Posted on February 24, 2015 by Laura Fuller
Alcohol detox always requires professional supervision as the side effects may be life threatening. Dangerous symptoms of withdrawl that occur when alcohol is stopped can present in people who have only been drinking for a short term or for many years. When other drugs are involved in addition to alcohol then the potential danger becomes multiplied.
When a person with alcoholism stops drinking, withdrawal symptoms begin within 6 – 48 hours and peak about 24 – 35 hours after the last drink. During this period, the inhibition of brain activity caused by alcohol is abruptly reversed. Stress hormones are overproduced, and the central nervous system becomes overexcited.
Some of the symptoms of withdrawal are anxiety, irritability, insomnia, agitation and shakiness. Additional symptoms may include extremely aggressive behavior, fever, increased pulse rate, blood pressure increases or drops, and mental disturbances. About 95 percent of people have mild-to-moderate withdrawal symptoms when stopping alcohol.
Serious medical conditions can quickly develop during the withdrawal period including anemia, irregular heartbeat and liver damage. For this reason, an individual should always undergo a thorough medical evaluation from a professional trained in alcohol disorders.
Seizures occur in about 10 percent of adults during withdrawal. In about 60 percent of these patients, the seizures are multiple. The time between the first and last seizure is often six hours or less. Repeated withdrawal episodes, even mild forms, that are not properly treated may result in increasingly severe and frequent seizures that may lead to possible brain damage.
Delirium tremens (DTs) is the term for withdrawal symptoms that become progressively severe and include altered mental states such as hallucinations, generalized seizures, confusion, and agitation. High fever is also common. DTs are potentially fatal. They develop in up to 5 percent of alcoholic patients, usually 2 – 4 days after the last drink, although it may take two or more days for DTs to peak. In 15 – 20 percent of people with moderate symptoms, brief seizures and hallucinations may occur, but these will not necessarily progress to full-blown DTs.
Regardless of the perceived severity of the episode, people with any symptoms of DTs must be treated immediately as the fatality rate can be as high as 20 percent in these individuals. Treatment usually involves intravenous administration of anti-anxiety medications and fluids.
Older Adults and Baby Boomers may suffer from more complications during withdrawal, including delirium, falls, and a decreased ability to perform normal activities. Older Adults may also have pre-existing health conditions that further complicate the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Those with mental health issues are at an even higher risk of serious health ramifications.
Since the dangers of alcohol withdrawal syndrome are so prevalent, a carefully monitored, inpatient medical detoxification is recommended. Medical detoxification may be implemented at the same time that a thorough holistic assessment is being facilitated. This assessment should examine medical, social, personal, spiritual, wellness, and psychological factors. After a thorough assessment of these and also any underlying psychiatric issues, addiction specialists can properly administer and monitor a medical detoxification regimen that is safe and comfortable.
Detox is the medical treatment of the physical addiction to a substance. This process involves using medications to assist in the gradual withdrawal from a dependency. It is a complicated and delicate application of medications to implement withdrawal without damaging consequences.
The acute, first phase of medical detox takes approximately one week. The second phase of detox is known as post acute withdrawal or protracted abstinence syndrome. Though less acute, it is a period involving feelings of anxiety and “fuzzy thinking” that can take weeks to months to complete. This return to mental and physical balance is a delicate and vulnerable time for the former addict. During this period, recovery should be initiated as an adjunct to supportive guidance.
The key to recovery is to learn the means to manage life without drugs. During detox and the early stages of recovery, it is necessary to work closely with medical and psychological professionals. In many cases particularly within the Older Adult and Baby Boomer populations there may be coexisting medical or psychological conditions that contribute to addiction. Often psychological disorders such as depression, bipolar illness, or anxiety disorder may need to be treated concurrently. In other instances, individuals who exhibit psychological issues will find these are a by-product of addiction that may gradually subside through detox and recovery.
Detoxification and treatment among Baby Boomers and Older Adults can sometimes be a slower process based on long-term substance abuse and/or serious medical and co-occurring disorders. Due to these challenges, the average length of stay could be 60 to 90 days. Collaboration with their multidisciplinary treatment team in the development of a holistic treatment plan and setting realistic and achievable goals will be key to their recovery. This is a process, not a quick fix, and clients will find the support they need from peers and credentialed professional staff members.
Likewise, medical detoxification and stability followed by treatment services, continuing care and recovery care services are the best and most effective steps in substance abuse rehab for Older Adults and Baby Boomers. During treatment, seniors will begin to regain health, cognition and mobility, and will start to rebuild relationships with their families. 12–Step integration practice provides an additional way to give and receive support.
The habits of addiction are replaced with the habits of a spiritually rich and normal life. In the end, sobriety is achieved with healthy and functional activities. Ultimately, recovery must include meaningful fellowship and support from others, and finding ways to manage stress and cope with difficult emotional situations that will always arise in anyone’s life.
For recovery to be truly successful, the participant must develop an open and willing attitude, as the habits of addiction cannot be continued, rather new methods of managing sobriety must be developed. Informed guidance by professional staff must be met with a willingness to learn new behaviors for positive abstinence.
Twelve-Step groups provide the structure and successful habits for recovery through proven and highly effective methodology. These groups provide a support network, with teaching and beliefs that can transform the failures of addiction into habits of a meaningful and productive existence.
Though it is an extensive commitment, once the struggle with addiction finally stops, the person can accept help. They use this help to commit to recovery through dedication to an ongoing, proactive, sobriety plan.
If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of alcohol addiction, please contact us at any time to receive more information: 1-844-U-GET-WELL (844-843-8935).
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