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Alcohol withdrawal causes physical and psychological symptoms ranging from mild to severe. In some cases, these symptoms are fatal. Their severity depends on the amount and duration of alcohol consumption.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are one of the primary reasons people relapse during the first week or two of recovery. Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms are difficult to manage, and cravings are hard to resist. This is true even when they are mild.
Common symptoms include:
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Acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur in four stages:
Stage 3 includes the most severe symptoms, including potentially fatal delirium tremens (DTs). Seizure risk is highest during stages 2 and 3.
In stage 4, people typically experience lingering withdrawal symptoms from previous stages, but they begin to ease. These symptoms are rarely severe.
Many people experience some mild to moderate withdrawal-related symptoms for months after they stop drinking. But these are more psychological than physical.
The most common, long-term mild symptoms include:
To reduce symptom severity and duration, follow these six tips:
Drinking alcohol dehydrates you, even if you only consume a small amount. People who drink heavily are especially at risk of dehydration, even after they’ve stopped drinking.
Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water and electrolyte drinks, is critical during withdrawal. These fluids help the body re-establish its natural balance, ultimately reducing uncomfortable symptoms. In addition, the extra fluids are used by the body to wash out toxins (detox) through the kidneys.
Professional withdrawal and recovery support are valuable during this time. Medical supervision might be necessary during alcohol withdrawal and is critical if emergencies arise.
Medical support also provides you with information and tools that help ease severe withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol withdrawal is a challenging process. Having a plan helps you stay focused and on track with your sobriety goals. You and your addiction counselors and doctors will work together to create and meet these goals.
A journal helps you keep track of your symptoms, thoughts, and feelings as you progress through withdrawal. If nothing else, journaling helps you remember your accomplishments should you ever experience relapse.
Additionally, journaling helps you cope with difficult emotions. You might even consider sharing some of what you write with your counselors or members of your recovery support team.
It’s tough to move on from your social circle, but for many people, it’s a necessary step in recovery. There might come a time when you can be around these people again. But during recovery, it’s best to avoid anyone who drinks alcohol.
And, many people who are heavy drinkers will avoid friends who no longer drink, as they typically feel uncomfortable around them.
Medications can ease withdrawal symptoms and help manage cravings. Medications are one of the most useful addiction treatment tools.
The most common medications used during withdrawal and recovery include:
At-home alcohol detox is possible, but it’s rarely safe.
Alcohol withdrawal includes severe and potentially fatal symptoms, especially within the first week. Medically supervised detox is always preferable because it ensures people receive the medical attention they need. It also increases the chances of a successful recovery.
The safest alcohol detox option involves medical supervision.
A supervised detox reduces your risk of medical complications and provides access to recovery tools, support, and relapse prevention.
Health insurance companies are legally required to cover addiction treatment costs. They must treat alcohol addiction like any other disease. Your insurance provider can inform you about your specific coverage for medically supervised detox.
The average daily cost of alcohol detox treatment ranges from $300 to $900, depending on the program’s amenities.
Treatment cost is based on:
The average cost of detox and alcohol addiction treatment without insurance coverage is $5,000.
There are a few ways to reduce the cost:
Additionally, many treatment centers work to decrease treatment cost by:
Detox programs are an alternative to long-term treatment. They can also be used in conjunction with inpatient and outpatient programs.
Detox is the initial phase of withdrawing from alcohol. Short-term detox programs typically occur in inpatient centers. They ensure you have the appropriate medical attention and supervision during the first few days of abstaining from alcohol. Detox programs also usually include medication.
One of the primary benefits of detox programs, aside from medical supervision, is that you’re removed from temptations. Temptations to drink are most difficult to resist during the early recovery days or for the first several weeks when cravings are most intense.
Following a short-term detox program for alcohol use disorder (AUD), most people go on to enroll in an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings are also available 24/7 (online or in-person) around the world.
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