Alcohol Detox

Alcohol Detox


Alcohol Detox

If you or a loved one are struggling to stop drinking alcohol, it may be that you have an addiction to alcohol or are possibly alcohol dependent.

Those that have a physical dependence to alcohol will find it very difficult to get sober without the assistance of medical and professional alcohol help. Those that have an alcohol addiction will not only find it difficult to get sober but will also need assistance and treatment in order to stay sober.

Rehab Guide is here to guide you through the entire process of detoxing from alcohol and advise you of the alcohol detox options and various methods and treatments that are available in the UK and overseas.

We work with a number of highly reputable private alcohol services and can locate an alcohol detox clinic near you that will provide the life-saving alcohol treatment in order to stop drinking safely.

With our expert help, quitting alcohol doesn’t need to be a frightening or overwhelming prospect. You or your loved will have the means to get sober and start your recovery journey today.

What is a Medical Alcohol Detox?

A medical alcohol detox is a procedure conducted by qualified addiction treatment professionals. Clinically, it is the safest way to stop drinking where there is a physical reliance on alcohol.

A qualified doctor or psychiatrist will prescribe a detox regime, whereby an approved alcohol detox medication is used to immediately substitute the alcohol. It is very important that you do not drink any alcohol while undergoing a full medical detox.

Following a comprehensive medical assessment of your mental and physical well-being, taking into account your age, gender, BMI, medical history and alcohol dependency levels, a medical detox regime will be prescribed.

You will start off in the highest amount of detox medication, which will be frequently administered – usually every 4 to 6 hours. The medication is then reduced over a number of days until it is stopped completely. Providing you do not drink alcohol during your medical detoxification you will then be alcohol-free.

A prescribed detox regime makes stopping alcohol much safer. It works by reducing alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms to manageable levels. Your well being is continually monitored during the detox process by highly trained professionals. This ensures you are comfortable, safe and supported throughout.

Understanding Alcohol Tolerance, Dependence and Addiction

Alcohol Tolerance

Alcohol tolerance develops over a period of time and with frequent exposure to alcohol. Those that drink daily or binge drink are at highest risk of developing a tolerance to alcohol.

Alcohol tolerance happens when the brain chemically adjusts to functioning with the volume of alcohol it is frequently exposed to. The greater the frequency, the more adjustment the brain is required to make.

Once tolerant to a certain level of alcohol, you will find that you need to drink more in order to gain the desired effect.

If alcohol tolerance is accompanied by alcohol dependence, then you will need to consume a certain amount of alcohol in order to stop alcohol withdrawal symptoms from developing.

Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence can follow on from alcohol tolerance but not always. Those that drink daily are at high risk of becoming both alcohol tolerant and alcohol dependent.

Displaying alcohol withdrawal symptoms that are relieved with consuming more alcohol is a definite sign of alcohol dependence.

It is possible to have a tolerance and dependence on alcohol without an alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction, commonly known as alcoholism, is a medically recognised condition that requires intensive and specific professional alcohol treatment.

More often than not, it is the case that once alcohol dependent, an individual will also become alcohol addicted.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction occurs when the brain develops a psychological attachment to alcohol, with or without the presence of physical dependence.

Psychologically, alcoholism is an extremely complex illness to treat. Stopping alcohol does not cure alcoholism; it does, however, stop the disease from further progressing.

Alcohol addiction can occur in anyone and at any time, although in most alcoholics there is a period of heavy or regular drinking leading up to it.

Alcoholism occurs through repeated exposure to alcohol. Over time, substantial chemical changes take place in the brain’s neural pathways. The brain then becomes progressively more obsessed and preoccupied with alcohol.

An alcoholic will not only find it incredibly difficult to stop alcohol but will also find staying stopped a daily battle if the alcohol addiction is not adequately and professionally treated.

Alcoholism is a Disease

In 1956 the American Medical Association (AMA) declared that addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a disease. In 1991, the AMA endorsed the dual classification of alcoholism by the International Classification of Diseases under both psychiatric and medical sections.

They stated the following reasons for alcoholism to be classed as a disease:


This diagnosis fits with the “Description of the alcoholic” and ‘The Doctor’s Opinion” detailed by Alcoholics Anonymous – Who in 1939 published the first Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book edition, describing alcoholism as a disease that centres in the mind and manifests in a physical allergy to alcohol.

The Centre on Addiction defines alcohol addiction as:

 “….a complex disease of the brain and body that involves compulsive use of one or more substances despite serious health and social consequences. Addiction disrupts regions of the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, learning, judgment and memory. It damages various body systems as well as families, relationships, schools, workplaces and neighbourhoods

alcohol detox

Who Needs An Alcohol Detox?

Anyone that has developed a physical dependence to alcohol will need an alcohol detox in order to stop drinking safely.

Displaying alcohol withdrawal symptoms when a drink is needed indicates that a medical alcohol detox is the safest course of action. Stopping alcohol any other way is highly risky and can even be life-threatening.

Drinking heavily and for prolonged periods of time heavily impacts on the brain and body, as explained in the following video, sourced from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) can start within as little as 2 hours from the last alcoholic drink where there is an alcohol dependence.

The alcohol-dependent brain reacts to a sudden drop in alcohol by manifesting a number of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms – some of which can cause complications and even death.

The first 72 hours of alcohol withdrawal syndrome are considered to be very high risk. In reality, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can continue for much longer.

Undergoing a full medical alcohol detox in an alcohol treatment centre prevents alcohol withdrawal syndrome from occurring; symptoms are carefully monitored and effectively managed by approved alcohol substitute medication.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Stopping alcohol abruptly or reducing the amount you drink too quickly without medical help can result in the following unpleasant and dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptoms:

Physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:

Psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability
  • Forgetfulness
  • Hallucinations (auditory or visual)
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Self-harm urges

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms that are highlighted in Red are considered to be very serious and require immediate medical attention.

It is possible to die from alcohol withdrawal.

Methods of Alcohol Detox

 Abrupt cessation of alcohol / “cold turkey” – This is extremely dangerous and should never be attempted where there is a physical alcohol dependence.

Alcohol reduction regime – You may decide to taper off your alcohol consumption rather than undergo an inpatient alcohol detox. Please consult with your doctor and an addiction professional before attempting to do this. Reducing alcohol too quickly can result in alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Medically assisted alcohol detox – This is where medication is prescribed to help you reduce and stop your alcohol intake. There is a danger of prescription drug abuse with this option, and it rarely works for those that attempt it in the community.

Home alcohol detox it is possible for a private alcohol detox to be arranged at home, whereby a trained nurse will visit daily to administer the medication. It is vital that you are supervised throughout the detox to ensure your safety.

Medically managed alcohol detox – This is where the alcohol is completely substituted with approved pharmaceutical medication. From beginning to end the detox is controlled by professionals who will continually monitor you for signs of alcohol withdrawal. In a controlled facility such as a residential alcohol detox clinic or rehab, there is no access to alcohol, and so the temptation to drink is removed. This makes the detox much easier to complete.

The Risks of Alcohol Detox

Risks associated with a medical alcohol detox are minimal as the procedure is controlled by experienced professionals. If alcohol withdrawal symptoms do occur they will be assessed for their severity and if necessary an adjustment to detox medication can be made.

Risks associated with non medicated and unsupervised alcohol detoxes are severe and life-threatening. There is also an extremely high risk of alcohol relapse.

Benefits of Alcohol Detox in an Alcohol Detox Clinic

The CQC registered inpatient alcohol detox clinics that Rehab Guide work with offer the following benefits:

  • 24/7 monitoring from a team of medical and addiction professionals
  • Medication to ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • A safe, compassionate, alcohol-free environment
  • Focus on personal recovery and healing
  • Counselling and therapy delivered by addiction treatment professionals
  • The opportunity to undertake a full alcohol rehab programme
  • Alcohol detox aftercare

What Happens After Alcohol Detox?

It is strongly recommended that any individual that undergoes alcohol detox also undergoes a comprehensive alcohol rehab programme and aftercare.

Alcohol detox only effectively removes alcohol; it does not provide the addicted individual with the necessary healing and recovery tools required to prevent alcoholic relapse.

An alcohol rehab programme is tailored specifically to meet your individual physical and psychological treatment needs, ensuring a comprehensive healing experience.

Any alcohol treatment programme that is missing the essential psychological component of treatment is considered inadequate in terms of achieving long term recovery from alcoholism.

Q & A for Alcohol Detox

Is alcohol detox painful?

The fear of pain is what stops many from undergoing alcohol detox, even when they desperately need it. Going cold turkey from alcohol where there is a physical dependence is very unpleasant, can be painful and even life-threatening. However, a medical alcohol detox is nothing like this.

How does a medical alcohol detox feel?

Undergoing a medical alcohol detox may make you feel sleepy and forgetful. This is because the medication used suppresses your body’s natural reaction to stopping alcohol. Your body and brain are slowed down to stop life-threatening alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Most individuals that undergo a medical detox report that it is not an uncomfortable experience.

Is alcohol detox dangerous?

Stopping alcohol abruptly or too quickly where there is an alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction is extremely uncomfortable both for the body and brain. Some find it terrifying. Life-threatening complications can occur during an unmanaged alcohol withdrawal.

A medical alcohol detox is not considered dangerous when managed correctly.

Can my GP help me detox from alcohol?

Most GPs will not prescribe the medication approved for an alcohol detox in the community. This is because there is a high risk of benzodiazepine abuse or prescription drug addiction occurring.

Where can I get a free alcohol detox?

Alcohol detoxes on the NHS, or that are free, either come with lengthily waiting times or great risks.

NHS hospitals will very occasionally conduct a medical alcohol detox but only where there is an emergency admission that requires an inpatient stay.

To apply for a free alcohol detox in the community, please contact your local drug and alcohol team.

Can I force a family member or loved one into alcohol detox?

The short answer to this is no. No one can be forced or should be forced against their will.

An alcohol detox is likely to fail if the person is not willing. All patients have the right to discharge from a detox clinic or hospital if they wish.

How long does alcohol detox last?

The length of a medical alcohol detox can vary depending on the individual’s addiction treatment needs. Most alcohol detoxes are completed within 5 to 10 days.

Attempting a non-medical alcohol detox is not recommended if you have a dependence to alcohol.

How soon can I admit to private alcohol detox clinic?

Rehab Guide work with many accredited and exemplary CQC registered alcohol detox centres. We can arrange an admission within 24 hours of receiving your telephone call or email enquiry.

How much does alcohol detox cost?

Private alcohol detox costs vary depending on the facility in which they are conducted and the duration of detox required.

Rehab Guide offers everything from affordable alcohol detox to luxury alcohol detox; please call us directly for more information on our prices and facilities available.


The Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous) – Wikipedia



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