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When you are alcohol-dependent, you have a strong persistent desire to drink alcohol. This means that you have adapted to having high amounts of alcohol in your system. As a result, withdrawal symptoms could occur as soon as 3 to 8 hours after your last drink, depending on how fast the effect of alcohol wears off. The withdrawal symptoms linked to alcohol dependence are often unpleasant, making it very difficult to stop drinking. Alcohol detox involves taking a short course of medicine that helps prevent these symptoms once you stop taking alcohol. This is usually done at a rehab facility or a detox center.

Where to Get It
Detoxification is generally recommended as the first step in a comprehensive alcohol treatment program. In fact, most alcohol treatment facilities include alcohol detox as a core part of their program; the treatment begins as soon as the admission process is complete. However, some facilities do not offer detoxification treatment on site. In such a case, a detox facility within the area will be recommended, after which you can go back and begin treatment and therapy to deal with the psychological aspect of your alcohol problem.

Outpatient Programs
Outpatient detox programs are available in hospitals, community mental health clinics or residential facilities with outpatient clinics. Although the requirements for attendance vary, they usually run in the evenings or weekends so patients can continue working. These work best for people who are highly motivated and whose family and friends are supportive and fully understand what alcohol detox entails.

Inpatient Detox Programs
Home-based alcohol detox is hardly ever recommended for patients dealing with an active addiction. It is important to get supervision from a medical professional who is trained in alcohol addiction treatment. An inpatient detox facility is the best guarantee for the safety and effectiveness of the detoxification treatments.

Note that a number of withdrawal symptoms are experienced during detoxification including anxiety, shaking, insomnia, muscle weakness and mood swings. In addition, serious side effects such as hallucinations may be experienced, which could easily threaten the safety of your family members. Opting to get your detoxification treatment in a medical setting has the advantage of a 24-hour staff that is supervising and ensuring your safety. In addition, you could also be given medication to ease the withdrawal symptoms when necessary, which may not be possible at home.

Detox Process
Once you arrive at the detox facility, you will be taken through an intake process during which the medical team will seek to better understand your individual needs. As such, a complete drug history, psychiatric history and medical history may be done. This should take about 1 to 2 hours. Once this is done, the stabilization process begins. Stabilization includes both medical and psychological interventions carried out to help you come to a balanced state both physically and mentally.

If you have a mental health disorder or medical ailment that is complicated by the withdrawal symptoms, pharmacological assistance (medication) may be administered. For instance, sedatives may be used to calm you down in case you experience a psychotic break. Other medications may also be prescribed to reduce the withdrawal symptoms, depending on their severity.

Detox Duration
The amount of time you will spend in the alcohol detox facility will depend on your personal needs, which will largely be based on your alcohol dependence. However, eliminating the withdrawal symptoms could take between 5 to 14 days, depending on the treatments that are administered. Other coexisting issues that could influence the duration of your detoxification include:

– How long you have used alcohol

– When your physical dependence on alcohol began

– How much alcohol you take on a daily basis

– Co-occurring mental or medical disorders

– Trauma that led to or was induced by alcohol abuse

Your goal when looking for an alcohol detox facility should be based on your psychological and medical needs rather than proximity. Your alcohol experience, the co-occurring disorders or trauma should be used as a guide when choosing a program. Completing alcohol detoxification means that you have overcome the physical aspect of your addiction – an important step in your fight against alcoholism. However, detoxification is not the ultimate treatment for alcoholism or alcohol abuse; the need to follow up with psychiatric care is equally important.

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Paul Emerson writes about health, addictions and addictions treatments.