Alcohol abuse continues to be a problem in the U.S. and a threat to the health and happiness of nearly 7% of the adult population who meet the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence as specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 2000, 226,000 patients were discharged from short-stay hospitals after being diagnosed with alcohol withdrawal, alcohol withdrawal delirium or alcohol withdrawal hallucinosis. It is estimated that only 10 to 20% of patients undergoing alcohol withdrawal are treated as inpatients, meaning that as many as 2 million Americans may experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal conditions each year.
Those are staggering statistics, especially when you realize that those who go through medical detox for alcohol abuse are more than 20% more likely to complete treatment successfully than those who don’t, according to statistics published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In addition, alcohol detox has proven to be even more dangerous than
drug detox in many instances, making it even more important to detox under close medical supervision.
The ABCs of Alcohol Detox
The alcohol withdrawal process can be one of the most intense of all substances, making it more important than ever to detox in a medically-supervised setting. Withdrawal symptoms generally last several days to two weeks, with the following symptoms reaching their peak after the first few days of the process:
- Depression and anxiety
- Sharp mood swings
- Sweats or chills
- Relapse into alcohol use
- Seizures or blackouts (in severe cases only)
Addiction isn’t a weakness or character defect, and trying to overpower a chemical addiction with an emotional response doesn’t make those very real physical cravings go away. Detox is serious business, worthy of a professional treatment program. A safe medical detox will carefully get the alcohol out of an individual’s system with the least amount of discomfort and risk—all while a medical staff monitors progress every step along the way, making adjustments and dealing with issues as they arise.
When is it Alcohol Abuse?
Maybe you’re not sure you need medical help. How can you tell if you, a friend or a loved one is in need of treatment for an addiction? Try answering these simple questions:
- Are you using alcohol to escape?
- Have you tried to stop drinking and can’t?
- Are you drinking more than you did a few weeks or even a few days ago?
Help is Here
Once a problem has been identified, it’s time to get help. A comprehensive assessment by a trained professional can determine if medical detox is needed and provide a customized treatment plan to take you from abuse to recovery. The idea of seeking treatment can be scary, but abuse doesn’t go away on its own. A professional inpatient program is the best guarantee of long-term success and full life in recovery.