If you’re dependent on alcohol to function, it’s recommended you seek medical advice to manage your withdrawal.
Some people may be prescribed medication to help achieve abstinence alongside psychosocial support from their recovery coordinator.
How and where you attempt detoxification will be determined by several factors including your level of alcohol dependency. In many cases, you may be able to detox at home using a safe reduction plan without the use of medication as your withdrawal symptoms should be mild.
If your consumption of alcohol is high, or you’ve previously experienced withdrawal symptoms, you may also be able to detox at home with medication to help ease withdrawal symptoms, normally prescribed over a period of 8 to 10 days. If you’re detoxing at home, you will be monitored regularly by a healthcare professional.
If your dependency is severe, you may need to go to a hospital or other residential treatment establishment to detox. This is because the withdrawal symptoms could also be severe and may need specialist treatment.
Detoxification at home
Your withdrawal symptoms will be at their worst for the first 48 hours. They should gradually start to improve as your body begins to adjust to being without alcohol. This usually takes 3 to 7 days from the time of your last drink.
You may also find your sleep is disturbed. You may wake up several times during the night or have problems getting to sleep. This is to be expected, and your sleep patterns should return to normal within a month.
During detox, make sure you drink plenty of fluids. However, avoid drinking large amounts of caffeinated drinks, including tea and coffee, because they can make your sleep problems worse and cause feelings of anxiety. Water, squash or fruit juice are better choices. Try to eat regular meals, even if you’re not feeling hungry. Your appetite will return gradually.
You must not drive if you’re taking medication to help ease your withdrawal symptoms. You should also get advice about operating heavy machinery at work. You need to tell the DVLA if you have an alcohol problem – failure to do so could result in a fine of up to £1,000. It’s likely the medication will make you feel drowsy. Only take your medication as directed.
Detox can sometimes be a stressful time. Strategies to relieve stress might include reading, listening to music, going for a walk and taking a bath. Read more about stress management: