‘Drying out’ is a term used for alcohol detoxification. It is a period of time where no alcohol is consumed to allow the body to be purified, cleaned out and detoxified.
It’s important to note that alcohol withdrawal can, in extreme cases, result in potentially life threatening seizures. Seeking medical advice prior to commencing any alcoholic dry out is crucial. Alcohol withdrawal is the sudden cessation of drinking alcohol and detoxification should be combined with a professional medical assessment and appropriate medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Most often benzodiazepine drugs, like clordiazipoxide (Librium), are used as an aid to drying out from alcohol as it mimic’s the effect of alcohol on the brain and is commonly used to wean alcoholics off the drink.
People with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms can be detoxified as out-patients. Alcoholics at risk of severe withdrawal symptoms and people who may have significant co-occouring conditions are more safely treated as in-patients. Alcohol detoxification is a necessary first step in the rehabilitation and recovery process, but does not in fact treat alcoholism. To attain contented sobriety alcoholics usually attend longer term (28-90 day) treatment programmes to increase their chances of a good prognosis.
Now is the Time to Quit Drinking
By the time an alcoholic is dependent, they’ve moved through the abuse phase and in many cases have at least embarrassed and even endangered themselves or their families and sworn off alcohol, promising never to drink again many, many times. At the time of making the sobriety vow, alcoholics are sincere and believe that they can remain sober regardless of circumstances if they just exert enough willpower. However, alcoholism is now believed to be a disease which causes changes to the brain of the alcoholic that results in them not being able to ‘just say no’ to alcohol. Nancy Reagan started the ‘Just say No’ campaign in 1982 when asked by a Californian schoolgirl what to do if she was offered drugs. The first lady responded by saying, “Just say no.”
The ‘just say NO’ campaign amused people addicted to alcohol and other drugs for many years to come and was extended to cover all manner of youth vices including violence and premarital sex. I have a friend who grew up in New York and was one of the poster children for the campaign when Nancy met him at a rehab at the age of 14 and he was already addicted to alcohol. John ended up drying out many times in detox & rehab before finally managing to establish contented sobriety.
I admire Nancy Reagan’s motivation and wanting to help however much has come to light since the early 1980’s and we now know that once alcoholic the changes to brain chemistry result in the alcoholic being unable to ‘just say no’ to drinking alcohol. The alcoholic’s brain sends a signal similar to one that would be sent if they were starving and they feel a compulsion to drink more alcohol.
Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol addiction can take years or, in some cases, months to develop, yet withdrawal takes place in hours. What began as acceptable drinking becomes totally unacceptable, hurting everyone close to the alcoholic. In many instances the individual still believes that they are in control of their drinking habit, yet physical, mental and emotional health continue to deteriorate. This is when it is key to dry out now, before the alcoholics life deteriorates further.
The Early Years of Alcohol Addiction
The reasons alcoholics continue to drink are very different to the ones that may have gotten them started. Where it may initially have been peer pressure, enjoying the taste of a certain drink, trying to relax or simply curiosity, now it has become a need for the effect that alcohol has on the alcoholic. The problem is that tolerance develops and now more alcohol is needed to achieve the same effect. The drinker has not lost control yet, and usually neither the individual, nor their family and friends realise that they have a problem.
More Alcohol More Frequently
During this stage the drinker is drinking a lot more frequently and those close to them may realise and any excuse will do. The alcoholic may say that she is drinking to relax, or that she is just drinking socially. The drinking has reached unacceptable social limits and she is losing control. This is often when friends and family realise that she has a drinking problem, although the alcoholic usually believes that she does not have a problem and is annoyed with them if they mention it.
During the chronic stage the alcoholic’s loved ones go through hell, terrified as they watch her physical and mental decline. This is often the time that they either manage to persuade the alcoholic that now is the time to go to a detox centre to dry out, or literally force her into treatment. Sometimes, a trauma caused by her drinking, influences the alcoholic to agree to dry out now. Drying out works in two parts, namely the drying out process and then the staying dry.
Drying out is the detoxification period which should be monitored by attending a detox clinic with medical and psychological help. If the alcoholic can spend a week in detox, she has kick-started the process of staying dry. As difficult as detox is, this is generally the easier of the two parts.
Staying dry is the recovery part of the process. It is the time for the individual to rebuild her life without alcohol which is not easy. It is best to continue with an aftercare program to aid the recovery process. Drying out is a journey which the individual needs to walk out on a daily basis. Much support and understanding is required from family and friends to aid her through the process. There is no need to journey alone as there are rehab centres which offer support and programs from detox through to rehab.
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