Alcoholics know that if they go too long without having a drink, they’ll be hit with some seriously unpleasant side effects. However, far fewer realize that if their dependence on alcohol is strong enough, trying to quit cold turkey can be deadly.
The risk of death during alcohol withdrawal is very real. In fact, withdrawal is more dangerous with alcohol than any other drug of abuse, including both heroin and methamphetamine. So, if you’re asking the question, “Can you die from alcohol detox?” know that the answer is an emphatic yes.
Going through alcohol detox at home without medical support greatly increases the risk of potentially lethal complications and long-term health issues. By entering a medically assisted alcohol detox program, patients can get the help they need in a safe and controlled environment.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detox is the process of purging all of the toxins from the body that have accumulated through the abuse of alcohol. The symptoms of alcohol detoxification can range from mild to severe, depending on variables like age, medical history and level of alcohol dependence.
Individuals with a history of prolonged and heavy alcohol abuse are at the greatest risk for serious complications and should seek help at a certificated detox facility.
The Importance of Medically Assisted Detox
Although many people assume that the only goal of medically assisted alcohol detox is to provide patients with rapid treatment of their physical withdrawal symptoms, there are actually a number of important reasons to consider medically supervised alcohol detox.
The benefits of medically assisted detox include:
Medications that May Be Used During Detox
Depending on a patient’s level of alcohol dependence, physicians may prescribe medications to combat alcohol withdrawal symptoms while detoxing. Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax are commonly used during withdrawal to ease symptoms and prevent withdrawal-induced seizures.
However, those medications are becoming less and less popular for treating alcohol withdrawal, as they are highly addictive in their own right. Doctors are instead turning to non-addictive anti-seizure drugs, such as Dilantin, Tegretol and Neurontin.
Other drugs a doctor might prescribe to prevent relapse during alcohol detox include:
The Stages of Alcohol Detox
There are three stages of detoxification from alcohol, with the first withdrawal symptoms appearing anywhere between six and 24 hours after having the last drink. Click on any of the following stages to learn more:
Is Medically Assisted Detox Right for You?
If you feel that your drinking has gotten out of control, or if you experience any of the withdrawal symptoms discussed in this article, it’s best to seek professional help before beginning the process of alcohol detoxification.
Overcoming an addiction to alcohol is not just a matter of mustering up the willpower to go cold turkey. Alcohol withdrawal is serious business, and trying to go it alone can be deadly.
Even if you have a less-severe case of alcoholism, you should still look for a medically supervised detox program. Serious complications can arise at any time, and it’s possible for the stress of withdrawal to trigger an undiagnosed co-occurring disorder. And for many, the intense alcohol cravings and various physical discomforts experienced during detox are simply too much to handle alone.
Beating an addiction to alcohol is hard enough, as is trying to be your own doctor at the same time. If you’re serious about achieving a life of sobriety, there’s no safer way to begin your journey than with medically assisted detox. See our alcohol addiction fact sheet, or take an online quiz to gauge if you’re actually addicted to alcohol.