Alcohol detoxification

Alcohol detoxification aims to remove the breakdown products of ethanol from the body, specifically acetaldehyde, which forms as a result of chemical reactions. In the treatment of alcohol dependence, this is the first stage that precedes further psychosocial rehabilitation.

Through detoxification therapy, one can both ease and expedite the course of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, as well as help a person emerge from intoxication and improve their overall well-being.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a complex of symptoms that develop when alcohol is discontinued. Many of these symptoms are distressing, compelling the individual to drink again to alleviate their suffering.

Severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome is characteristic of stages 2 and 3 of alcohol dependence. The person’s condition is accompanied by vegetative, somatic, and psychoneurological disorders. The intensity of symptoms depends on the individual’s health, age, duration of alcohol consumption, length of the last drinking episode, and the amount consumed. 

The severity of alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be classified based on the stage of dependence and the type of disorders:

  • Stage 2 of dependence. Severity level 1. Vegetative-asthenic disorders develop, including general malaise, rapid heartbeat, thirst, dry mouth, and increased sweating. Well-being improves with the intake of a small amount of alcohol, but the person can control their need for it;
  • Stage 2 of dependence. Severity level 2. The development of vegetative-somatic and neurasthenic disorders. Changes in blood pressure, tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, hand tremors, a sense of internal trembling, unsteady gait, facial redness, and bloodshot eyes occur. It becomes very difficult to restrain the need for more alcohol, and small quantities are insufficient for well-being;
  • Stage 2 of dependence. Severity level 3. Psychological disorders are added, including shallow, short-term sleep, nightmares, feelings of anxiety and depression, increased anxiety, guilt, irritability, and anger;
  • Stage 3 of dependence. Withdrawal, in this case, may include all symptoms. 

Detoxification methods

The removal of ethanol and its breakdown products is a mandatory condition for further addiction treatment. A person who is in a state of intoxication or withdrawal is incapable of thinking rationally and critically about themselves, so the first step is detoxification. 

There are several detoxification methods: 

  • Immediate assistance: removing alcohol and its breakdown products from the body;
  • Creating conditions for self-cleansing;
  • Neutralizing the toxic effects of ethanol.

Rapid detoxification

Rapid detoxification is performed in cases of acute alcohol poisoning and can be carried out using the following methods:

  • Gastric lavage: the removal of residual alcoholic beverages to prevent their absorption into the bloodstream.
  • Hemodialysis: extrarenal blood purification, performed in patients with severe kidney diseases.
  • Plasmapheresis: plasma filtration aimed at the rapid removal of toxins from the blood.

Such measures are advisable for patients in extremely severe conditions.

Creating conditions for self-detoxification

This approach involves the administration of metadoxine, a drug with anti-alcoholic properties. It activates the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, which breaks down the acetaldehyde toxin. The duration of withdrawal in this case becomes significantly shorter.

Treatment is complemented by fluid replenishment through intravenous infusions of isotonic solution (saline) or 5% glucose. In the absence of contraindications, potassium chloride and calcium chloride can be administered to normalize the water and electrolyte balance. 

Toxin neutralization

This method involves the use of drugs that bind toxins and naturally eliminate them. Such drugs include lignin and colloidal silicon dioxide. Their action can be compared to that of enterosorbents, which absorb toxic substances just like sponges do.

Detoxification comprises three stages:

  • Infusion therapy: intravenous administration of solutions;
  • Detoxification: use of medications;
  • Symptomatic treatment: alleviating disorders that have developed during withdrawal.

The choice of specific drugs and detoxification methods depends on the person’s condition and the presence of any chronic diseases.

In some cases, intravenous laser blood irradiation (ILBI) may also be used. This method helps cleanse the body of ethanol breakdown products, stimulate metabolic processes, improve the condition, and alleviate swelling and pain. 

Advantages of treatment at our clinic

IsraRehab is a rehabilitation center in Israel that welcomes dozens of patients from Russia and Ukraine every year. Treatment at our center does not require a visa, and having Russian-speaking staff allows you to undergo therapy comfortably without language barriers.

Rehabilitation takes place near the Mediterranean Sea but away from major cities. Our own-grown fruit orchards, cozy rooms with a home-like atmosphere, and all necessary amenities make your stay in the center comfortable.

At any given time, there are no more than 10-12 individuals at the center. This allows our staff and doctors to provide sufficient attention to each rehab center resident.

Sessions with psychologists and psychotherapists are carried out in small groups or on an individual basis. Even after discharge from the center, every graduate can seek psychological assistance at any time. We maintain communication and will provide help or answer any questions.

The main principle of treatment is the goal of achieving lifelong remission, complete loss of interest in alcohol. 

Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to detox from alcohol withdrawal?

The longer the period of alcohol abuse, the more time detoxification will take. The duration of detox also depends on the individual’s condition. Typically, detoxification lasts for 3-7 days. 

Is at-home alcohol detoxification possible? 

Yes, but only if the alcohol consumption does not exceed 2 days. In this case, assistance from specialists will still be necessary. A doctor will assess your condition, prescribe medications, and administer intravenous infusions. 

If alcohol abuse has lasted for 3 days or more, detoxification can only be done in a medical facility. This is due to the high risk of complications, including heart failure, gastric bleeding, kidney failure, alcohol delirium, and other types of psychosis. It’s essential to inform the medical team of the duration of alcohol use to safeguard your health. 

Is it better to turn to a drug clinic or a rehabilitation center (RC)?

A drug clinic only offers detoxification and alcohol withdrawal services. In a rehabilitation center, you can undergo comprehensive psychosocial rehabilitation, so the latter option is preferable.

In a drug clinic you won’t receive psychological support, explore the reasons for developing addiction, or address negative beliefs. This means that shortly after detoxification or alleviation of withdrawal symptoms, there is a high probability of a relapse to alcohol, possibly in larger quantities than before, given your improved health.

Detoxification is the first stage of treatment and is mandatory for all cases of alcohol addiction. However, comprehensive work on an individual’s mindset, beliefs, and ability to cope with stress and tension must follow. If your loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction, contact IsraRehab. We will provide assistance and guide the addict towards a sober and happy life.

The article was verified by a practical psychologist

Psychology teacher,
art therapist

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