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The symptoms of alcohol detox. Convulsions, anxiety, nausea, hallucinations

Updated on November 24, 2008

Alcohol detoxification...don't do it on your own.

The health risks of alcohol detox

We often underestimate the dangers of alcohol, and because it is both legal and socially accepted, we forget that it is a very destructive and powerful substance.

Once someone becomes dependent on alcohol (addicted) they will need more alcohol to feel the same effects, they will feel a compulsion to drink (cravings) and they will experience withdrawal pains if they do not drink.

For some heavy drinkers, with a relatively brief period of dependency, these alcohol detoxification symptoms are uncomfortable but manageable. For anyone with a serious history of alcohol abuse, or a recent history of very heavy drinking; the symptoms of alcohol detox can be severe, dangerous, and in some cases even fatal.

What are some of the symptoms of alcohol detox?

A sudden cessation of alcohol use really shocks a body and mind accustomed to the regular effects of the drug, and the withdrawal symptoms that will ensue soon after cessation are uncomfortable and can even be dangerous. Some of the symptoms of alcohol detox include shakiness, anxiety, nausea, hallucinations, convulsions, delirium tremens and heart failure-death.

Why do we experience detox symptoms?

With regular consumption of alcohol, the brain physically changes as a responsive mechanism. Alcohol is a whole brain depressant, and works particularly through GABA (a neurotransmitter). Alcohol depresses (lessens the activity) of this transmitter, and to compensate the brain becomes more sensitive to the small amounts that remain active.

With a sudden cessation of use there is nothing inhibiting the neurotransmitter, and since the brain is overly sensitive to its effects, a normal release of GABA sends the brain into overdrive. GABA excites or quickens activity in the brain, and this brain excitement is what is causing many of the experienced symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol.

What is the treatment for alcohol detox?

No one who has been drinking heavily or drinking for a very long time should attempt to detox off of alcohol without professional medical supervision. Under medical observation, alcohol dependent people will be given small stabilizing doses of benzodiazepine like drugs to slow the brain down to a safe level through the initial risk period of detox. Medical personnel may use additional medications to alleviate some of the discomfort of the detox.

Detox is very safe with medical involvement, and very dangerous without it.

The worst of the detox symptoms will pass within a couple of days, although long term withdrawal symptoms will continue for months.

Are you cured after alcohol detox?

Although after a successful alcohol detox an alcoholic may no longer be physically dependent on alcohol, without additional therapy there is very little probability that anyone will maintain abstinence.

The reasons why someone drinks have not changed simply because they have endured detox, the cravings to drink remain strong, and they have learned no strategies to strengthen their resolve against relapse.

Detox is a necessary first step to recovery and treatment, but it should never be an only step. After detox, further treatment can continue on an in or outpatient basis, and will likely include group therapies, individual counseling, 12 steps programs, education and other programming.

Alcohol detox…not too bad if treated

I've been through alcohol detox, and it's nothing like an opiate detox; and worry about the pains of alcohol withdrawal should never deter anyone from getting help. Although it is not nearly as uncomfortable as opiate detox, it is far more dangerous, and you should never try to detox without consulting with a medical professional.


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      ladyknight 5 years ago

      Great post amen love to all.

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      John 6 years ago

      Hi lve been drinking and doing. Spliffs for 23y lost everything so my advice wod be just stop and get your live back

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      jessica kerr 6 years ago

      i have been told i have alcholic chirosis of the liver and ,drink from 5 am to 2;am im 21 and feel like my life is over ,im so scared of stopping becauce i start having fits even when i take librium in genral hospital.

      i keep going to genral hospital and beeing put on a ward ,but i always run out becauase the medication dosent stop my schakes and i panic,i really want to do a detox but i dont no if i can trust them to stop me havig a fit, im really scared!

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      danny in yorkshire 6 years ago

      ive been drinking on a night time for 16 years and constantly used the excuse that ive worked hard so i deserve a drink. But woke up to see what ive become, a dad that puts my family through its paces, added pressure on my kids and missus, and above all a horrible person to live with. My mood swings make our house a landmine site. along with severe paranoia through smoking cannabis for the same length of time im finding it so hard to stop as they've come hand in hand with each other for so many years. only been a few days now but im going to beat this addiction but a bit worried about how bad the withdrawal of both.

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      Phil in Blackpool 6 years ago

      My brother has been depressed for 2 yrs, he didn't want to eat and suddenly turned yellow, and has a swollen tummy, this site made me recognise his symtoms and he was rushed into hospital. I now hope and pray he pulls through and he hasn't done irriversable damage. May God please bless him with a second chance.

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      myheartisbroken 6 years ago

      Reading these comments is so hard for me right now but i wish you all the best and hope you can all begin to live a happy life. Sadley my sister was laid to rest on monday, she had been out of detox for just a week. There was no alchol found in her system at all, she told us that the first 3 days in hospital were the worst days of her life, my sister had only been drinking for less than a year and i thought it was long term drinkers that had problems.... how wrong i was so i can say now there is no such thing as an alcholic being able to detox then drink in a " controlled " situation, and it can not be done with will power either you really do need to detox in a safe controlled enviroment were treatment and help is on hand, then you will still get help for as long as it takes (years if nessesary) to get free of these demons that keep trying to get into your brain, my beautiful sister got through detox and in the week she left hospital had not touched a single drop yet she died now we are a familly torn and devestated, please seek help the right way ignor peoples comments that you can do it alone with will power, i pray you all do get your lives back and your familly will never have to go through what we are going through now, i just want my sister back.... X X X

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      dangerous 6 years ago

      controlled drinking i wish once you have crossed the line you cant do controlled anymore and if you can good luck to you it is in the mind of course but not the fundamental urge if detoxifying your body is so easy let me know your tips because i have tried every avenue to hold on to my drinking and drug swapping with no avail good luck pal

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      Surjit 6 years ago

      It is all in the mind,the need to detox has to come from your heart that you really want to leave. While it is always good to seek advice from your physician to control side effects of detoxification at your own, the control on urge has to be mental rather than a physical. This day, I'been am off drinking for more than a month, after being a fairly regular drinker for a couple of years. I decided and I left, I feel physically good(Though not so good in the evenings, at times, which was my usual time at which I used to look up to my drinking after a day's work) mentally good, mornings are good,work is good, wife and chidren feel good too and on top of it all,I too feel good. Appetite has imporved, sleep has improved, it is good for my finances as well. Where it hurts a bit is that the drinking buddies are nowhere. I am looking forward to controlled drinking with them,which I will call a responsible and healthy drinking, after this self imposed drinking ban of 40 days. Wishing you all, all the best.

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      torigirl 6 years ago

      My twin sister and i are going through detox it is very hard , i didn't think i was an alcoholic until i realized i was drinking everyday after work ...Detoxing has affected my brain so much so i have terrible anxiety :( But i know once it is over i will be much happier ... God bless all of you ,im glad to know im not alone in my struggle!!! p.s. my twin is doing very well also she is my strength we are blessed to have each other

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      Shelly 6 years ago

      My brother did all the above today and is now in the best hands at the hospital. Lost my Dad to alcohol, he was 49 and now my 49year old brother is battling the same thing. If you are drinking the hard stuff, and you love life, get help. Life sucks sometimes, but if you are giving the chance for another day, consider the possibilities of what you could do on another day, even if you don't, planning to do something can sometimes be the fun of it. God Bless you for reading my message.

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      educated dude 7 years ago

      This article is dangerous. alcohol in long term alcoholics is stored in their organs . When they stop drinking, the alcohol and another chemical is released into the blood stream and can cause far more side effects , even death in some rare cases, than are listed here.

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      LANN 7 years ago

      my question to those commenting is how much are you drinking. I am being pressured to go through AA and possibly DETOX but i am curious of how much drinking requires DETOX?

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      Dangthang 7 years ago


      Me too. I wish us both luck and good health in the future

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      Spyder 7 years ago

      I need detox. Almost didn't survive last night's drinking. I have no money, I that a problem?

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      Amy 8 years ago

      You forgot to mention the main reason for administering the benzos (such as Librium) is to lessen the chance of SEIZURES, which is a main concern during an alcoholic's detox period. Thanks.

      P.S. Having detoxed myself WAY too many times, I can say it's not as bad as you think... trust me. Once you have detoxed your brain magically defogs a bit and you feel soooooo much better. Especially in comparison with the horrendous hangovers and the feeling that you were hit over the head with a hammer! PLEASE detox safely, and do it NOW!

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      Barbara 8 years ago

      I have called a facilty, and going in tomorrow morning for DETOX (alcohol)...little nervous/scared of unknown now,BUT I am so excited to start my life over without alcohol...maybe that is what is scary, it has been a long time since alcohol was not in charge, now It's gonna be me!!!