Alcohol Detoxification: Where Does it Happen and How to Do it Safely

Alcohol detoxification (also known as detox) is an abrupt cessation of drinking for people who have an addiction to it. Learn more about where it happens & how to do it safely.

Alcohol Detoxification: Where Does it Happen and How to Do it Safely

Ethanol passes from the GI tract to the liver, where part of it is converted or detoxified by enzymes into inactive products. This process is called metabolism and the products are called metabolites. Alcohol detoxification (also known as detoxification) is the abrupt cessation of alcohol consumption in people who have alcohol dependence. This process is often accompanied by the substitution of drugs that have similar effects to the effects of alcohol to avoid alcohol withdrawal.

When withdrawal occurs, symptoms of varying severity occur. There are two ways in which the liver can process alcohol. Most alcohol is broken down, or metabolized, by an enzyme in liver cells known as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). ADH breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, and then another enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), rapidly breaks down acetaldehyde into acetate.

Acetate is further metabolized and eventually leaves the body in the form of carbon dioxide and water. The alcohol detoxification stage is the first step in the treatment of alcoholism. During this time, alcohol is completely eliminated from the body. Withdrawal symptoms usually go away in about one to two weeks after starting detoxification; however, this may take longer depending on the severity of your AUD. From there, you can focus on other aspects of the recovery process, such as different activities, therapies, counseling sessions, and support options. Once alcohol is ingested, it is not digested like food.

First, a small amount is absorbed directly by the tongue and mucous lining of the mouth. Once in the stomach, alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the tissue lining of the stomach and small intestine. Patients who have alcohol dependence may need detoxification to prevent alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS). When clinically appropriate, detoxification can be initiated in the outpatient setting. Most outpatients with alcohol dependence can be detoxified quickly and safely without the use of psychoactive drugs.

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during this time, as this will help to rehydrate your body and eliminate toxins. Water, juice, broth, popsicles, and gelatin are good options to hydrate during the early stages of abstinence. Researchers speculate that environmental factors such as smoking and the amount and pattern of alcohol consumption and dietary habits, as well as genetic differences in the way alcohol is metabolized, also contribute to the development of alcoholic pancreatitis, although none of these factors have been definitely related to the disease. Due to the severity of some withdrawal symptoms, alcohol detoxification should be monitored by a medical professional. Alcohol detoxification in a treatment setting is often accompanied by medication, medical observation and counseling. When treating alcohol detoxification in an inpatient rehabilitation center, different medications may be used to help reduce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

While you may feel discouraged when entering a treatment program, it is the safest way to detox from alcohol. As noted above, while more than half of Americans report consuming alcohol in the past month, only 10.7% of people aged 18 to 25 and 5.2% aged 26 and older have reported alcohol use that meets the AUD DSM criteria. Alcohol is volatile (evaporates into the air), so when alcohol in the blood comes into contact with air from the alveoli of the lungs, it can be transferred out of the body through breathing. This is not in itself a poison, but it interferes with the alcohol detoxification process by inhibiting one of the enzymes (alcohol dehydrogenase) that processes alcohol. After swallowing an alcoholic beverage, about 25 percent of alcohol is absorbed directly from the stomach into the bloodstream.

Detoxification in a vocational rehabilitation center is often the most recommended method to address alcohol addiction and dependence. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the level of alcohol dependence a person has experienced. Phase 1 occurs within hours after an alcoholic stops using alcohol and continues for days or weeks. It also works to reduce cravings for alcohol; however, it will not produce an unwanted effect if alcohol is consumed.

While benzodiazepines have been shown to be effective in treating or preventing certain symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, it is imperative that a recovering alcoholic only use the doctor's recommended amounts of medications. Because of the serious risks associated with alcohol self-detoxification, you should not try to detox from alcohol at home. Several alcohol detoxification studies found that the DRD2 gene may be associated with high scores of anxiety and depression in alcohol dependence.

George Mcnellie
George Mcnellie

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