When people who are dependent on alcohol make the decision to stop drinking, many think that they can manage the detoxification process on their own. While that may be true for a select few, there are many grave dangers that can affect a detoxing alcoholic, up to and including death. How do you know if your case is severe enough to need professional help? We’ll walk through the signs of a severe alcohol detox and show you how to get medical help to ensure your safety and health in the short- and long-term.
1. Know and look for the signs of severe withdrawal.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can manifest as soon as six hours after one has stopped drinking, depending on the individual. The person may still have alcohol in their system when withdrawal symptoms begin to develop. Early stage withdrawal symptoms can include pupil dilation, tachycardia, restlessness, anxiety, excessive sweating and nausea, amongst others. If these symptoms are severe, it’s best to seek professional detox help at this time, as more severe withdrawal symptoms that carry more risk can develop shortly thereafter.
Second-stage withdrawal symptoms are indicative of a more severe condition and almost always merit professional care. These typically onset 12-24 hours after drinking has ceased and can include hallucination and seizures. If you’re experiencing any symptoms of seizure, including loss of bowel control, muscle rigidity, breathing difficulties or uncontrolled clenching of the jaw, you are at significant medical risk – call 911 immediately.
2. If possible, gather your insurance information.
If your withdrawal symptoms are so severe that you cannot physically retrieve your medical insurance card, seek emergency help immediately – your safety is of utmost concern, and insurance can be dealt with once you have been stabilized. However, if you’re in a condition to get that information, it will be tremendously helpful in coordinating both your detox and continuing care.
It is useful to know if your insurance policy has specific limitations on care ahead of time – if you’re aware of any restrictions on your insurance, be sure to inform anyone you speak with regarding detox care and utilize this information to ensure you choose a facility that is appropriate for you.
3. If your symptoms are severe or you are at-risk, get to a hospital immediately.
If you haven’t already called 911 and you are experiencing symptoms of seizure or hallucinations, arrange for emergent medical care immediately. If this is not the first time you have experienced alcohol withdrawals, get help immediately, as you are at greater risk of stroke and other complications. Do not try to drive yourself. Calling 911 is best, but if you prefer, you can have a friend or family member drive you to the ER if they are with you at the time. The hospital will give you medications to stabilize you and provide monitoring care to ensure your condition does not worsen. You will not stay in the hospital for the duration of detox, only long enough to ensure your medical condition is stable and you’re able to continue with residential detox care.
4. Get copies of your lab work and doctor’s orders.
It is very important that you obtain any lab work results from the hospital, as well as prescriptions for any medication that they want you to continue taking. This will help your residential detox center coordinate continued medication for you at your next level of care and ensure that they do not give you any drugs that contraindicate what you’ve been given by the hospital. The goal is to coordinate care between the hospital and residential detox so that you remain stable and comfortable.
5. Coordinate continuing care at a residential detox.
Once you’ve been stabilized in the hospital, it will be time to set up your next level of care: residential detox. Although you are not feeling severe withdrawal symptoms at this point, your body is still undergoing withdrawal and will continue to do so for a few more days. It is vital to have medical and psychological support during this time. While your hospital may give you recommendations on residential programs in your area, it is important to do your own research and find a facility that meets your needs, as well as works with your insurance or financial situation.
When you’re looking for a facility, be sure to ask about the types of insurance they are able to accept, as well as cash pay and scholarship options if you are uninsured. Many facilities, including Inland Detox, will work with you to come up with a financial agreement that meets your needs and allows you to get the care you need at this critical point in time.
6. While at your detox, arrange for further level(s) of care.
While detox is the first step towards sobriety and a critically important step in treatment, it is not the end of the journey. Your detox center will be able to recommend further treatment for you that works with your insurance to ensure you have the support you need for the long-term. Most people will move to further inpatient residential care; however, outpatient treatment is often available for those who need to get back to work or family life quickly. Be sure to research your options to make sure your aftercare plan fits your needs.
If you feel you need help with alcohol addiction, or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, give Inland Detox a call today at (888) 739-8296 for immediate assistance. If you are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms at this time, call 911 for emergency medical help first.