Though in the wake of the opioid epidemic it hasn’t been discussed as much, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is still the most prevalent addiction in both the U.S. and internationally. The 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that “29.5 million people ages 12 and older (10.6% in this age group) had AUD in the past year.” Moreover, many of those 29.5 million people will experience the impacts of alcohol detox at some point in their lives, including both physical and emotional impacts.
Understanding the Physical EffectsImpacts of Alcohol Addiction
Like most addictions, alcohol addiction does not affect the individual using alcohol in just one way. Rather, if left untreated, alcohol addiction will eventually affect every aspect of an individual’s well-being. This is especially true of their physical well-being.
There is no doubt that alcohol addiction is a deadly disease. However, the disease generally takes time to come to a physical crisis point. In the process, it does serious damage to the body. This is why in many recovery communities, alcohol addiction is referred to as a “slow suicide.” Yes, it is grim, but there is also truth in it.
Before discussing the physical effects of alcohol detox, these are some of the physical effects of untreated alcohol addiction. Based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), untreated alcohol addiction:
- Can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, digestive problems, and stroke
- May cause certain cancers, including, but not limited to, mouth, throat, liver, colon, and breast cancer
- Can weaken the immune system and increase the chances of contracting an illness
- Could lead to memory issues and the potential for dementia
- Can cause physical injuries due to motor vehicle accidents or other risky behaviors
- May cause alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal
Understanding the Physical Effects of Alcohol Detox
Now the effects of untreated alcohol addiction certainly warrant the need for professional help sooner rather than later. Inevitably, some uncomfortable physical effects happen during alcohol detox. However, if done safely, they are not as damaging as the previous list. Also, they go away after detox, unlike the effects of alcohol addiction.
The following are a few of the physical effects of alcohol detox:
- Having intense headaches and potential migraines
- Feeling feverish, experiencing muscle pain, and having cold chills
- Being fatigued and experiencing lethargy
- Becoming nauseous and experiencing vomiting and dry heaves
- Experiencing uncontrollable shaking and sweating
- Having an increased heart rate
- Not being able to sleep; insomnia
- Having tremors and auditory and/or visual hallucinations (also known as delirium tremens)
It also must be noted that without proper professional supervision, detoxing from alcohol can be both dangerous and deadly. At The Phoenix Recovery Center, we monitor our alcohol detox patients closely to ensure a safe detox.
Understanding the Emotional Effects of Alcohol Addiction
While alcohol addiction can certainly take a toll on the exterior body, it can do just as much serious damage emotionally. In fact, many people in recovery believe that the emotional effects of alcohol addiction are much more intense than the physical ones.
Additionally, the emotional toll that alcohol addiction can cause may lead to more self-inflicted physical harm. The following are just a few of the emotional effects of alcohol addiction:
- Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about the future
- Being depressed and feeling hopeless, useless, and worthless
- Not being able to safely process feelings and becoming disoriented in what is wanted out of life
- Feeling like nothing matters anymore
- Either having ideations about self-harm, and/or actually committing self-harm
- Having ideations of suicide, or potentially attempting it
Understanding the Emotional Effects of Alcohol Detox
Now, just as alcohol detox may cause some temporary physical side effects, it can also inform emotional ones. The following are just a few of the emotional side effects that can manifest in alcohol detox:
- Unexplained feelings of dysphoria and/or dissatisfaction
- Feeling overly depressed
- Becoming overly anxious
- Showing intense signs of irritability
- Going through extreme mood swings
- Feelings of regret regarding past behaviors
- Being uncomfortable and nervous about the future
While an alcohol detox may be both emotionally scary and physically uncomfortable at first, the truth is that it will soon pass. Once this happens, the real work of recovery can begin and true healing can take place.
Sometimes people are worried that they will not be the same person after alcohol detox, and in this much they are right. They will be a much better, more at peace version of themselves. They will be like a phoenix rising from the ashes of misery and into a new world of possibilities.