Alcohol Addiction Treatment
If you take a look at the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States, roughly half can be directly attributed to alcohol and tobacco use. Treatment for alcoholism is a complex, highly-nuanced process, because the drug you’re addicted to is legally available everywhere. As of 2014 there are an estimated 130 million+ individuals in the US who consume alcohol on a regular basis.
While it’s unlikely that someone is going to offer you a tray of syringes loaded with heroin or base-pipes filled with meth or crack at a restaurant; alcohol will always be readily available, and you’re going to have the perpetual opportunity to witness many individuals having drinks, getting drunk, having a good time, and then going about their lives without any apparent problems. It can be extremely difficult bordering on impossible to remove alcohol from the people, places, and things that kickstart your cravings, and restart the downward spiral of self-hate, hopelessness, and addiction.
Alcohol is a neurotoxin, the fact that it’s legal tends to make individuals overlook the medical research with regards to what it’s doing to your body and brain. The actual damage opiates and opioids like heroin or OxyContin do to your body, is very limited, whereas alcohol is somewhere near the very top of the harm scale for the most dangerous and damaging drugs you can possibly do. Chronic use of crack or methamphetamine, are the only two molecules which cause more damage than long-term alcoholism.
Because alcohol is a legal substance and carries little social stigma, the effects of recovering from alcohol dependence are typically minimized. However, alcohol withdrawal is a potentially life-threatening condition. As people who have been drinking heavily for years—or even just for months or weeks—try to stop drinking or significantly reduce their alcohol consumption, they often experience alcohol withdrawal.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can begin as soon as two hours after the last drink. They range in severity from moderate to severe and potentially fatal. They may persist for weeks, and throughout their duration they pose a threat to the sufferer. Some alcohol withdrawal symptoms are relatively simple and less severe, such as shakiness and anxiety; however, other complications are severe, including delirium tremens (also called DTs) and seizures.
DTs are typified by confusion, fever, rapid heartbeat, and shakiness, carry with them a death rate ranging from 1 to 5 percent. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including the DTs, can worsen quickly and sometimes without warning, so even if you are experiencing relatively mild symptoms, it is best to go through alcohol rehab with medical supervision. The alcohol detox process is complex, and the right supervision can reduce your risk of developing seizures or DTs caused by alcohol withdrawal.
The best way to get off alcohol is indisputably in a supervised setting if you’ve experienced alcohol withdrawal episodes in the past, or if you have other serious health conditions that requires care, such as heart disease, a history of seizures infections, or lung disease. Should alcohol withdrawal symptoms become severe, it is a medical emergency. If you or anyone you know begins to experience fever, hallucinations, irregular heartbeat, seizures, or severe confusion as a result of alcohol withdrawal, get to an emergency room or call 911. If you are already in a secure, medically supervised setting, you can receive care with confidence.
Why is alcohol detox so disruptive to the system? In large part because prolonged, heavy drinking, especially when it takes place daily, disrupts the neurotransmitters in the brain, those chemicals that transmit vital messages. For example, although alcohol consumption enhances the effect of GABA at first, chronic consumption suppresses GABA activity. Since GABA is the neurotransmitter which produces feelings of calm and relaxation, chronic alcohol consumption means that your brain needs more and more alcohol to produce the effects you’re craving. This is called alcohol tolerance, and it is closely related to alcohol dependence.
The neurotransmitter glutamate is also suppressed by chronic alcohol consumption. Glutamate produces feelings of excitability, and when it is suppressed, the brain seeks equilibrium, producing more glutamate and forcing the glutamate system to function at a far higher level than it does in those who either drink moderately or don’t drink at all.
So, what happens when chronic alcohol consumers stop or reduce their intake? These neurotransmitters are suddenly no longer suppressed, and instead experience a rebound effect. This causes brain hyperexcitability, which produces the unpleasant and dangerous symptoms correlated with alcohol withdrawal. Anxiety, agitation, DTs, irritability, seizures, and tremors, are all rebound effects and part of alcohol withdrawal.
How severe any given person’s alcohol withdrawal symptoms are typically depends on how much they drink and for how long they have been drinking.
Minor symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually appear 6 to 12 hours after the last drink. In fact, symptoms often begin while there is still a level of blood alcohol that is measurable. These alcohol withdrawal symptoms include: anxiety, headache, insomnia, nausea, shakiness, sweating, and vomiting.
Between 12 and 24 hours after the last drink, some people going through alcohol withdrawal experience hallucinations, either auditory, tactile, or visual, which usually end within 48 hours or so. These are the less serious alcoholic hallucinosis, not to be confused with the hallucinations associated with DTs. How can you tell? In general, those hallucinating within the grip of the DTs are not aware that they are hallucinating; as far as they know, what they’re experiencing is real.
Physically, ibogaine is extremely effective in blocking cravings for alcohol and reducing alcohol consumption, by increasing the levels of a brain protein called GDNF (glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor). Having noribogaine on-board post-ibogaine treatment helps to significantly reduce cravings and alleviate depression, while the spiritual component of ibogaine — the visions you may experience while undergoing ibogaine treatment — provide an introspective phase that can help you understand and process past events and traumas that contribute to self-medicating with alcohol.