Alcohol detox: what is it and how can you get help?

Take the first step towards a healthier future. Our experts are ready to guide you through detox and recovery.

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Page clinically reviewed by Dee Johnson (Mbacp, MNCS), Addiction Therapist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford in August 2022.

Alcohol detox is the process of removing alcohol from your system in a gradual and carefully managed way. This is best done under medical supervision and sometimes with the use of controlled prescription medication to help lessen your withdrawal symptoms and make them easier to cope with.

What to expect from an alcohol detox

At Priory, our comprehensive, medically assisted detox programme takes place on an inpatient basis and can be part of your alcohol addiction treatment programme. This means that you’ll stay at one of our specialist centres on a residential basis for the duration of your treatment. While you’re with us, you’ll receive:

  • Treatment and support in a safe, secure and clinical environment
  • Round-the-clock medical and nursing care, ensuring that you're as comfortable as possible, and have immediate access to medical advice if you need it
  • Highly qualified treatment teams
  • A programme that’s tailored to your needs and structured within National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines
  • Controlled medication to help you cope with your withdrawal symptoms, minimise any psychological distress and help you sleep
  • Family involvement throughout the detox process as well as any subsequent addiction treatment you receive with us, if you consent to this
  • A modern and welcoming detox bedroom, complete with en-suite facilities, designed to be comfortable and relaxing
  • A range of entertainment and wellbeing activities to help you pass the time and serve as a distraction from your withdrawal symptoms

We advise everyone going through our detox process to start on our intensive alcohol addiction treatment programme as soon as they’re physically able to. You can even start addiction therapy while you’re still going through detox.

Our free addiction assessment

We offer a free addiction assessment for you to discuss your challenges with one of our experts, supporting you to start your recovery. Speak to a specialist:

  • Face-to-face
  • Over the phone

We know that taking the first step can be difficult, but we’re here to support - with no pressure or judgement. Help is just a phone call away.

The importance of assisted alcohol detox

When you’re addicted to alcohol, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. These can be intense and unpleasant, and can be hard to manage on your own. This is especially the case if you’ve been dependent on alcohol for a long time.

That’s why it’s important to go through alcohol detox in a controlled and medically assisted environment. We offer round-the-clock support, helping you to manage your withdrawal symptoms and alleviate any discomfort you’re experiencing.

It’s also important that you don’t stop drinking all of a sudden. If someone with an alcohol addiction stops drinking suddenly, whether by choice or not, this is known as going ‘cold turkey’.

If this is done without any support, it can lead to uncomfortable and even dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These can include things like high blood pressure, a high fever, severe disorientation, hallucinations, and seizures. In some cases, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be fatal. These more severe withdrawal symptoms are known as delirium tremens (DTs).

It’s important to understand that many people who try to go cold turkey experience such extreme and distressing withdrawal symptoms that they end up resorting to drinking again just to get rid of their symptoms. This can therefore turn into an ongoing cycle of alcohol abuse that can continue to have a destructive impact on all areas of your life.

How long does it take to detox from alcohol?

The alcohol detox process usually lasts between 7 and 10 days. However, this can vary from person to person and can also depend on a number of other factors, including:

  • How long your body has been dependent on alcohol
  • The amount of alcohol you have been drinking and how frequently
  • How severe your withdrawal symptoms are
  • Your general mental and physical health

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include:

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Headaches and abdominal pain
  • Sweating, shaking and shivering
  • Nightmares and insomnia
  • Irregular or increased heart rate
  • Intense cravings for alcohol
  • Psychological side effects such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, mood swings and other mental health problems

Addiction treatment after detox

During addiction treatment, you’ll benefit from a wide variety of therapeutic techniques, including exercise programmes, yoga and relaxation methods. We also offer equine therapy at some of our addiction treatment centres. Ultimately, these therapies will help you to overcome your addiction and get back on track.

Our group therapy programme, delivered by experienced therapists, allows you to learn from the experiences of others who are in a similar stage of their recovery. You’ll have the opportunity to share your thoughts and insights, and form healthy, productive and sober relationships.

Once you've completed your alcohol detox and our broader alcohol addiction treatment programme, we also offer free aftercare, helping you to maintain your abstinence and continue along your road to recovery. Aftercare is free for 12 months across most of our addiction and detox sites, although it’s offered for life if you receive alcohol rehab at Priory Hospital Roehampton.

At Priory, we have detox clinics located all over the country, meaning you can access the support you need in a location that’s convenient for you. We understand that alcohol detox and withdrawal can feel very daunting. However, our expert detox teams are dedicated to minimising your alcohol withdrawal symptoms and supporting you every step of the way towards overcoming your addiction.

Contact us to make an enquiry or for more information

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