By The Recovery Village Atlanta
Editor Melissa Carmona | Medically Reviewed By Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Last Updated: April 28, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Participating in a medically supervised alcohol detox can help treat any life-threatening or uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that may occur.
Alcohol detox, also called alcohol withdrawal, refers to the process of allowing the body to adjust to the absence of alcohol in the bloodstream after consistent, frequent alcohol use. During alcohol detox, unpleasant and dangerous symptoms can develop. This makes it very difficult to avoid alcohol use during detox and can cause serious health problems.
Not Sure If Your Alcohol Use Is A Problem?
The MAST test is a series of yes-or-no questions that can be completed in about eight minutes.
Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal can happen when a person who is physically dependent on alcohol stops drinking. Physical dependence occurs because the brain has gotten used to always having alcohol in its system, and has decreased the sensitivity of GABA receptors to account for that.
When the person stops drinking, the sudden lack of alcohol and less sensitive GABA receptors lead to a spike in nervous system activity. The overactive nervous system creates withdrawal symptoms that are essentially the opposite of alcohol intoxication, including:
- Fast heart rate
- Delirium tremens
Benefits of Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox
Alcohol detox is the most dangerous type of substance withdrawal someone can experience. Seizures can occur, and a serious condition called delirium tremens can develop. Delirium tremens is often fatal if not treated and makes alcohol withdrawal particularly dangerous.
A medically supervised alcohol detox is an essential safety measure for those with moderate to severe alcohol use disorder. Even if your symptoms aren’t dangerous, a medical alcohol detox can make the process more comfortable, which can help you stay motivated through your detox and avoid relapse. The alcohol-free environment at a treatment facility also ensures your detox will be successful so you can start long-term recovery.
What To Expect at an Alcohol Detox Center
When you enter an alcohol detox center, your medical team will help you through an intake process, where they gather information to develop a personalized treatment plan. This often includes questions about your overall health, your history of alcohol use, blood tests, urine tests and vital signs.
As your body begins ridding itself of the alcohol in its system, a qualified medical team will monitor closely to recognize and treat withdrawal symptoms to reduce their effects.
As your symptoms start to resolve and you near the end of detox, your providers will plan for additional rehab treatment and help you transition into the next stage of recovery.
What Happens After Detox?
The physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may subside after detox, but cravings and other psychological symptoms may remain long after. Most professional detox programs will recommend alcohol rehab after detox to avoid relapse. Rehab provides you with strategies and tools to reduce the effects of alcohol cravings and learn how to cope without using alcohol. The goal of rehab is to help you maintain your newfound sobriety and avoid relapse.
Alcohol Detox FAQs
How do I know if I need detox?
If you are planning on stopping alcohol use, you should always consult with a treatment facility or doctor beforehand. Alcohol detox can be very dangerous, so undergoing a medical detox is always safer than trying to stop drinking on your own.
Is alcohol detox covered by insurance?
Insurance can cover some or all of the cost of alcohol detox. The actual coverage, however, depends on your insurance provider, the terms of the policy and the specific detox facility. You can contact us to verify your insurance coverage or contact your insurance company directly to discuss your coverage.
How long does detox last?
The length of detox depends on several factors, including how much and how long someone has been using alcohol heavily and their overall health. Most alcohol detoxes will last about a week to a week and a half; however, it can be longer or shorter for some individuals.
Alcohol Detox at The Recovery Village Atlanta
At The Recovery Village Atlanta, we offer a full continuum of care that includes medical detox and rehab treatment. Our 62-bed professional rehabilitation center is located north of downtown Atlanta in historic Roswell.
Our expert staff includes licensed physicians, social workers, mental health counselors, registered nurses and others. Like all of our facilities, The Recovery Village Atlanta surpasses the national and local standards for addiction healthcare practices.
At The Recovery Village Atlanta, we treat the whole person, not just their addiction. Our expert staff work with clients to manage the physical, mental and emotional symptoms while getting to the root of the addiction for a healthier life. Let our compassionate team help you successfully detox and gain the tools, support and self-awareness needed for long-term recovery.
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Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
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Dugdale, David C. “Delirium tremens.” MedlinePlus, January 17, 2021. Accessed October 7, 2022.
Laudet, Alexandre B.; Savage, Robert; & Mahmood, Daneyal. “Pathways to Long-Term Recovery: A Preliminary Investigation.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, April 17, 2007. Accessed October 7, 2022.
Newman, Richard K.; Gallagher, Megan A. Stobart; & Gomez, Anna E. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” StatPearls, November 13, 2021. Accessed October 7, 2022.
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