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What Does a Medical Detox for Alcohol Look Like?

Alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful. Often it sneaks up on people who have been regular drinkers for years without any problems. Many are not aware they are alcoholics until it is too late. Questioning your alcohol consumption or wondering if you need detox can be a scary and overwhelming experience. It doesn’t have to be insurmountable. In this blog we’ll look at what a medical alcohol detox entails and why it’s important. 


What is a Medical Alcohol Detox?


Different from a social detox program, medical detoxification is a highly structured process of alcohol withdrawal that is managed by healthcare professionals. The point of medical detox is to medically manage withdrawal symptoms, monitor for any health complications, and introduce sobriety as the starting point of recovery. Trained medical staff create personalized detox plans that take into account substance use, medical, and psychological histories. Prescribed medications are used under direct doctor supervision to ensure safe withdrawal management and keep the client comfortable and safe. There are multiple stages of a medical detox program. 


Phases of Medical Detox


Assessment & Evaluation

Each medical detox program starts with an in-depth assessment of the client. This assessment is completed by a medical professional and is used to create a tailored treatment plan that will address any specific needs of the individual while ensuring their success. Each client is evaluated for their drinking patterns, drinking history, psychological well being, emotional stability and any potential medical complications. 

Stabilization Phase

During detoxification, most individuals deal with withdrawal symptoms. These can range from mild and moderate (sweating, nausea, anxiety) to quite severe (tremors, seizures, hallucinations). Medical staff monitor the individual 24/7 for any potential health complications and provide medicinal intervention, if necessary, to ensure comfort. Going through alcohol withdrawal in a controlled environment surrounded by healthcare professionals is imperative to long-term safety and makes sobriety more manageable.

Counseling & Therapy

While the medical component of a medical detox program plays the lead role, therapeutic integration is critical to recovery. Addressing the physical symptoms of alcoholism alongside the psychological aspects creates a strong foundation for sobriety. Once medically stable, individuals in detox can begin to work on the underlying causes for their drinking, develop alternative healthy coping mechanisms and ingratiate themselves into support networks. 


More often than not, a detox program is the first step of recovery. Most individuals will move on from their detox program into a residential treatment facility where they will continue therapeutic work. If not residential care, the continuation with some form of treatment is highly encouraged. This could look like participation in a 12-step fellowship, individual therapy, or outpatient therapy groups. Accountability and support are the pillars of long-lasting sobriety.


If you’re worried about your own drinking or that of a loved one, medical detox for alcohol is the safest form of detox. Usually 5-7 days, it doesn’t have to be a major disruption to their life and may end up saving it. 

Call Holland Pathways today to get all your detox questions answered and to see if medical detox is the right fit for you. Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive illness that is terminal if not treated. Treatment is one call away.