Q My son is an alcoholic who wants to stop. Why won’t the hospital admit him for a detox?
AHeavy drinkers who suddenly stop can get unpleasant shaking, agitation, sweating, vomiting and palpitations. More seriously, suddenly stopping can also trigger dangerous seizures (fits) and permanent brain damage due to acute vitamin deficiency. A supervised medical ‘detoxification’ includes high doses of benzodiazepine tranquillisers and multivitamin supplements (often given intravenously), reducing over a period of days as the risks decrease. This is usually arranged at home by the community alcohol services, after a period of support to ensure that the person is really committed to trying to stop; they must agree to have someone with them at all times, and will have daily contact with the service. Hospital detox is usually only arranged for people who are seriously medically and/or psychiatrically unwell.
However, many alcohol experts believe that gradually cutting down, with close support from the community services, is safer and more likely to succeed in the long term. This may include counselling, support groups, help with physical/mentalhealth issues, benefits claims, and/or medication. He can find out more from nhs.uk/ conditions/alcohol-misuse/ treatment and about local services at nhs.uk/livewell/ alcohol/pages/alcoholsupport.
Support at home may be more effective