There is a lot of information circulating about alcohol detox and withdrawal symptoms. The jumble of details can be confusing for those dealing with an alcohol use disorder and their loved ones. Alcohol abuse is dangerous, damages the body, and impacts a person’s entire life. Detoxing from alcohol is a necessary first step towards recovery and sobriety. However, alcohol detox can also lead to withdrawal. For the most part, alcohol withdrawal is uncomfortable and difficult, but not deadly. There is no way for someone to know how their body will handle alcohol detox unless they consult a doctor, though. Some people with alcohol use disorders are at a higher risk for delirium tremens and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. With proper care and medically-supervised treatment, the effects of alcohol withdrawal can be minimized in a safe environment. Keep reading to learn why alcohol withdrawal can be deadly and how to safely detox from alcohol.
A substance use disorder is a clinical term used to describe addiction to drugs or alcohol. According to guidelines set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, withdrawal is one of the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder. Withdrawal, which occurs when people with addictions stop using drugs or alcohol, involves unpleasant symptoms as a result of the substance of abuse no longer being active in the body.
When a person enters withdrawal, he or she may experience painful symptoms, making it difficult to permanently stop using the substance of abuse. In fact, people may return to drug or alcohol use to avoid withdrawal symptoms. In cases where a person wants to stop using drugs and/or alcohol but withdrawal symptoms are making the process more challenging, an alcohol and drug detox program may be necessary to manage symptoms and begin the journey toward lasting recovery. Detox programs can also provide life-saving medical treatment in cases where withdrawal becomes dangerous.
Alcohol use is common in the United States, with slightly over half of adults indicating they had consumed an alcoholic beverage during the past month as of 2018. What is less common, however, is alcohol addiction and its consequences, as roughly 6 percent of adults in the United States have a diagnosable addiction called an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Ongoing alcohol abuse and addiction can lead to significant consequences, such as health problems, serious injuries, and difficulty functioning in work or family life. Another consequence of alcohol abuse is dependence, meaning that the body does not function well without alcohol. When a person who develops an alcohol dependence stops drinking, he or she will typically experience withdrawal. One serious form of withdrawal, called delirium tremens, can be fatal; however, proper medical care can prevent complications from delirium tremens and allow those living with alcohol addictions to participate in ongoing treatment to achieve lasting sobriety.
Alcohol abuse is common in the United States. According to recent data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 5.8 percent of adults in the United States have an alcohol use disorder, which is the term used to describe a diagnosable alcohol addiction. One of the signs of an alcohol use disorder is experiencing withdrawal symptoms in the absence of alcohol, meaning that once a person stops drinking for a period, withdrawal will begin. Reports from American Family Physician suggest that each year, about 2 million Americans will experience some sort of alcohol withdrawal. This can range from mild symptoms to severe withdrawal conditions that require hospitalization.