Myths about Alcohol Detox
First, the Facts
Alcohol– the legal drug– remains one of the easiest substances to fall prey to, and one of the most difficult drugs to quit. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older have an Alcohol Use Disorder. The same study estimates that 86.4 percent of people aged 18 and older have drunk alcohol at some point in their lifetime due to its social acceptance and widespread availability.
Factors that differentiate between one’s alcohol use and a disorder include continued use despite experiencing adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. Severity is determined by these factors, and when the concepts of tolerance (the need to drink more to achieve the same effect) and withdrawal (experiencing negative symptoms when no longer introducing alcohol into the system) are in play.
Typical reactions from alcohol withdrawal include:
• Anxiety and depression
• Headaches, restlessness and inability to sleep
• Mood swings and irritability
• Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
However, once one’s alcohol use crosses the threshold into repetitious or patterned behavior, it can become dangerous or even life-threatening to quit.
Myth: I don’t need to detox from alcohol.
Many people don’t want to admit the severity of their drinking problems. They may state that they don’t have a problem because they only drink on weekends, or that they are able to manage their drinking during the week. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines low-risk drinking as no more than 3 drinks a day or 7 a week for women, and for men, no more than 4 drinks a day and less than 14 drinks total per week. Many users do not fall into this category, and even if they do, careful consideration also needs to be taken to understand the function of alcohol in their life.
Even if alcohol is used just as a way to blow off steam on the weekends, and an accepted part of the current collegiate culture, the truth is that as long as you’re exposing your body to alcohol on a regular basis, especially in large amounts, you remain at risk for serious withdrawal symptoms. The CDC estimates that one in six U.S. adults binge drink four times a month, consuming on average seven drinks each time, indicating repeated periods of intoxication followed by detox. It has been proven that binge drinking in this manner has profound effects on the brain and leads to increased risk of memory and learning problems, and even seizures.
Myth: I can do it on my own.
Many individuals believe that they do not need professional detox services in order to rid their body of alcohol. They may complain about not wanting to go to a detox facility, but perhaps what they do not realize is that detoxing at home without professional support and monitoring can be dangerous. Alcohol withdrawal is known to include all of the symptoms listed above, and in more severe cases, cause tremors, seizures and delirium tremens. Seizures are reported to occur in about 5% of individuals attempting to detox on their own, and anywhere between 5 and 25 percent of individuals with DT’s meet a fatal outcome.
Detox is as difficult psychologically as it is physically, which is why individuals should opt to enroll in a professional detox program where there is access to medical monitoring, pharmaceutical support, and counseling services available once they return to their natural state of functioning.
Myth: Detoxing at a facility is the only option.
Many individuals have concerns about confidentiality and do not care for the sterile and often depressing environment of a rehabilitation center. Many do not wish to leave the comforts of home during the detoxification process, and it is true that they do not have to. As long as a team of medical professionals is closely monitoring the patient, detoxing at home can often prove to be the more appropriate choice.
By closely observing the home environment, home providers are able to better understand your triggers for substance abuse, family interactions, and appropriate referrals to put in place for aftercare purposes.
Myth: It takes a long time to detox from alcohol.
While the duration of alcohol detox is different for anyone, sources state that withdrawal symptoms usually peak by 24 to 72 hours, but may go on for weeks. Comparatively, while it may appear to be a long length of time, this is actually a relatively short part of the recovery process overall. Still required for recovery are the skills to cope with cravings, emotions and addicted mindset. What comes next are the months and years of ongoing treatment, abstinence, and determination to reach and maintain recovery. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process with no shortcuts, unfortunately.