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More about Alcohol Detox
Home alcohol detox
You should be able to detox at home if you have a safe and stable environment, and if you're in reasonably good physical and mental health. You'd need to make sure you haven't got any commitments (you'll certainly need to be off work, for example), responsibilities or distractions.
Because you are prescribed medication during an alcohol detox, it's best if you can have a reliable family member or friend staying with you to make sure you're safe. The vast majority of detoxes go very smoothly - but because things can go wrong, it's best to have someone else around.
You'll be visited by a nurse or other health professional once or twice a day for the first 3 days, making sure that the amount you're prescribed is safe, and to advise about what you can do to minimise any discomfort or cravings. They will probably breath test you to make sure you're not drinking. You'll have a medication chart, and written information on symptoms to look out for. You will get telephone support and visits right through the 10 days of the detox - although an NHS service may not be available for you at evenings or weekends.
When to have an in-patient detox
It may be safer to have a hospital detox if:
- You have a history of having seizures (fits)
- Have significant physical or mental health problems
- Are using other drugs
- Have no-one around to keep an eye on you and support you
- Home is too unstable a place to dry out 2
Or you may simply prefer to be away from home while you withdraw from alcohol.
Who provides detox?
Home detoxes can be provided by either specialist NHS alcohol services, by some GPs, or by independent private companies or practitioners like me.
Hospital detoxes can be provided by the NHS - more often than not on a general psychiatric ward, as dedicated alcohol in-patient units are few and far between - or by a private hospital or rehab.
You can have an inpatient detox in the following places:
- NHS specialist alcohol or addiction unit (larger cities only in most cases)
- NHS mental health ward
- Some Rehabs 3
- Private addiction clinics
- Private hospitals
Most hospital wards are used to providing detox for alcohol dependent patients who are admitted for something else. But they won't usually admit you for detox as the primary treatment
How many times can I detox?
There's no limit to the number of detoxes you can have. However, it's likely that each time you go through withdrawal - whether via proper detox or done by yourself - your symptoms will worsen. This is to do with changes in your brain chemistry, known as the kindling effect1, which make each subsequent detox more uncomfortable and more dangerous.
DIY Alcohol Detox
Many people do dry themselves out by either going 'cold turkey' or by persuading their GP to give them some medication without any supervision or support.
If you're moderately or severely alcohol dependent, it's not safe to try to detox yourself without professional assessment and advice.
2 You might therefore want to plan to go somewhere else after detoxing
3 I know Rehabs aren't hospitals, but the ones who provide detox usually have a local GP who looks after the clients and nursing staff on their staff rota. There may be a separate detox unit in a larger Rehab.