Understanding the Process of Alcohol Medical Detox

This article overviews the medical detox alcohol process and other relevant information about the detoxification process.

Introduction to Alcohol Addiction and Misuse

Before detailing the medical detox alcohol process and other important information about detoxification, it is important to talk about alcohol addiction. When someone is addicted to alcohol – also known as alcoholism – they live with the most chronic, challenging form of alcohol abuse.

For many who need alcohol medical detox, the ability to function each day is limited because drinking and being intoxicated is a greater priority than daily obligations such as work and family. Without treatment at a medical detox program for alcohol addiction in Los Angeles, many symptoms of alcohol addiction worsen with time.

medical detox alcohol

Is Medical Detox Alcohol Treatment Dangerous?

The journey to overcoming alcohol addiction can be challenging, especially without help and support at a medical detox alcohol program like Essence Healthcare. Quitting alcohol suddenly, or “cold turkey,” can cause various symptoms. In a supported detox environment, trained medical professionals can help you manage the potential discomfort that may accompany detox. Facilities like Essence can help you or a loved one mitigate the risks and discomforts otherwise affiliated with medical detox alcohol treatment.

Outside of the treatment setting, treatment support is not always accessible. The potential side effects of alcohol withdrawal can lead to illness. In some instances, withdrawal symptoms can lead to death. These life-threatening side effects make seeking detox and treatment essential to safely quitting alcohol.1

What are the Risks, Symptoms, and Side Effects of Alcohol Detox?

If you or a loved one are a consistent drinker who suddenly stops drinking without help from a medical detox alcohol withdrawal program, you will likely experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The intensity and severity of detox vary based on several factors. Each person is unique, and recovery looks different for everyone. Therefore, alcohol withdrawal symptoms may range from mild to severe.

Common Symptoms of Alcohol Detox

Examples of common side effects of alcohol detox include symptoms such as:2

Severe Symptoms of Alcohol Detox

Symptoms of alcohol detox can range from mild to severe. Other, more severe symptoms of alcohol detox may include those that lead to potential medical emergencies, such as:

What Is Delirium Tremens?

A dangerous potential side effect of alcohol detox is delirium tremens (DTs). Not everyone who quits alcohol will experience DTs. Research suggests factors such as age, previous withdrawal experience, current mental and physical health, and your relationship with alcohol all play a role in developing DTs. Some statistics show that between 3% and 5% of those with a severe alcohol use disorder will experience DT symptoms during detox.3

Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

Symptoms of DTs can lead to fatal medical outcomes. It is impossible to predict who will experience DTs. For this reason, professional medical detox alcohol treatment is an essential first step toward sobriety. In a supported detox program, skilled medical and mental health professionals will watch for key symptoms and intervene if necessary. Symptoms of DTs vary from person to person but often include:

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Alcohol (and many other recreational drugs) impact the brain’s reward system. When someone drinks alcohol, it causes the brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and joy. The brain releases dopamine in response to everyday events such as shopping, cooking, or hugging a loved one. Using alcohol will also cause large amounts of dopamine to be released. The “dopamine rush” caused by alcohol use is generally more powerful than what the body produces from other activities. The desire to feel the same emotional high from elevated dopamine levels is a factor in alcohol addiction.4

Structure and Function of the Brain

Besides changing how the brain controls dopamine release, long-term alcohol abuse changes the structure and function of the brain. If a heavy drinker suddenly stops drinking, they will experience physical and emotional symptoms as the brain tries to perform daily tasks without the influence or “help” of alcohol. The attempt by the brain to return to how it was before alcohol is a factor that leads to withdrawal symptoms. The desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms often contributes to relapse and a return to addictive behaviors.5
process of medical detox alcohol

What are Recommended Medical Detox Alcohol Treatment Options?

The goal of medical detox alcohol treatment is to provide a safe and supported environment for detox. You can detox in the most comfortable setting at a supervised program. The best medical detox alcohol programs offer comprehensive, holistic care. Each treatment plan addresses the person’s unique and individual needs as they begin their recovery.

At Essence Healthcare, we understand that each person is unique. We will work with you to develop a plan of care that includes treatment and therapy models to meet your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs at each stage of treatment. Our Los Angeles area facility provides several alcohol addiction treatment options, including medically managed detox, subacute detox, and evidence-based therapy models.


The duration of detox programs generally ranges from three to ten days. The time your body needs to cleanse itself from the remaining effects of alcohol will vary based on several factors. Examples may include factors such as the severity of your addiction, if you have another underlying physical or mental health condition and if you have completed detox previously and experienced a relapse.

Our medical detox alcohol program offers around-the-clock care and support to ensure your safety while you focus on healing from addiction. Subacute detox options provide the same quality care and support without the same level of monitoring.

Inpatient and Outpatient Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Once detox is complete, you will transition into our inpatient or outpatient therapy programs. During therapy, our skilled and compassionate providers will help you learn more about the roots of addiction. Both individual and group therapy sessions provide relapse prevention education.

Holistic, Sustainable Healing at Essence Healthcare

At Essence Healthcare, our medical detox alcohol rehab program offers the highest individualized clinical care. Each of our patients has 24/7 access to members of their treatment team. We understand that the road to healing and recovery can be difficult and are here to support you during treatment and beyond.

Let us help you create and discover a future free from alcohol addiction. Contact us at Essence Healthcare today to learn more about medical detox alcohol programs and how we can help you achieve lasting sobriety.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.