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Do I Need An Alcohol Detox?

By Chris Cordell

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Its terrific that you have come to the conclusion that you’re drinking is problematic and that you want to do something about it.

As we have said before there are about 8.4 million people in the UK that are currently drinking at hazardous and harmful levels, almost double the number since lockdown. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defines ‘hazardous drinking’ as ‘a pattern of consumption that increases someone’s risk of harm’. As a rule of thumb this can be defined as a woman drinking between 14 and 35 units a week, or a man drinking between 21 and 50 units a week.

A unit of alcohol is:

  • Half-pint of regular beer, lager, or cider
  • 1 small glass of low ABV wine (9%)
  • 1 single measure of spirits (25ml)

So, if you are a woman and you drinking between 2 and 4 bottles of wine a week then this falls into the hazardous category. If you are a man and your drinking between 11 and 25 pints a week then this falls into the hazardous category.

‘Harmful drinking’ means drinking in a way which is likely to cause harm – either physical or mental. Again, this is sometime defined as a unit consumption - regularly drinking above the ‘hazardous’ level of 35 units a week for women or 50 for men i.e. more than 4 bottles of wine or 18 pints a week if you are a woman and more than 25 pints or 6 bottles of wine a week if you are a man.

However, stopping drinking suddenly can be dangerous, even fatal

This being the case if you are thinking of stopping please take advantage of a free chat with one of our professionals. Click on the link and leave us a message and we will call you back or talk to us directly on 02081918920.  https://helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us

The advantages of having a free chat and an assessment with a treatment professional is that

  • We will explore your pattern and severity of your alcohol use using national standard approved questionnaires
  • We can then determine the need for urgent treatment as an inpatient or outpatient
  • We can explore and associated risks to you or others
  • We can explore the presence of any other factors that may need further specialist assessment or interventions

As a rule of thumb if you are drinking over 15 units of alcohol per day every day and/or you score is over 15 on the national standard assessment questionnaire you are going to need a detox but maybe suitable for a home/community detox. A bottle of wine is between 9 & 10 units so if you are drinking a bottle and a half or more every day then you may be suitable for a detox at home or in the community. The same is true if you are drinking ½ or more of a 70cl bottler of spirits per day or more than 7 pints or bottles of beer per day.

As indicated there are other factors that need to be taken into account if a home/community detox is suitable as opposed to needing an inpatient one, but this is the sort of thing that you would discuss with a treatment professional. For example you may meet the drinking criteria for suitability for a home/community detox but there maybe other factors that will preclude you i.e. you live alone and have no accesses to a responsible adult to stay with you for at least 7 days.

Also, just because you are not drinking every day does not mean that you don’t need a detox so checking this out with a treatment professional is always a wise move before just stopping. As we said in our previous blog, just stopping can be fatal. https://helpmestop.org.uk/blog/how-to-stop-drinking-alcohol-safely

Home/community alcohol detoxes can be available free through local authority funded drug and alcohol teams, but this is not always available in every area and there may be long waiting lists. If you do not want to wait then there are private services that provide home/community alcohol detoxes, but there is a cost to these of around about £1,000. As part of Help Me Stop’s assessment we can put you in touch with some of our preferred providers of these who have met the needs of many of our clients.

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Inpatient Detox

If you are not suitable for a home/community detox due to associated factors, then the other option is an inpatient alcohol detox. This would also be the first choice if you were drinking over 30 units of alcohol per day and scored over 30 on the severity questionnaire; have a history of epilepsy, or experience of withdrawal-related seizures or delirium tremens during previous assisted withdrawal programmes or need concurrent withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines

An inpatient detox would also be required if you regularly drink between 15 and 30 units of alcohol per day and have significant psychiatric or physical comorbidities (for example, chronic severe depression, psychosis, malnutrition, congestive cardiac failure, unstable angina, chronic liver disease) or a significant learning disability or cognitive impairment.

If you are thinking of stopping please take advantage of a free chat with one of our professionals. If you would like to take us up on the offer, click the link and leave us a message and we will call you back or talk to us directly on 02081918920.  https://helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us

Free inpatient alcohol detoxes can be available through local authority funded drug and alcohol teams, but there are often long waiting lists. If you do not want to wait then there are private services that provide inpatient alcohol detoxes, but there is a cost to these of around about £3,500 but can go up to £6,000 or more depending on the service provider  As part of Help Me Stop’s assessment we can put you in touch with some of our preferred providers of these who have met the needs of many of our clients.

It is important that your alcohol detox lasts for as long as your withdrawal symptoms persist. If you end your detox before the withdrawal symptoms have finished, you are putting yourself at risk. A typical alcohol detox requires around 7-10 days to complete.

Life After Alcohol Detox

A medical detox is merely the first step of treatment for trying to overcome alcohol addiction. And let us not mince words here, if you have got the stage you need a medical detox then you have an addiction problem, not a recreational drink problem.

A MEDICAL DETOX ON ITS OWN WILL NOT STOP YOU FROM RELAPSING!

If you do not follow you detox up with some sort of treatment programme then you will relapse. Over the 20 years that I have been helping people get on top of their drug and alcohol problems some last a week or more without ongoing support, other don’t even last 24 hours.

This being the case your post detox programme should be in place before you start your detox and ready for you to start either on the tail end of your detox or on the next day after you have completed.

Help Me Stop’s 6-week programmes are ideal for this as they are available online in the evenings and face to face during the morning or afternoons.

If you are thinking of stopping your drinking please take advantage of a free chat with one of our professionals to help you work out if you need a detox or not and if so what type. We are also here to help you look at your post detox relapse prevention plans. If you would like to take us up on the offer, click the link and leave us a message and we will call you back or talk to us directly on 02081918920.  https://helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us

Chris Cordell is Help Me Stop's General Manager and is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine and a member of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals.

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