Detox, what’s it like, and what to expect if your body and mind are dependent on alcohol?

Drinking is socially acceptable and readily available; it is everywhere and the first thing you’re offered when greeted by the absolute best party host. If it is a problem, alcohol’s accessibility makes abstinence a challenge. Approximately 6.2% of Americans aged 18 years old and older meet the clinical criteria for alcohol use disorder.

When most people think about drinking-related problems, they picture car accidents, fights, and run-ins with the police. If you have a problem with alcohol abuse and have been drinking heavily for weeks, months, or even years, you may have developed both mental and physical dependency. When you stop or seriously cut back on how much you drink, you may suffer from withdrawal where you may have some or all of these symptoms,  ranging from mild to serious.

What causes alcohol withdrawal? Alcohol creates a depressive effect on your system, slowing down brain function and changing the way your brain and nerve cells message each other back and forth. After some time, your central nervous system adapts to the level of alcohol in your system, working overtime to keep your brain in an awake state so your nerves can communicate.

When the alcohol level in the body suddenly drops, the brain has a hard time keeping up with the change and stays in its hyper state, causing withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range anywhere from mild to serious and depend on how much alcohol is consumed and over what period of time.

Mild Detox adverse symptoms can start as little as 6 hours after your last Alcohol drink and can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Shaky hands
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating

After 24 hours, the possibility of more serious symptoms is greater and can include hallucinations and seizures. Delirium tremens (DTs) usually start within 48 to 72 hours. Approximately 5% of people who withdraw from alcohol have severe symptoms that include vivid hallucinations and delusions. Those that do may also have:

Drinking can also lead to a range of severe and sometimes irreversible health problems; there is a higher risk of developing cancer, liver damage, sexual dysfunction, and nutritional deficits. Dietary deficits seen in those that suffer from alcohol use disorder can lead to a condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome or more commonly known as wet brain. The disorder is broken down into two stages called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis. Wet brain is permanent brain damage developed from heavy drinking over a long period of time. A wet brain is caused by a deficiency in vitamin B1 and thiamine, needed for normal heart and nervous system function. Thiamine also helps to regulate the glucose in the bloodstream and without it, one has serious health problems. Alcohol prevents the body from getting thiamine and it also depletes thiamine, stored in the liver.

The body needs thiamine for every part of the body to function, including the brain and several critical neurotransmitters. When someone doesn’t get enough thiamine over a long period of time, they develop irreparable brain damage or a wet brain. 

There are two forms of wet brain syndrome called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff psychosis. With Wernicke’s encephalopathy, a person will develop neurological symptoms because the brain is suffering from lesions that form from a lack of adequate thiamine. Mostly, these neurological symptoms are related to memory problems. Once the signs of the first part of the wet brain syndrome diminish, a person can develop the symptoms of Korsakoff’s psychosis, which is permanent.

Approximately 8 out of every 10 who develop Wernicke’s encephalopathy, the first stage of the wet brain, will go on to develop Korsakoff’s psychosis. The early stages may include these symptoms:

  • Confusion and ataxia
  • Memory problems
  • A loss of mental activity
  • Coma
  • Changes in vision

Korsakoff’s psychosis, the second stage those may suffer from any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Severe memory loss
  • Inability to form new memories
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations

If you or your loved one is contemplating stopping drinking, unless you have a serious health condition or you’ve had severe withdrawals in the past, you may only need a supportive environment to help you through. A supportive environment might include:

  • A quiet place
  • Soft lighting
  • Limited contact with people
  • A positive, supportive atmosphere
  • Healthy food and lots of fluids

If your alcohol use is more severe and your medical team recommends specialized treatment you may want to look at a professional treatment facility like Healing Springs Ranch based out of Texas. At Healing Springs Ranch, we want you to experience holistic recovery. Our team will place an emphasis on getting to the underlying issues and we’ll work with you to understand the “why” behind your addiction in an effort to help you overcome it. Call Healing Springs Ranch today to start your healing journey toward the life you deserve.

Healing Springs Ranch provides recovery support. Some of the highlights of therapy include, in addition to the Core Curriculum groups, Psychodrama, Art Therapy, Anger Management, ETT, and a Wellness Program. Residential treatment for adults recovering from substance use, alcohol, and other related mental health issues.