At Castle Craig, we treat each patient individually when we plan their detox. We find out from the patient how long they have been drinking alcohol, how much they were drinking and when they last consumed an alcoholic drink. We measure their blood alcohol concentration, height and weight and the doctors use all relevant factors to calculate an appropriate dose of the required reducing regimen.
What is Alcohol Detox?
When people become dependent on alcohol their brain and nervous system actually need alcohol to function normally. Alcohol dependent people drink increasing quantities of alcohol as their tolerance to alcohol develops.
Suddenly stopping alcohol for whatever reason can be extremely dangerous. It is at best very uncomfortable – at worst it can be fatal. For this reason, it is essential that people are safely detoxed in an alcohol detox clinic under medical supervision, using the right dose of substitute medicines.
How Long Does Alcohol Detox Take?
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can occur within hours of most recent use of alcohol, but can occur days later and may continue for up to several months even without new alcohol use. Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most severe and dangerous substance withdrawal and detox processes, in addition to opiates and benzodiazepines.
The duration of detox varies from person to person depending on individual-level differences such as general health, medical issues, and use history. It also depends on the environment in which a person detoxes. Detox at our centre is medically supervised and might take from a few days up to around two weeks and will also depend on each patient’s clinical condition.
What Do Patients Do During Detox at Castle Craig?
Once a patient is stabilised on their detox regime, they can attend all the activities that other patients attend at our detox centre. They will attend morning meditation, lectures, group therapy and specific activities. They will also be assigned tasks to do which support the rest of the community like tidying up, or fetching logs for the fire. People on detox are normally quite capable of all these activities and it helps them focus and become an active member of the treatment community.
Withdrawal Symptoms from Alcohol Detox
The aim of alcohol detox at our clinic is to minimize withdrawal symptoms to a comfortable level. Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nausea / retching
More severe symptoms include:
- Delerium tremens
The nurses at Castle Craig rehab centre are trained to monitor for signs of alcohol withdrawal and this process will start as soon as the patient is admitted. The patient’s withdrawal signs are monitored and recorded regularly by the nursing team.
Risks of Alcohol Detox
Detoxing from alcohol without medical support can be dangerous, especially if the patient has been drinking heavily for a long time.
If people do not have properly monitored detox in a clinical environment, they can experience heavy sweating, tremors, headache, nausea or vomiting and sensory disturbances. Very extreme withdrawal reactions can include seizures or delirium tremens.
That is why people must be slowly detoxed from alcohol using substitute medicines which support the working of the brain and nervous system during which the patient is regularly monitored.
Where Do Patients Reside During Detox at Castle Craig?
Patients undergoing detox reside at Castle Craig’s intensive treatment unit (ITU) – located in the main Castle building. They live alongside those who have finished their detox. However, there are dedicated detox bedrooms located opposite a nursing station so that they can be regularly monitored.
What happens after Detox?
We strongly recommend that patients stay and complete at least 6 weeks of therapeutic treatment at Castle Craig following detoxification at our clinic.
Alcohol Detox (Transcription)
Professor Jonathan Chick, Medical Director:
People use the term detox to cover that period when people have suddenly cut down their drinking or stopped completely. Now, if you think of the brain like a spring, the nervous system, if you think of it as a spring, alcohol has been sitting on it like a heavy weight. When that weight is suddenly removed, that spring is unstable and that shows in the nervous system as shaking, trembling, the feelings of intense anxiety, or can even show through in epileptic seizures, or could even disturb the brain so much that there are hallucinations and delusions. That’s pretty serious. And therefore, we take the detoxification from alcohol very seriously.
We have a system at Castle Craig for closely monitoring how a patient is managing thought those first four or five days. We don’t want to give them so much replacement sedation that they are sleepy because that’s not pleasant, that’s not necessary, but they need to have sufficient cover with a sedative-type of medication so that they don’t, for example, develop a seizure. So we use… the nurses regularly will use a checklist which gives us an accurate idea of what dose of medication is needed. So we don’t, as used to happen in some hospitals, give people so much medication that for the first week they are really half asleep, but on the other hand, we are able to safely take people through this first week or so.
Dr. Margaret McCann, CEO:
In the case of alcohol detox, what we will generally do is substitute another similar-acting drug, such as Librium or Chlordiazepoxide. And this will stop the alcohol, substitute Chlordiazepoxide, and will enable a safe and gradual withdrawal of this medication for the individual. Of course alcohol withdrawal is associated with potentially serious complications and so the substitution of another drug, and the gradual reduction of that, is an attempt to ensure that the detox process is managed safely for the individual.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 9, 2020