What Is An Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detox (or detoxification) is defined as the natural process that occurs in the body as it attempts to rid the system of waste products and toxins from excessive, long-term alcohol consumption. In a treatment setting, alcohol detox is usually accompanied by medication, medical observation, and counselling. It is a key first step in achieving sobriety.
Why Is An Alcohol Detox Important?
When you stop drinking, it is important that your body adjusts. Alcohol is a depressant that your body begins to rely on over the course of months and years of drinking. Your brain eventually stops producing certain chemicals that it receives from alcohol, becoming dependent on the drug. That’s why when you quit drinking, it takes some time for your body to adjust. This is what causes withdrawal symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea, irregular heartbeat and hallucinations.
Some people are apprehensive to quit drinking because they’re nervous about the withdrawal symptoms experienced during alcohol detox. While some people may only be affected by minor effects of alcoholism, others may face extreme pain. Withdrawal symptoms can change quickly and aggressively, which is why it’s important to detox under the care of medical professionals. Treatment professionals at a rehab facility will be able to help you manage your pain with different medications. This allows you to focus on your recovery and get better.
What Happens To Your Body During An Alcohol Detox
Symptoms associated with alcohol detox can range from mild to serious and can be very uncomfortable, even painful to endure. When you make the decision to stop drinking, the very first 72 hours are vital, as they can be the most painful part of the treatment and recovery process. As your body flushes all the alcohol from your system, you’ll experience the unpleasant pangs of acute withdrawal — but the benefits of quitting drinking will soon outweigh any unpleasantness. The chances are that you have experienced some level of distress in the past, when not able to drink, and have tried to avoid that distress at all costs. When you stop drinking, there is no way around the physical and psychological upset that can happen. But, continuing to drink is only going to cause more issues throughout your life, may lead to fatality and will only make the withdrawal process harder.
Here’s The Positives:
Some alcohol inflicted liver damage can be reversed if you stop drinking early enough in the process of the disease. This healing can begin as early as a few days after you stop drinking, but in all likelihood won’t occur until a few weeks of abstinence. If the damage is incredibly severe the regeneration can take several months. Some facts for you: Cirrhosis involves permanent damage to liver cells. The earliest stage of alcoholic liver disease is known as “Fatty Liver” – if you stop drinking at this point the liver can easily heal itself.
The average spend per year in the UK on alcohol is £1000. Think about it, the average UK life expectancy is 81 years – if you were to drink just the AVERAGE amount of alcohol for 18-81 that is a stunning total of £63,000. That is just the average amount (and within legal drinking age) how much do you think you spend per year? How money could you save yourself and your family in one month alone? Dry January reports that 88% of participants save a substantial amount of money.
Strengthen Your Immune System:
You might not know this but alcohol actually weakens your immune system, making it much harder for the body to fight off illness and disease. Chronic alcoholics are far more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections, and to sterile inflammation. We’re talking pneumonia, common colds, measles, syphilis and more (not to mention Covid!). As well as this, because of alcohol’s effects on the immune system, people who drink to excess may have more complications after surgery and often take longer to recover from illness, compared with those who drink at lower levels. Even one instance of heavy drinking can weaken the body’s firewall to infection for up to 24 hours. Stopping drinking can immediately improve the body’s ability to fight infections.
Here’s The Positives:
The frontal lobe of the brain, responsible for reasoning, behaviour control, memory, and motor function, takes a massive hit when you drink in excess. Years of alcohol abuse can damage this area of the brain leading to a wide variety of issues including memory loss and the inability to think rationally. While people in early recovery may still suffer from these symptoms, as well as an inability to process large amounts of information, new cell growth will eventually begin to repair this damage as time passes.
Dopamine release is triggered when you engage in activities you find pleasurable, such as eating chocolate or exercising, and it trains your brain what actions to repeat, and eventually, to crave. Alcohol overloads the brain with dopamine, while also reducing the brain’s dopamine receptors function in the process. When you first stop drinking, the lack of dopamine and diminished receptors will lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Both very high and abnormally low levels of dopamine can have negative effects, but over time your brain will begin to normalize dopamine levels as well as your brain’s response to the chemical.
Early recovery may mean struggling with mood and overall mental wellness, but as your body and brain begin to heal, you will experience renewed motivation for healthy habits in your life. This means you will be able to take part in new activities that boost your mood, such as daily exercise. The early days of sobriety will be draining and challenging for you, but a balanced and healthy mindset will renew you.