Quitting Alcohol: Why Medical Detox is Essential

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Over time, heavy alcohol use can have a profound impact on the human body. When a person with an alcohol problem decides to stop drinking, the withdrawal symptoms can be severe and require medical supervision and detoxification. Detoxification (detox) is the process of eliminating all traces of drugs and/or alcohol from the body, while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. Detox is an important and essential first step to sobriety, but full recovery still requires treatment for addiction.

Acute withdrawal from excessive alcohol use can begin as early as two hours after the last drink and can last up to seven days. Symptoms can range from mild to serious, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed and the length of alcohol abuse. Regardless, the decision to stop drinking alcohol safely must include a plan for medically supervised detox and treatment for substance use disorder, ensuring a safe transition into sobriety. Detox may last a week or more, with symptoms hitting their worst within 24-48 hours.

At Valley Hope, medically monitored detoxification eases withdrawal in a safe, supportive environment. Detoxification usually lasts just a few days under the supervision of doctors and nurses at Valley Hope’s residential treatment centers. Each patient completes a physical, a lab profile and around the clock monitoring throughout the withdrawal period. When necessary, medications reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. When detoxification is complete, patients can move on to the next phase in our continuum of care as a resident or outpatient.

After long term, heavy use withdrawal from alcohol can be serious and even fatal.  No one with an extended history of heavy drinking should attempt to stop “cold turkey” on their own.  Alcohol detox programs closely monitor withdrawal symptoms, prescribe medications to mitigate seizure risks and otherwise ensure the detox process is safe and comfortable.

People experiencing alcohol withdrawal often describe the experience as similar to having a bad flu, including body aches, headaches, nausea, trouble sleeping, sweating, and even hallucinations.  Beyond the usual symptoms, without proper care detox from alcohol can lead to life-threatening seizures. Because of these risks, it is essential that alcohol users undergo a residential detox program such as Valley Hope, providing 24-hour therapeutic care in a safe, caring environment. The detox process includes:


The detox process begins with an initial assessment over the phone or in person with trained Valley Hope staff. Our admissions counselor will ask a series of questions to help determine your need for treatment and level of care required.

Medical Supervision

Valley Hope’s medical team and attending physician will provide a full medical assessment and recommend a time-frame for detox and 24/7 medical supervision to ensure the patient’s safety and comfort. During this time, you will also connect with your primary counselor and case manager.

Medication Assisted Therapy

Valley Hope provides medication assisted therapy to manage withdrawal symptoms. These medications can decrease discomfort, prevent dangerous symptoms and help with cravings. In addition, the Valley Hope medical staff addresses nutritional deficiencies caused by loss of appetite (often a withdrawal symptom).

Medical attention and medications are essential to safely and successfully treating physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. In addition,  a variety of therapies are employed to address the mental and emotional symptoms and to help facilitate long-term recovery.

After Detox

Remember, detox is the first step in the recovery process. Long-term recovery should include treating the issues that led to addiction with a solid recovery program. Studies show attending treatment after detox increases the chances of recovery. That is why Valley Hope provides medically monitored detox at all our residential facilities. Our approach eases the transition into treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

If you or a loved one are ready to stop drinking, take an online assessment and begin your journey to a healthy, happy life in recovery today. Get help. Find hope.