Alcohol misuse and abuse is a common problem in the UK. As you may already know, alcohol is the most abused drug in modern society. The good news is that it is possible to overcome alcohol addiction with the right kind of treatment and support. The first step in overcoming is detox. Those looking for help with an alcohol problem have a number of different detox options from which to choose.

Short for ‘detoxification’, detox is the process of breaking the physical dependence on alcohol through either immediate or gradual separation. It is necessary because the body adapts to alcohol consumption in a number of ways. In the brain, for example, alcohol disrupts the normal function of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Elsewhere, alcohol can affect everything from the liver to the heart. All alcohol must be removed from the system if the damage done by misuse is to be corrected.

12-Step Detox

The 12-step programme developed by Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s can be used right from the very start of an alcohol recovery programme. Alternatively, it can be utilised after another form of detox has been employed. We are beginning our explanation of choices with the 12-step programme because it has proven so successful for more than 80 years.

Detoxing under the 12-step model involves a very thorough process of recognising one’s problems and taking responsibility for one’s actions. It relies on the group therapy approach, where all of the members of a group support one another and hold each other accountable. 12-step fellowships are plentiful all across the UK.

GP Led Detox

Next to the 12-step programme, detoxing under the care of a GP or nurse is the next most common form of overcoming alcohol problems. This sort of detox begins with a visit to the GP for an examination. The doctor will usually prescribe some form of medication to help assist the patient through withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol detox. Additional medications may be prescribed to reduce future cravings.

This sort of detox is done at home with either regular visits to the doctor or at-home visits with a nurse. The visits are necessary to monitor the patient’s physical health and to administer medications. Detoxing this way can take several weeks to several months, depending on how the patient responds.

Inpatient Detox

Alcohol abusers with the most serious problems may have to undergo inpatient detox. This form of detox involves being admitted to a medical facility for up to seven days. During this period, medications are given to reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent cravings. Medical staff are on hand 24 hours a day to monitor the patient’s condition and respond in the event of a medical emergency. Inpatient detox is generally followed by a 4 to 12-week rehabilitation programme designed to prevent relapse.

Other Detox Choices

The three types of detox we have listed above make up the bulk of what is utilised in the UK today. However, there is a handful of other options available to those who are interested in them. One of them is a rapid detox that involves large doses of intravenous vitamins and minerals. Those who favour this newly emerging form of detox say it is the fastest and most effective method. That remains to be seen.

Another alternative form of alcohol detox is known as organic detox. It involves utilising some self-help remedies that cover everything from daily nutrition to relaxation techniques to employing natural herbs and other substances. Organic detox has never been proven to work medically, but plenty of practitioners swear by it.

Lastly, there is an emerging detox method that is similar to the 12-step programme in that it involves alcohol abusers taking responsibility for their recovery. It differs in that it does not view alcohol dependence as a disease. Rather, it sees it as a problem that can be solved with appropriate solutions. Fellowship members are encouraged and aided in helping find their solutions, followed by support in implementing them.

It used to be that alcohol misuse and abuse were treated with a one-size-fits-all approach. Nonetheless, a lot has changed over the last 20 years. Today, professionals are more likely to adopt an approach that says ‘whatever works for you’. There is no right or wrong way to detox – just as long as the alcohol abuser does it. Thankfully, there is plenty of help available.