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Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal

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Alcohol Abuse & Misuse

Alcohol has been a mainstay of human culture since the days of ancient Sumeria and China, serving as the drink of choice for celebrations and festivities because of its euphoric and relaxant properties, as well as its status as a mild psychoactive compound. Alcohol was also widely consumed during the Middle Ages in Europe because it was safer to drink than water. Alcohol consumption lasts to this day, with people drinking it as a beverage all over the world; however, some people can take alcohol consumption too far. Drinking alcohol can be an addictive habit that may require family or professional intervention to control. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction and needs help, call our hotline at .

Why People Drink Too Much

alcohol-Intake-ProcessPeople drink to excess for several reasons: to get rid of stress, to get drunk, or to do what their friends are doing. Often, people drink to relax after a stressful day at work; however, associating alcohol with stress relief without any healthy, sober outlets for stress can be disastrous. Alcohol detox centers specialize in weaning patients from alcohol and teaching healthy stress management techniques, as well as educating them on safe amounts of alcohol to drink.

Did You Know?

People who drink excessively in later life often get their start in college or earlier. One in three 8th graders in 2007 had tried alcohol.

Detoxing From Alcohol

Alcohol detox involves little more than abstaining from it, contingent on medical issues resulting from withdrawal. In severe cases, the person’s alcohol tolerance level may be so high that complete abstinence can cause problems. Therefore, medication may be prescribed to treat the person during stay at an alcohol detox center. During this time, doctors will be on watch for severe signs of alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

As with any drug, alcohol has withdrawal symptoms if someone has become dependent on having it regularly. These symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Clammy skin
  • Nightmares
  • Mood swings
  • Anorexia (loss of appetite)
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucination

Delirium tremens is a severe symptom of withdrawal. It is not common but it causes fever, agitation and hallucinations (auditory, visual and tactile). Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks, and it’s important that withdrawal is only undergone in a supervised medical setting, to ensure the person’s health and safety throughout the process.

Alcohol Rehab Facilities

Alcohol detox centers are typically inpatient because of the intensive personal effort required to break free of alcohol dependency. Patients stay in the facility and are supervised over a period of weeks or months, depending on their individual recovery rate and personal needs. Physical checkups, the detox phase and psychotherapy are all part of treatment, and all are important to long-term success.

Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.

Physical Treatment

Upon first entering an alcohol detox center, the patient will undergo a checkup to determine general physical health or to discover any conditions that could be aggravated by alcohol withdrawal, such as heart disease. Medicine given to reduce withdrawal symptoms could cause negative reactions, so doctors will keep an eye on dosages and effects. The patient will be under strict surveillance when staying in most alcohol withdrawal treatment facilities. Visitors are usually not allowed during the initial detox phase, which can last up to several weeks. This prevents the possibility of visitors bringing in alcohol and lets the patient focus on their recovery efforts without outside distractions.

Did You Know?

Alcohol was illegal in the United States from 1918 to 1933.


Psychotherapy in an alcohol detox center focuses on healthy stress management techniques. These techniques encourage the patient to develop and pursue a hobby to provide an outlet for stress without having to resort to alcohol; constructive pastimes such as needlework, art and exercise are examples.

People often drink to deal with emotional trauma as well. Cognitive behavioral therapy attempts to reverse trends of negative self-talk that can drive a person to drink too much. The therapy also teaches resistance to peer pressure and how to avoid social situations that would encourage alcohol consumption.


A young woman in a conversation with the psychologist about detoxificationOne function of alcohol detox centers is to educate people on how much they can safely drink. Alcohol is fine to drink in moderation and can even be healthy — a glass of wine every few days can prove beneficial for the heart. People should be educated on the negative effects of binge drinking or picking alcohol that is too strong. Binge drinking leads to addiction or possible alcohol poisoning. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency reported that 75 percent of adults engaged in binge drinking on a regular basis. On the whole, drinking more than one drink (one can of beer or one glass of wine) per hour is not safe.


Before entering an alcohol rehab facility or an alcohol detox program, it’s important that the patient has all his or her medical records available. When a medical practitioner refers the patient, he or she will send records to the staff at the facility. It’s still best to have copies of your own. Also, make sure a support network is available. It isn’t necessarily enough to have the help of the doctors and therapists; family and friends should ideally be involved and provide moral support. To get started on your journey to recovery, call .

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The editorial staff of is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands of pages for accuracy and relevance. Our reviewers consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA, NIDA, and other reputable sources to provide our readers the most accurate content on the web.
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