What to Expect During Alcohol Detox

Medical detox is almost always where treatment for alcohol use disorders begins. Alcohol is one of only a few substances with withdrawal side effects that can actually be deadly. When a person abruptly stops drinking, they can be vulnerable to seizures and these can be fatal. The likelihood of seizures depends on how much the person drank, how often, and for how many years. But these aren’t the only factors. Everyone’s body is a little different and some people are simply more prone to seizures than others and this is often something a person isn’t aware of until they experience it. We tell you all of this not to alarm you, but to emphasize the seriousness of alcohol use disorders, and most importantly the need for a medically supervised detox. In a medical detox facility, medications can be used to make the patient comfortable and to avoid these dangerous side effects.

Alcohol Detox Treatment Duration

An inpatient alcohol detox usually lasts anywhere between 5 to 7 days, but the stay can be longer in acute cases. When you first arrive at a detox, there is a brief intake period where some questions will be asked and you’ll fill out a few forms. Then the next stop is usually the nurse’s station. Your vitals will be taken at this time and a doctor or nurse will likely ask a few more questions. It’s best to be prepared for all of this so the process can go as smoothly as possible. When going to alcohol detox, you should bring the following:

  • A state-issued photo ID (driver’s license, state ID, passport)
  • Your health insurance card if you have one.
  • Name and phone numbers of your emergency contacts.
  • About a week’s worth of comfortable, casual clothing.
  • Any prescriptions you currently take, in the original bottles.
  • Your toiletries (leave anything with alcohol at home)

Your treatment provider will likely have other items they want you to bring, so be sure to check with them before you pack.

Once you have been processed through the nurse’s station, you will usually be allowed some well-needed rest. Depending on the time of day and how you’re feeling you might be offered a light meal. Medications may be administered after your vitals are taken and your chart built as well. What medications are given and when depends on a number of things, including how long it has been since your last drink. Remember to be as honest and upfront as possible with the staff. They are there to help you.

Continuing Treatment

Following the detox phase, there are several options for continuing treatment. For many years, the standard model has been about a month in rehab. This may or may not include the detox phase. Part of the reason a month became the standard is that initial research has shown that this is about the minimum amount of time it takes for most people to establish new behaviors and habits. (1)

Most residential alcohol rehabs still last about this length of time. However, more recent studies have found substantial benefits for patients who remain connected to some form of treatment for much longer than the usual 30 days or so.

What you decide to do following your alcohol detox is up to you, but you should definitely be willing to take professional advice on this. It has been said there is no such thing as too much help for a problem, but it’s certainly possible to get not quite enough. Bear that in mind when you are deciding your next course of action.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, give us a call or hop on the chat. We will be happy to discuss the different options for care with you.