Alcohol Detox Hospitals: Benefits & What to Expect

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

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Last Updated - 6/30/2023

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Updated 06/30/2023

Hospitalization for alcohol detox provides services that address a person’s unique physical, emotional, and psychological needs.

Alcohol detox can be challenging and, at times, dangerous for those struggling with alcohol addiction. Hospital-based detox provides essential medical supervision, tailored detox plans, and supportive therapies to ensure a safer and more effective recovery. 

What Is Hospital-Based Alcohol Detox?

Hospital-based alcohol detox is the process of eliminating alcohol from your body in a hospital setting. This process is conducted under the care of health professionals, who manage the physical and psychological symptoms that arise when a person with alcohol addiction discontinues use. 

The aim of hospital-based detox is to manage acute withdrawal, a condition that can manifest with potentially life-threatening symptoms. Given the potential severity of alcohol withdrawal, medically supervised detox in a hospital is often one of the safest options for those struggling with alcohol dependence or addiction.

The goal of hospital-based detox is not just to eliminate alcohol from the body but also to stabilize your health, providing you with the necessary tools to deal with cravings and preparing you for ongoing treatment after hospitalization. It’s a crucial first step in a comprehensive approach to recovery from alcohol addiction. 

The Alcohol Detox Process in Hospital Settings

Alcohol detox in a hospital provides a secure and medically supervised environment for individuals ready to begin their journey toward sobriety. Understanding the three stages of alcohol detox in a hospital setting is crucial for knowing what to expect.

Stage One: Admission

During the initial stage, medical professionals assess the patient’s overall health, substance use history, and any co-occurring conditions. Healthcare professionals work with you to create a medical detox and treatment plan that minimizes withdrawal symptoms and may include prescription medications as needed. This stage can be more involved if withdrawal symptoms have not yet started but can also be abbreviated and meshed in with stage two if you’re already starting withdrawal.

Stage Two: Acute Withdrawal Treatment

This stage begins 6–12 hours after the last drink of alcohol and can last up to a week. During acute withdrawal, physical and psychological symptoms can occur as the body adjusts to the absence of alcohol. Patients are constantly monitored to ensure their safety and provide medications as needed.

Some common symptoms during this stage include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Intense cravings
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

In some cases, more severe symptoms may include:

  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

It is during this stage that high-level medical care is absolutely necessary to keep you as safe as possible.

Stage Three: Post-Acute Withdrawal Treatment

The third stage involves managing lingering withdrawal symptoms and transitioning to ongoing treatment. Medical professionals continue monitoring patients and may adjust medications as needed. 

Patients often experience emotional and psychological symptoms, including: 

  • Mood swings
  • Cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

How Hospital Staff Support You During Detox

The hospital staff involved in alcohol detox are more than just medical providers – they act as your support system while you navigate the challenges of withdrawal and recovery. Their goal is not just to supervise the detox process but to ensure your comfort, safety, and psychological well-being throughout.

One important way in which hospital staff give you support is by closely monitoring the withdrawal symptoms and intervening promptly when necessary. Detox can present a range of physical symptoms, from mild discomfort to severe and potentially life-threatening complications. The medical team’s vigilance in managing these symptoms reduces their severity and ensures your safety. 

Also important is the emotional support provided by the hospital staff. Detox and withdrawal can trigger strong emotions and psychological distress. Healthcare providers offer calm reassurance, helping you cope with these feelings and get through the emotional difficulties of withdrawal. They work to create a nurturing and non-judgmental environment where you will feel understood and supported.

Hospital staff can also provide valuable education about addiction and recovery. By helping you understand your condition, they’ll empower you to take an active role in your treatment. This can foster a sense of self-efficacy and hope, which are key factors that will help your long-term recovery.

Our medical detox program includes 24/7 monitoring, treatment for withdrawal symptoms, and medication-assisted treatment as needed. Most insurance accepted.

Hospital Detox and Alcohol Withdrawal

Detox from alcohol in a hospital setting is safe and controlled, allowing medical professionals to monitor patients closely. Patients in a hospital have access to medications and supportive care to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. 

Common symptoms and potential complications of alcohol withdrawal range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate

In some cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to a more serious condition known as delirium tremens (DTs), which typically occurs 48–96 hours after the last drink. DTs are characterized by symptoms including:

  • Severe confusion
  • Agitation
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizures 

By detoxing in a professional, medical environment, medical staff will be able to intervene rapidly as symptoms develop, keeping you as safe and comfortable as possible throughout the process. 

What Drugs Are Used After Medical Detox?

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse): This medication causes your body to react violently with alcohol. The unpleasant side effects disulfiram creates help serve as a deterrent and keep you from drinking further.
  • Acamprosate (Campral): This medication comes as an oral tablet you take three times daily. The drug helps you stay sober by reducing the desire to drink alcohol and lessening the impact of alcohol cravings..
  • Naltrexone (ReVia, Vivitrol): This opioid-receptor antagonist works by reducing the pleasurable effects of drinking. When you take naltrexone, your brain doesn’t release as much of the feel-good chemical dopamine when you drink.

Start Your Recovery Journey With Alcohol Detox

The Recovery Village Columbus ensures a safe environment to recover from alcohol addiction. We offer hospital-level medical detox in an environment tailored specifically around helping you overcome your alcohol addiction for good. Medical professionals are present around the clock to help minimize potential complications or discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms. 

Alcohol detox at The Recovery Village Columbus can support long-term sobriety and recovery by providing comprehensive services tailored to your unique needs. Services may include medical management of withdrawal symptoms, treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, individual and group counseling, and family therapy. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to learn more or start your journey to lasting sobriety.

View Sources

American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Clinical Guidelines for Alcohol Withdrawal.” January 2020. Accessed April 27, 2023.

Mirijello, Antonio; D’Angelo, Cristina; Ferrulli, Anna; et al. ”Identification and management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.” Drugs, 2015. Accessed April 27, 2023.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.” October 2015. Accessed April 27, 2023.

Myrick, Hugh., & Anton, Raymond. “Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal.” Alcohol Health & Research World, 1998. Accessed April 27, 2023.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” October 2022. Accessed April 27, 2023.

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