Detoxing from excessive alcohol use is dangerous and shouldn’t be attempted without medical supervision. Alcohol withdrawal happens when someone abruptly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol consumption. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can vary widely from mild anxiety and shakiness to severe complications, like seizures and delirium tremens. Delirium tremens can be life threatening and are characterized by confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fever. Because of the severe effects of alcohol withdrawal, it’s important to seek medical attention even if symptoms are mild. Alcohol detoxes can effectively reduce the risk of developing withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens. Alcohol detox Orange County offers an ideal environment for recovery.
Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal
Excessive daily drinking disrupts the brain’s neural pathways.
An example of daily drinking affecting the brain’s neural pathways. Alcohol at first enhances GABA which is a chemical that produces feelings of relaxation. But after a while the same alcohol use that helped GABA no longer does. This requires you to drink more alcohol to get the same relaxed feeling you did at first.
Heavy alcohol intake also suppresses glutamate, the chemical which produces feelings of excitement. To maintain balance, the glutamate system responds by functioning at a higher level than it does in moderate drinkers and nondrinkers.
When chronic drinkers stop or significantly reduce their alcohol consumption, the neural pathways previously suppressed by alcohol are no longer suppressed. The effects related with alcohol withdrawal are the opposite of those related with alcohol consumption. These effects include anxiety, irritation, agitation, tremors, seizures and delirium tremens.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Generally the severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the person’s drinking history.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually show up 6 to 12 hours after a person stops drinking. Symptoms include:
- Shaky hands
- Mild anxiety
12-24 hours after they stop drinking, some people may experience visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations. These normally end within 48 hours.
Withdrawal seizures normally appear between 24 to 48 hours after someone stops drinking. In some cases, they can appear as early as 2 hours after drinking stops. The chances of seizures are significantly higher in people who have previously detoxed multiple times.
Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
If you have moderate withdrawal symptoms, your doctor may choose to treat you in an outpatient setting. Outpatient detox is safe, effective, and less costly than inpatient detox. Treatment plans are always tailored to a person’s individual needs.
You may require inpatient treatment if you don’t have a reliable social network, are pregnant, or have a history of:
- Severe withdrawal symptoms
- Withdrawal seizures or DTs
- Multiple previous detoxes
- Certain medical or psychiatric illnesses
- The goals of treatment are threefold: reducing immediate withdrawal symptoms, preventing complications, and beginning long-term therapy to promote alcohol abstinence.
Prescription drugs of choice include benzodiazepines (also known as benzos), such as diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), lorazepam (Ativan), and oxazepam (Serax). Such medications can help control the shakiness, anxiety, and confusion associated with alcohol withdrawal.
Withdrawal meds can also reduce the risk of withdrawal seizures and DTs. In patients with mild to moderate symptoms, the anti convulsant drug carbamazepine (Tegretol) may be an effective alternative to benzos. That is because it is not sedating and has low potential for abuse.
To help withdrawal complications, your doctor may consider adding other drugs to a benzo regimen. These may include:
-An anti psychotic drug, which can help relieve agitation
-A beta-blocker, which may help curb a fast heart rate and elevated blood pressure related to withdrawal. May reduce the strain of alcohol withdrawal in people with coronary artery disease
-Clonidine (Catapres), another blood pressure drug
-Phenytoin (Dilantin), an anti convulsant which may be useful in people with an underlying seizure disorder
Preventing Future Alcohol Withdrawal Episodes
Successful treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome doesn’t address the underlying disease of addiction. It should be followed by treatment for alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.
Relatively brief outpatient interventions can be effective for alcohol abuse, but more intensive therapy may be required for alcohol dependence. If you have alcohol dependence, your doctor may prescribe other medications to help you stop drinking.
Popular medications for treating alcohol dependency are naltrexone, Vivitrol, Acamprosate (Campral), and in less common cases Antabuse.
- Naltrexone: A daily oral pill that decreases cravings for alcohol. Naltrexone offers the advantage that users don’t need to stop drinking before starting this medication. It is not recommended to continue drinking while taking naltrexone. Many recovering alcoholics found that naltrexone was a helpful first step in getting sober.
- Vivitrol: This monthly shot contains time-release naltrexone so patients do not need to remember to take the pill every day. This does require regular visits to the doctor. Some find this inconvenient in an outpatient setting. But many find Vivitrol helpful in an inpatient setting that prioritizes treatment-related doctor visits.
- Acamprosate (brand name Campral): This medication works by restoring the natural equilibrium of neurotransmitters. This medication requires patients to stop drinking alcohol prior to use. Every patient responds differently to alcohol abuse recovery medications.
- Disulfiram (trade name Antabuse): This medication fell out of favor in recent years. Addiction psychiatrists now use it as a second-line treatment with naltrexone or Acamprosate first. Disulfiram emerged as one of the first medications used to treat alcohol dependence. First synthesized in 1881, it was reported to cause adverse reaction to alcohol in 1937. Since then it has been used in treatment as a deterrent to recovering alcoholics. Disulfiram is a daily pill taken that makes users get very sick after drinking alcohol. It also has certain side effects like making any topical alcohol substances cause a skin reaction (such as hand sanitizer, which has a high alcohol content).
Doctors also may recommend joining a 12-step group such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Another option is staying at a comprehensive treatment facility. These programs offers a combination of a 12-step model, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family therapy.
12-Step Model of Alcohol Treatment
Alcoholics Anonymous offers one of the most common alcohol treatment regimens. The 12-step model of alcohol treatment offers a fellowship and recovery modality that relies on networking with other alcoholics through meetings. This model places much importance on counsel and guidance from a sponsor. Many individuals find that working the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous offers accountability and a way forward.
The 12-step modality offers both a secular and religious approach depending on what fits for the individual. Secular, agnostic, and atheist AA members simply need to believe in a power greater than themselves to work the steps. This power need not be a religious entity, although those raised with religion find that lens to be helpful. Whether the higher power chosen is God, the program itself, or something more spiritual like the ocean, each individual must find a power greater than themselves.
The 12-step model of treatment is abstinence-based. That’s why the first step says that individuals must admit they are powerless over alcohol. The twelve steps are also very useful in that they are always there for alcoholics who relapse. Relapse can seem hopeless, but step one offers a way forward. Note that individuals should seek the help of an alcohol detox center Orange County if they are physically dependent on alcohol. Alcohol withdrawals can be life-threatening, so individuals should go through them under the care of licensed professionals in a controlled and monitored environment.
Alcohol Detox Orange County
There are many addiction treatment centers available for rehab in Orange County. Southern California has many detox programs which can be found at substance abuse treatment centers.
Our rehabilitation center at Blue Coast Behavioral Health offers dual diagnosis level of care in our Santa Ana facility. We believe Orange County, California is the ideal place for mental health care for many. Clients appreciate alcohol detox Orange County rehabs because our climate is fair year-round. Our centers in Orange County also have close access to the beach, hiking, and other sober outdoor activities.