Alcohol Detoxification


Alcohol detoxification is the removal of alcohol from the body of an individual who is alcohol dependent or alcoholic. It is the abrupt cessation of alcohol intake coupled with the substitution of alcohol with drugs used to prevent alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol detoxification is not possible without support from friends and family. Most of all it needs a commitment on the part of the individual who will undergo detoxification to abstain from alcohol use.

Alcohol Detoxification Process

The process of alcohol detoxification requires that alcohol be eliminated from the human body and that any withdrawal or other symptoms that are bound to occur are treated medically or psychologically or both. As mentioned earlier, the detoxification process is largely determined by the alcoholic himself. The detoxification process is determined by the person’s condition and by his approach.

In some cases, patients who undergo the alcohol detoxification process may suffer from hallucinations, delirium tremens and convulsions, which require immediate attention and treatment. To minimize these symptoms, medical drugs are given. However, the administration of these medications has to be monitored and accurately controlled. Usually such medications have are given at high dosages initially, but is gradually tampered down over a week.

Withdrawal symptoms can be quite distressing and can even become fatal if the addiction to alcohol is very severe. Safe withdrawal is accomplished with the administration of benzodiazepines to suppress the withdrawal symptoms. Drugs under this category are:

  • Chlordiaxepoxide (Librium) – is the benzodiazepine of choice in uncomplicated alcohol withdrawal due to its long half-life.
  • Diazepam (Valium) – is available as an injection for patients who cannot safely take medications by mouth.
  • Lorazepam (Ativan) – is available as an injection for patients who cannot safely take medications by mouth. This is also indicated in patients with impaired liver function because they are metabolized outside of the liver.

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.

Where is alcohol detoxification done?

In most cases, alcohol detoxification can be done at home. This is applicable when the alcohol consumption is just moderate. However, in cases where hallucinations, severe withdrawal symptoms and multi-substance misuse are noted, an inpatient detoxification is required.

Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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