in that range.
Some people with AUD become dependent on alcohol and have withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly stop drinking. The effects of withdrawal on your body and mind can be uncomfortable and dangerous. That’s where detox comes in.
What Is Detox?
Detox alone isn’t treatment, but it’s the first step to getting better for people who are dependent on alcohol.
When someone with a dependence on alcohol suddenly stops drinking, usually within 6-24 hours after their last drink, they might develop withdrawal symptoms. This can start while they still have alcohol in their blood.
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Withdrawal symptoms are mild for some but much more serious for others. You may have:
- Delirium tremens (DTs), a life-threatening issue that can make you restless, upset, and confused and cause fever, hallucinations, and seizures
- Hallucinations, when you see or hear things that aren’t there
- Problems sleeping
- Shakiness, especially in your hands
- Unstable changes in blood pressure and heart rate
Do I Need a Detox Program?
If you need alcohol for your body to feel normal, then you likely need help. Getting through detox isn’t just a matter of willpower, and stopping “cold turkey” without at least medical help is never recommended. In some cases, withdrawal can put your life at risk. Even when it’s not as serious, it’s still a big challenge.
A program gives you support to guide you through the withdrawal. That often includes medicine to help ease symptoms as well as care for medical and mental health conditions.
Your symptoms may last a week or more, typically hitting their worst within 24-72 hours. You’re more likely to stick with a detox program when you have lots of help.