Alcohol is often used to relax, socialize, celebrate, mitigate, de-stress, and more, but it is actually one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. In fact, an estimated 88,000 Americans die annually from alcohol-related causes, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Despite its dangers, there is a certain level of societal acceptance associated with heavy drinking and alcohol abuse.

For many people, alcohol may never become anything more than a way to relax or celebrate. But when it begins interfering in one’s life, it may have progressed into an alcohol addiction.

The team of addictions experts and specialists at the Coleman Institute are dedicated to educating those who think they might be suffering from alcohol addiction and their loved ones. Here are some of the most common questions about alcohol addiction, answered by our addiction experts.

Is Drinking Red Wine Every Night Risky or Safe?

Answered by the Coleman Institute founder, Dr. Peter Coleman. Watch it on YouTube

Drinking wine every night, whether it's red or white, is somewhat of a risk. If you have a genetic vulnerability for addiction, then drinking wine every night can lead you down a path of drinking more and more and getting into negative consequences and not even seeing it, being in denial, and ending up with alcoholism. For people who don't have the genetic vulnerability, then it's probably relatively safe. In fact, a few years ago it came out that red wine might cut down on heart attacks and strokes.

Drinking wine every day can have some negative effects. Alcohol is a poison–a toxic chemical. We use alcohol to wipe down surfaces in hospitals where we don't want any bacteria or viruses to live. And so when you consume alcohol – even in small amounts – it's killing some brain cells.

Most people who don't have the genetic vulnerability for addiction don't get into major trouble with alcohol consumption. However, even without genetic vulnerability, sometimes alcohol affects marriages. In little ways, it can affect relationships and communication ability. It can lead to falls, especially as people get older. You should really think carefully about drinking wine or alcohol everyday, assess why you are doing it, and whether the risks and benefits line up in your favor.

Is It Safe to Detox Cold Turkey off of Alcohol?

Answered by the founder of the Coleman Institute, Dr. Peter Coleman. Watch it on YouTube

No, it is not safe to detox cold turkey off alcohol on your own. Over time, as alcohol use increases, the brain and the body tolerate it less and less, so withdrawal becomes much worse and much more dangerous. People can die from untreated alcohol withdrawal. They can have seizures, shutting down the whole body and leading to delirium tremens, where people are trembling, delirious, and out of touch with reality. People suffering from these alcohol withdrawal induced delirium tremens can even see and hear things that are not there. It is extremely dangerous.

The kidneys and the liver can start shutting down and–untreated–these withdrawal symptoms can also be very, very dangerous. Bottom line; if there's any kind of trembling, if people are having a drink in the mornings or anything like that, then it's time to start seeking professional medical help.

Can You Detox Off Alcohol at Home?

Answered by a Coleman Institute Nurse Practitioner at our Richmond, VA office., Caitlin McManus, AGPCNP-BC. Watch it on YouTube.

A question that we get quite often is whether it's safe to detox at home by yourself when you're detoxing from alcohol. And the simple answer to this is no, it is not safe to detox at home when you are detoxing from alcohol.

The reason for this is that when the brain is used to having alcohol in the system and being suppressed by alcohol, when there's abrupt deprivation of alcohol from the brain, you start to have withdrawal symptoms. And these can start even within six hours of the last drink, in some cases. Those initial symptoms tend to include things such as nausea, headache, tremors or shakes, loss of appetite. But symptoms can progress very rapidly and severely over the next 72 hours.

The severity of symptoms depends on a few things. It depends on your age. It depends on how long you've been drinking for. It depends on how much you've been drinking. So with every person, alcohol withdrawal can look very different. But the fact is that symptoms can get to be very severe, and we look at a 72-hour window for those severe symptoms.

By that third day, symptoms can get so severe that they can include a high heart rate, high blood pressure, confusion, seizures, and even hallucinations. And even death. That is why we do not recommend ever detoxing by yourself at home–because the risk of those symptoms is just too great.

Alcohol withdrawal should and can be managed with medications. So please, if you're thinking about reducing your alcohol intake or trying to stop drinking, ask for help from experienced addiction specialists like those that work at the Coleman Institute.


What Happens During an Outpatient Alcohol Detox?

Answered by a Coleman Institute Nurse Practitioner at our Richmond, VA office. Brittany Ilagan, AGNP-C. Watch it on YouTube.

If a patient is interested in an outpatient alcohol detox with us, what they'll usually do is fill out a screening form that's online. The screening form has information like past medical history, medications you're currently taking, and even some psychiatric history. A practitioner will then go over the information with you to determine whether you are a good candidate for an alcohol detox with us. Then the night before you start, we ask that you stop drinking at midnight so that when you come in the morning we can start the medications to help prevent alcohol withdrawal seizures.

On your first day, we'll have you come in early in the morning–usually around 8:30–and we'll have you start filling out consent forms and then bring you back as soon as possible so we can start those medications because we don't want you to have any type of withdrawal symptoms. Usually alcohol withdrawal seizures are more prevalent within the first 12 to 24 hours after stopping drinking, because there's overactivity in your brain from stopping the alcohol use.

After we bring you back, we'll start an IV, give you some fluids, and then a provider will come in, talk to you about our program, what medications we'll be using, and go ahead and start the medication that is like a blanket over your brain to calm down those excitable neurons so that you won't have a seizure. We'll continue giving you that medication throughout the day, usually about every 45 minutes to an hour. You are monitored very closely throughout the day.

We also provide medication that helps with anxiety and lowers your blood pressure because your blood pressure does tend to increase during alcohol withdrawal. We are also checking your vitals very frequently and can give medications as needed.

After receiving medications, we will have our case manager come and talk with you to develop an aftercare plan. Patients typically leave around 4 pm in the afternoon, accompanied by your support person who helps to continue giving you the medications.

We provide your support person with everything they may need and lay it out very clearly. We have charts to tell you exactly what medications to give and when to give them. Then we'll see you in the morning for that second day in the clinic. We can review what happened overnight as well as what we should do that day and finish the taper of medication.

On the third and final day, you continue the taper of medication as well as any other needed medications and usually begin naltrexone therapy to reduce cravings and help prevent relapse. We will talk about the medications you need to continue and aftercare with case management, including continued naltrexone therapy.

How Do You Sleep After Quitting Alcohol?

Answered by a Coleman Institute Nurse Practitioner at our Richmond, VA office. Watch it on YouTube.

One of the most common questions that the medical team and the case management counseling teams here at the Coleman Institute get asked after folks go through detox is about insomnia. It's extremely common for people who have completed opioids or alcohol withdrawal process to experience insomnia. That is common for all types of detox treatments, not just ours.

Since I am a counselor, I always talk to people about the behavioral aspects of managing insomnia. We talk about sleep hygiene as the group of skills that can help people improve the quality of their sleep. Sleep hygiene is very basic common sense skills, but oftentimes when I talk to folks about it, there's usually one or two things in there that they haven't necessarily heard of before or that they haven't thought of as being important to consider when they are trying to get good quality sleep.

Avoiding caffeine and sugary drinks as well is also very important. What a lot of people don't realize is that it's good to avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee and soda up to six hours before your bedtime. A lot of people think about just after dinner or just in the evening as the time when they should stop drinking soda or stop drinking coffee, but it actually does take a while for your body to process out the stimulant that is caffeine. Trying to limit your consumption of these beverages six hours before your bedtime is also very helpful.

Having a consistent bedtime and a consistent waking up time is also really important. It helps get your body into a predictable rhythm. The longer that you stick to that schedule, your brain will actually begin to automatically start producing sleep chemicals 15- 20 minutes before it knows that you're going to bed. Having a consistent bedtime and a consistent wake up time is super important. Oftentimes, that's one of the areas where folks seem to struggle. They may be going to bed really late on the weekends and waking up whenever they feel like it. While it may feel good to have a “sleeping in” day or there may be fun things going on the weekends, spending time with friends or family, what have you, it confuses your brain. As much as you can, sticking to a regular sleeping time and regular wake up time is very helpful.

We also like to recommend different apps that help people meditate and wind down at the end of the day, YouTube videos as well. Certainly, I know that sounds like it may go against my earlier advice to avoid screens, but in general, as long as you're not staring at the screen for a long period of time, scrolling on social media or watching a television show, it's okay to look at the screen long enough just to pull up a relaxing video. Some folks like white noise videos so that they're not sleeping in silence, ocean waves are also very popular. The Calm app has certainly made that pretty accessible. A lot of folks know about the Calm app and it's one that a lot of our patients like and use when they're trying to get to sleep.

There are also different types of over-the-counter home remedies that people swear by. Warm milk is a popular one, there's also chamomile tea that people enjoy, peppermint tea. Both chamomile and peppermint tea are naturally decaf so you're not getting that stimulant effect, but it's also cozy, having a warm cup of tea maybe with some honey in it. The same thing with a warm cup of milk.

If nothing seems to work and people are just really, really struggling with insomnia, we always encourage them to touch base with our medical team here at the Coleman Institute. There are different options that our team can talk with our patients about. We really want folks to be getting good, restful sleep. Sleep is when your brain heals, so it is incredibly important. It's important all the time, but certainly very important during recovery.

We always want people to have the best experience possible after their detox, and we know sometimes that can come with a little discomfort, but we are always here for our patients. We want to support them even after they finish up their detox. This is one of the most common questions that we get asked, so we're very familiar with the complaint and we're very comfortable helping people find a way to manage it.

Detox off Alcohol at a Coleman Institute Near You

Detoxing from alcohol on your own can be dangerous so it is important to consult with a medical professional if you are ready to address alcohol addiction or dependence. Schedule a callback with a Care Advocate to learn about alcohol detox with the Coleman Institute today. Many people prefer our outpatient alcohol detox because they can spend nights in the comfort of their own bed, instead of in a hospital or inpatient facility.