(Courtesy of Recovery at the Crossroads) You’re here because you want to know how to deal with alcohol withdrawal. Deciding to stop drinking is a great decision, but quitting cold turkey isn’t always the best choice. During alcohol detox, you may experience withdrawal symptoms ranging from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening. The team at Recovery at the Crossroads in New Jersey is here for you during your medical intervention.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can put your health at risk and make it difficult to get through the detox process to start addressing the roots of your alcohol addiction. And if you go about it the wrong way, withdrawal could be potentially life-threatening. Read on to learn more about what helps with alcohol withdrawal.
1. Tell a friend or family member before you start the detox process.
About six hours after your last drink, you may start to feel some of the earliest alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, fast heart rate and vomiting. Within 12 to 48 hours, you may experience more serious symptoms, including hallucinations or even seizures. Therefore, it’s important to have someone you trust with you during the detox period.
If you don’t feel well enough to care for yourself, a trusted friend or family member can bring you cold drinks, make sure you get enough to eat, and talk you through some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms. If you experience signs of delirium tremens (DTs), your loved one can also call for medical attention or take you to the nearest hospital for treatment. Family therapy may also help during this time.
2. Have medical supplies and comfort items on hand.
It may take 24 to 72 hours to eliminate all the alcohol from your body. During detoxification, you may not feel well enough to go to the grocery store or visit your local pharmacy, so be sure to stock up on any needed supplies before you have your last drink.
You may want to get a heating pad, a warm pair of slippers and comfortable clothing to wear while you go through the detox process. Acute alcohol withdrawal and severe symptoms may bring on flu-like symptoms.
3. Talk to your doctor.
Before you stop drinking or curbing any substance addiction on your own, ask your doctor if anything can be prescribed to control your withdrawal symptoms. Depending on your age and history of medical conditions, your doctor may recommend blood pressure medications, benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety and improve your mental health or anticonvulsants to prevent seizures and relieve other symptoms of the nervous system.
Your health care provider may also prescribe alcohol withdrawal medications like diazepam, a sedative that reduces anxiety and relaxes the muscles. It’s important to seek medical advice before taking any of these medications. Remember, acute alcohol withdrawal and severe symptoms may bring on flu-like symptoms. Take into consideration your own mental and behavioral health too.
4. Adjust your lifestyle.
During the withdrawal process, it’s important to avoid triggers that may cause you to relapse and start drinking again. Avoid attending parties or other events if you know alcohol will be available—basically, anywhere there may be alcohol consumption.
Let your friends and family members know that you can’t be around them if they’re going to be drinking alcohol. For best results, stay away from high-risk places, including bars, nightclubs and sporting venues that serve alcoholic beverages.
5. Stay active.
Another great way to cope with alcohol withdrawal is to stay active. Your first instinct may be to snuggle up in bed and wait for the symptoms to pass, but exercise can help improve your mood and help you sleep better as you go through alcohol detox.
You don’t need to run several miles or hit the gym—just go for a walk each day or do some calisthenics in your home. Seek immediate medical attention if any mild, acute or severe symptoms occur.
6. Use relaxation techniques to stay calm.
The American Psychiatric Association recommends mindfulness, since anxiety is one of the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The recovery process starts with your decision to seek help. Several relaxation techniques can help reduce your anxiety and keep you calm as you finish detoxification and prepare for the next stage of addiction treatment.
Meditation, yoga, aromatherapy and deep breathing are all things you can do at home to increase your comfort. Another good way to cope with alcohol withdrawal is to have a massage therapist come to your house and give you a professional massage.
7. Consume nutritious foods.
A healthy diet is key. Anyone with alcohol use disorder should focus on eating nutritious foods during the withdrawal process.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, poultry, eggs and lean meats contain the vitamins, minerals and macronutrients you need to stay as healthy as possible during the detox process and prevent health problems in the future.
8. Stock up on sports drinks.
A smart way to cope with alcohol withdrawal is to keep your fridge stocked with sports drinks. When you vomit, which often happens during the withdrawal process, the fluid contains sodium, potassium and other electrolytes.
If you lose too much fluid, you may develop an electrolyte imbalance, resulting in dehydration and low blood volume. Sports drinks are made to replace electrolytes lost through sweating, so drinking them during the withdrawal process can help you avoid a serious electrolyte imbalance.
9. Pick up a new hobby.
When you’re ready for substance abuse treatment, it’s wise to develop a hobby that can take your focus off severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms and help you pass the time until all the alcohol has been eliminated from your body.
Try doing crossword puzzles, reading, playing online games or practicing your drawing skills.
10. Clear your schedule as much as possible.
Before your last drink, clear your schedule as much as possible. Arrange to take time off from work, ask for help with childcare and do whatever else is needed to ensure you have plenty of time to focus on your sobriety.
It’s important to have support during the alcohol detox process. Recovery at the Crossroads has experienced, compassionate staff on hand to monitor your health and keep you as comfortable as possible during withdrawal. For more information on treatment options, contact us at 888-342-3881. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have about our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs and overall approach to substance abuse treatment.