Alcohol Detoxification

Introduction to Alcohol Detoxification

Detoxification from alcohol is a recognised medical procedure that will assist you to stop drinking in a safe and supported way.

You may experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking alcohol suddenly after a period of drinking excessively. These withdrawal symptoms may include “the shakes”, sweating, anxiety, nausea, retching in the mornings, agitation, having fits, seeing things which are not there (hallucinations) and feeling low in mood. You may also feel wound-up and find it difficult to sleep. These withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and in extreme cases can be dangerous if they persist into “DTs” (delirium tremens).

During an alcohol detoxification you will be provided with prescribed medication to help reduce these withdrawal symptoms. This medication relieves anxiety and tension, aids sleep and also prevents fits. Medication controls the withdrawal symptoms until the body is free of alcohol and has settled down. This usually takes three to seven days from the time you stop drinking.

In some circumstances alcohol detoxification can be given at home. This preferred method of detoxification – which is called ambulatory detoxification – takes place at West Kent Drug & Alcohol Wellbeing Service. Inpatient detoxification in hospital can be arranged when required.


Preparation for Alcohol Detoxification

Your key worker will discuss with you whether you require a detoxification from alcohol.

If you are to have a detoxification you will first be asked to have some blood tests and a medical assessment from the service doctor. Then, if you are medically suitable, we will arrange an ambulatory or inpatient detoxification. Your key worker will discuss these options with you.

It is important that you attend all key worker meetings before your detoxification programme starts in order to prepare for the programme and begin to plan your life without alcohol.

You will be advised how to reduce your drinking prior to starting the programme.


During Alcohol Detoxification

You should not drink any alcohol during the programme and you will take a breath test every day to confirm your abstinence.

You will be given prescribed medication on the first day which will relieve your withdrawal symptoms. Medication will be issued to you every day for the remainder of the programme by the programme staff.

A clinical member of staff will monitor you every day to see if the detoxification is working effectively. If you experience difficulties you should inform the programme staff.

If you are travelling to a clinic for your detoxification, you are strongly advised not to drive, cycle or operate machinery for the whole programme. You should avoid employment during the detoxification.

During the programme we will help you explore the reasons for your past drinking and plan how you can avoid returning to excessive drinking.

To prevent further relapse you may need to make some significant but important changes in your life, for example:

  • Continue with individual or group sessions to explore the personal aspects of these changes.
  • Change or alter relationships that may be a threat to your sobriety.
  • Avoid friends, places and situations where high risk of drinking may exist.
  • Address social or domestic pressures and demands that may trigger further drinking.
  • Join local AA groups or other non-drinking groups.

Following a detoxification, we recommend that you should abstain from drinking for an extended period of time to allow for maximum recovery.

Your key worker will discuss this with you. If you do drink during a programme the detoxification will be stopped immediately and you will be asked to discuss your relapse with your key worker.


After Alcohol Detoxification

It is recommended, and expected, that you engage with CGL psychosocial services (such as key worker meetings and group meetings), immediately after a detoxification programme.

You might wish to consider taking Antabuse or Campral medication to help you avoid relapses. Your key worker will explore these options with you.

If you do relapse, you should discuss this immediately with your key worker. You will be expected to take responsibility for your drinking and try to safely reduce or stop your drinking quickly.

You will not automatically be offered a further detoxification if you have started drinking again.

We will expect you to take responsibility for your treatment and to attend meetings and cooperate with your treatment plan, and any advice and information given to you, before you are considered for any further detoxification.