Alcohol detox implies the removal of alcohol from the body of an alcoholic. Alcohol detox is brought about by abstinence from alcohol, medication, and altering the diet of the patient. Detox is not possible without support from friends and family and a commitment on the part of the patient.
The liver and kidneys normally carry out detoxification in the body. However in hardened alcoholics, alternative detoxification processes become necessary. There are several general practitioners, nurses, and pharmacists who volunteer in detox centers for alcoholics.
In most cases, detoxification can be done at home. This is when the alcohol consumption is moderate, but in complicated cases that involve symptoms such as hallucinations, severe withdrawal symptoms, and multi-substance misuse, inpatient detoxification becomes necessary. Volunteers even conduct community detox programs, usually in compliance with the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Alcoholics attending AA meetings are stressed upon the need to be determined to give up alcohol.
In extreme cases, medication is used to detoxify heavy drinkers. This is also termed pharmacological detoxification. Here, the patients are forewarned that they may suffer anxiety and insomnia for a couple of days. The most common drugs used for alcohol detoxification are benzodiazepines, with Chlordiazepoxide being the most preferred benzodiazepine used. Diazepam is also widely used, but fatal effects may occur if it is mixed with huge doses of alcohol. Hence, supervision is necessary for use of diazepam as a detoxifier.
A detoxification session usually lasts 5 to 6 weeks. The diet is to be protein-rich and with a generous amount of fiber and fluids, and the person should consume water throughout the day. Since most alcoholics have sugar problems, hypoglycemic substances should be consumed. Parsley and chamomile teas are effective alkaloids which stimulate kidney elimination processes.
Inpatient detox is carried out in rehabilitation centers, but there is a social stigma attached to being admitted in such rehab centers. Usually, such centers are located in the lesser-developed areas of the country, causing people from affluent classes to be reluctant to be admitted in them. Also, the ratio of workers to patients is generally 1:4, meaning that there is an emphasis on self-care.