When alcohol detox is shown on television, it is shown as something mildly unpleasant but not very dangerous. The reality is that alcohol detox is hazardous. In extreme cases, alcohol detox can be fatal. The risk of serious illness and fatality from alcohol detox is higher in individuals who try to go through the detox process alone.
This is especially true if a person has suffered from alcohol use disorder for a long time. It is not uncommon for a person to decide to quit drinking alcohol, so they go on one last large binge before attempting detox. In doing so, they poison themselves.
Thankfully, people who choose to detox at a rehabilitation center have a reduced risk of severe symptoms and death. To better understand why it is dangerous to go through alcohol withdrawal on your own, it’s important to understand the withdrawal process and what detox does to your body.
What Happens During Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol withdrawal may seem like a simple process. However, it is the complicated result of several physiological processes working simultaneously. When a person stops drinking alcohol, their body breaks down the alcohol that is already present in their system. Once alcohol levels drop to a set point, the person’s central nervous system is no longer suppressed. It’s hard for the body to process alcohol.
Alcohol is poisonous, so the liver works overtime to filter it and convert it into something that is not as deadly. In the process, the liver has to produce compounds that, when produced in large quantities, can be dangerous for the body. Once alcohol levels lower, your central nervous system tries returning to functioning at normal speed. However, if a person has been drinking alcohol for a long time, their nervous system has already been trained to work harder to counteract the depressant effects of alcohol.
You can compare it to someone running all their life carrying a backpack weighing 100 pounds and then suddenly taking the backpack off and trying to run. It will be hard for them to regulate their speed or their balance because they are so used to having that weight suppressing them. This happens to a person’s nervous system when they go through detox.
How Long Does Detox Last?
Alcohol detox will last about a week. The length of time you detox and experience withdrawal will vary based on the alcohol you are accustomed to drinking, the time you have abused alcohol, and your physical makeup. Most people will start to experience withdrawal symptoms six hours after they have had their last drink. Symptoms will reach their peak 72 hours after their last alcoholic beverage.
For some people, the most intense symptoms only last a few hours. For others, they can last for several days. Milder symptoms could be experienced up to a couple of weeks after a person’s last drink of alcohol.
What Makes Detoxing Alone Dangerous?
A person with alcohol use disorder will experience nausea, anxiety, restlessness, sweating, and irritability after about six hours of not drinking alcohol. But this is just the start of their symptoms. For the next 72 hours, they could experience symptoms like high blood pressure, cognitive dysfunction, hallucinations, uncontrollable tremors, and seizures. There is no way of knowing who could develop serious symptoms from alcohol detox. While it is true that a person who consumes less alcohol may have fewer intense symptoms, a person who drinks a lot of alcohol less frequently may not have symptoms that are as severe as someone who drinks a little bit of alcohol frequently.
The uncertainty around who will develop severe withdrawal symptoms and who will not is the number one reason why it is dangerous for people to try to quit drinking alone. A person could suddenly start to experience dangerous, even life-threatening, withdrawal symptoms. The end could be tragic if there is no one around them with medical knowledge or proper equipment.
Are you or someone you love considering going through alcohol detox to start rehab and recovery? Don’t go at it alone. There are caring individuals who want to help. Learn more about the options available to you when you call 855-334-6120.