Important Information About Alcohol Detoxification
It is important to note that withdrawal from alcohol should always be done under medical supervision. In some cases, withdrawal can result in fatalities. Following withdrawal from alcohol, a dependent person may experience several alcohol detoxification symptoms, including:
- eating and sleep disturbances.
- tremors (involuntary trembling motion of the body).
- clouding of the sensorium
- elevated temperature.
- change in pulse rate.
Some of these symptoms can be life-threatening. In addition, the potential for suicide must be considered. Because of the possibility of these extreme consequences, there should be clearly defined procedures to follow when an individual is experiencing alcohol detoxification. These should be implemented in a variety of settings, including jails, shelters, and other congregate living situations. Alcohol detoxification is usually provided in a hospital setting for five days or less. Medical supervision is needed to provide medications, vitamin therapy, and, in some cases, measures to correct water and electrolyte imbalances. Alcohol detoxification also may be provided in non-hospital settings, but the rates of successful completion have been much lower. Patients who need medical or psychiatric care, have no housing, have coexisting chemical dependencies, are unemployed, or come to the initial visit intoxicated are less likely to succeed in outpatient treatment and are more likely to need hospitalization. Medications that can be useful in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal include benzodiazepines and other CNS depressants such as barbiturates. Clonidine and beta-blocking chemicals may help decrease symptoms of tremor, fast heart rate, and hypertension.
Alcohol Detoxification Withdrawal Syndrome
Withdrawal from alcohol is potentially life-threatening. Persons need to be medically monitored during this process. Within 3-4 hours of the last dose, a person who is dependent on alcohol will begin to experience:
First Phase of Alcohol Detoxification Withdrawal
- Vital signs elevated–increased blood pressure, pulse, and temperature.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Diuretic effects.
- Slurred speech.
- Tremors, hands shake, poor coordination (drop cigarettes, spill water).
- Unsteady gait.
- Short attention span.
Second Phase of Alcohol Detoxification Withdrawal
- Hallucinations–will show this by being distracted, frightened, and disoriented.
- Grand Mai Seizure is always a possibility.
- DTs (delirium tremens)–develop anytime. Severe psychomotor activity, extremely agitated state (may act like brushing away crawling insects), incontinence, uncooperative, confused, talking and having a conversation when no one is there, diaphoretic, won’t know where they are. Once in DTs it takes 3-5 days to get out of it (21% die if they go into DTs and are not medically treated).
Treatment Applications for Alcohol Detoxification Withdrawal
- Increase sedation–early administration of tranquilizer medication can prevent development of severe withdrawal by
staying ahead of the withdrawal symptoms.
- Monitor fluid and electrolytes closely.
- Monitor vital signs at least every 2 hours.
- Monitor the safety of all systems (restraints only if absolutely necessary).
- Observe closely–watch for seizures–take precautions.
- Limit sensory input–quiet room, little stimulation, slow down, talk slowly, no radio or TV.
- Do not reason–no psychotherapy, no interviewing.
- Be factual, gentle, kind.
- Behave in a calm, relaxed manner.
- Stay with patient, orient to reality.
- Accept patient without moralizing or blaming.
- Close doors to avoid shadows, keep room well lit.
Intervention Services can guide, educate or be a resource to you, the one who is reaching out. Essentially, Intervention Services is on hand 24 hours a day to help you to help your loved one who may be abusing drugs or alcohol. If you have questions or need to speak with someone, understand that most of our employees are recovering professionals who can speak with you as someone who once abused drugs themselves.