The Physical Dangers of Cold Turkey
Alcoholism is the physical addiction to alcohol. Severe alcoholics cannot safely detox without medical help. Side effects of withdrawal can be minor for some people but life-threatening for others. Many alcoholics know this but are afraid of going through the sometimes painful ordeal of alcohol detox. Alcoholism, which is a serious medical problem that destroys lives and families, can be treated successfully and safely in a medical setting. In addition, trained medical professionals can lessen the effects of withdrawal and prevent a medical emergency before it happens. The biggest danger is not taking the first step through the doctor’s door.
Symptoms and Side Effects
The milder symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Excessive sweating
- Mild to severe shaking
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
As the alcoholic goes longer without drinking and these minor side effects increase, the desire to drink increases, which is another reason quitting without medical assistance is very difficult.
Serious symptoms may not take effect for 2 days after the last drink, or they could strike within hours:
- Severe vomiting
- Seizures and convulsions
- Delirium Tremens (the DTs)
Delirium tremens often sets in after several days without alcohol and cause extreme confusion and disorientation, severe hallucinations, dehydration, and serious cardiovascular problems that can lead to seizures, heart attacks, and strokes.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies according to many factors, especially the level of alcohol addiction. But there is no way of knowing for sure how severe or how mild a particular person’s withdrawal symptoms might be. Detox under the supervision of a qualified medical professional is essential.
What Happens During a Medically Supervised Detox
Getting into a clean, alcohol-free environment, away from familiar temptations, is an important part of the detox process, and a medical setting offers vital resources to that process. Doctors can monitor withdrawal symptoms and treat them before they become overwhelming.
Detox centers offer counseling to help patients overcome the psychological effects of withdrawal, and medical therapy to help lessen the physical effects of withdrawal:
- Comfortable and secure room
- Fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration
- Trained staff on call for any needs
- Drug therapy if needed for severe cases
- After-detox care, including counseling and psychotherapy
After alcohol detox care is also important for full recovery, but this, too, would be unavailable without a medical detox. Breaking any addiction is difficult, and people often fail many times before succeeding. Alcoholics who go through numerous detox attempts are particularly vulnerable to more severe side effects during subsequent detox attempts. It’s better to succeed the first time, and a medical detox can significantly increase the chances of success.
But no recovery is likely unless you call for help. We will connect you to a nationwide network of effective treatment programs. Call the number at the top of the page to speak with a certified addiction specialist, and to tailor a plan specified for you and your loved ones needs.