As with virtually every other substance, a person doesn’t become addicted to alcohol overnight. Instead, alcoholism — the physical and physiological addiction to alcohol — occurs when an individual abuses alcohol consistently over a period of time. Though the specific amount of time necessary for alcoholism to develop can vary, most estimate that about a month of habitual alcohol abuse is necessary for a person to reach full-blown alcoholism. But it’s not so much how long it takes for alcoholism to occur as it is how and why alcoholism occurs that’s particularly important.
Every mind-altering substance has its own effects, particularly in the brain. Generally, all these intoxicants have an affect on a person’s brain chemistry, whether they’re synthetically boosting neurochemicals associated with pleasure, elevating a person’s energy level, or causing hallucinations. With alcohol in particular, abuse of the substance triggers elevated levels of a neurochemical substance known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA for short.
When a person is experiencing immense stress, fear, anxiety, or anger, his or her brain releases a slight surge of GABA as a means of alleviating those negative feelings. In a way, GABA is the brain’s natural remedy for stress, anger, and anxiety. However, while GABA occurs naturally and is technically not a harmful substance, it can be quite detrimental when GABA levels are boosted excessively and with unnatural frequency.
If a person’s GABA levels are elevated much of the time, the result is the brain either stops or reduces its own natural production of GABA. Having realized that it can rely on the individual’s alcohol consumption as the primary source of GABA, the brain stops producing GABA as it’s unnecessary, which means equates to the brain accommodating and compensating for the alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, this can put the individual in extreme danger.
As explained above, alcoholism occurs when the brain has come to rely on one’s alcohol abuse as the primary source of GABA. This means that if the individual is unable to consume alcohol for even a short period of time, the brain isn’t producing GABA, so the individual is likely to experience a GABA deficit. When the brain needs GABA but doesn’t receive it, there can be catastrophic consequences.
With many mind-altering substances, individuals who are addicted experience withdrawal symptoms when they’re unable to procure or consume the substances to which they’re addicted. It’s a very similar situation with alcoholism; when alcohol isn’t present in the body, the individual experiences alcoholic withdrawal. These symptoms can range from mild to moderate or even profoundly debilitating. At their worst, an individual experiencing alcoholic withdrawal could manifest a condition known as delirium tremens.
Delirium tremens occurs in situations of intense alcoholic withdrawal. In particular, when a person suffering from intense alcoholism goes just a brief period of time without alcohol, the sudden GABA deficit triggers profound withdrawal symptoms that can potentially become life-threatening. Some of the specific symptoms that are associated with alcoholic withdrawal include physical discomfort or pain, restlessness, insomnia, flu-like symptoms, anxiety, and mood swings; however, when delirium tremens develops, the individual can potentially experience intense trembling, seizures, or even death.
Oftentimes when people consider substance abuse treatment, they think about inpatient or perhaps outpatient programs in which the addicted individuals receive therapeutic treatments that help them to achieve stable sobriety. However, these aren’t the only types of treatment programs that are available. In particular, detoxification treatment is another form of rehabilitative care, and it’s one that often precedes an actual treatment program.
If an addiction treatment program is designed to help an addicted person learn how to stay sober, detoxification treatment is designed to help an addicted person achieve physical sobriety. Since addicted persons who abruptly cease consumption of addictive substances will likely experience withdrawal symptoms, detoxification is designed as a precursor to rehabilitation that allows the patients to cleanse their bodies of intoxication’s and achieve physical sobriety. Ultimately, the goal is for the patient to no longer be suffering from physical addiction by the time he or she begins the treatment program.
The length of a heroin detox program will depend solely on the individual. In particular, the length of a heroin detox treatment will vary depending on factors like the length of time spent in active heroin addiction, the severity (or amount) of one’s daily heroin intake, whether there’s a family history of addiction, whether there have been previous attempts at recovery, and so on. As well, an individual is provided with ample time to achieve a successful detoxification; so if it’s estimated that seven days is needed to complete detoxification treatment, but the patient hasn’t totally detoxed after those seven days, the detox program will be extended to accommodate his or her detox needs. Ultimately, the program will be however long the patient needs for it to be so that he or she can detox successfully and, consequently, so he or she will experience optimal benefit from the actual treatment program.
To be clear, there’s no singular form of treatment — or even a single trajectory for recovery — that’s ideal for everyone. Recovery is a very unique, personal journey that varies from one person to the next. The reason recovery is such a person journey is because the resources that help one person achieve stable sobriety aren’t necessarily the right resources for everyone else. Thus, the idea is for a person to choose forms of care based on his or her recovery needs.
Having said that, virtually everyone who suffers from alcoholism or alcohol dependency would benefit from alcohol detoxification treatment. Even if a person’s alcoholism is relatively mild and offers very little risk of delirium tremens, alcohol detox treatment can offer an initial period during which a person can get psychologically prepared for the trials of recovery that are ahead.
If you or someone you love would like to learn more about alcohol detoxification, call Just Believe Recovery today at 888-380-0667. With locations in Pennsylvania and Florida, Just Believe Recovery offers recovery options for virtually any needs.