Blog | Alcohol Abuse

Should Alcoholic Patients Go to the ER or to Treatment?

Alcoholism requires treatment. This treatment comes from a variety of experienced, specialized medical and mental health professionals. It comes in a range of treatment settings and intensities.

While many people are convinced they can quit on their own when they are ready, the fact that they haven’t yet done so reveals just how difficult this is. There is always an excuse for one more drink, for waiting one more day before getting started. Each day and each drink brings an alcoholic closer to a physical or mental health crisis that will require emergency care.

Choosing treatment before an emergency means protecting your health. It means going to rehab of your own volition and while you still have some strength and health. Alcoholism leads to treatment eventually. Choosing to go now means not losing another day to alcohol. It means bypassing an emergency situation or preventing another one from occurring.

When Alcoholism Leads to Hospitalization

Addicted man thinking of treatmentAlcohol consumption can be dangerous. Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone drinks too much, too fast. It is comparable to other drug overdoses, and it is just as serious. The Mayo Clinic[1] explains, “Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and potentially lead to a coma and death.”

Alcohol poisoning requires immediate medical attention. This involves calling an ambulance or rushing someone to the ER. Alcohol poisoning cannot be treated with home remedies like drinking coffee or, worse, taking more powerful stimulant drugs. Stimulants do not reverse the effects of depressant drugs like alcohol. They complicate symptoms, create new health risks, and make treatment more difficult.

Drug combinations are potentially more deadly than single drug use. If an alcoholic patient has been using any other substance in combination with alcohol, he or she should go to the ER even if overdose symptoms haven’t yet appeared. If an alcoholic patient has only been drinking, he or she should still go to the ER if alcohol poisoning is or may be developing.

As College Drinking[2] shares, “A person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.”

Once symptoms start to appear, they may continue to appear and worsen. A trip to the ER can prevent this from happening. It can stave off the worst overdose symptoms and save a life.

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Choosing a Level of Care

Man talking to counselorAlcohol addiction treatment exists on a spectrum. This spectrum includes such broad categories as hospitalization, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, individual therapy, and group support. The level of care needed depends on overall patient health. You don’t have to know which form of treatment in the best for you or a loved one. You aren’t a doctor or addiction recovery specialist. Recognizing the need for help is enough.

Once you reach out to a treatment provider or program, you will get all the information, help, and support you need to make the right decision about treatment. You will learn about the different levels of care. The recovery process will begin with a professional assessment. This assessment helps patients and families identify co-occurring mental and physical health issues. It will help doctors determine how much alcohol a person uses and if other drugs are involved as well. This leads to recommendations for detox, the first step in recovery.

Detox: When and Where?

If you are still physically dependent on alcohol, a carefully planned and professionally monitored detox can keep you out of the ER. Medically supervised detox services are always the safest and most comfortable choice for beginning recovery. Attempting to detox alone or at home may result in the need for emergency hospitalization. Alcoholic patients will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking alcohol. These range in severity.

The New England Journal of Medicine[3] shares, “About 50% of persons with alcohol-use disorders have symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when they reduce or discontinue their alcohol consumption; in 3 to 5% of these persons, grand mal convulsions, severe confusion (a delirium), or both develop.”

In general the less alcohol you regularly consume and the less time you have been consuming it, the milder your symptoms will be. However there are no rules when it comes to addiction or recovery. Your individual biology, physical health, and mental health will play a role in the symptoms you experience. They will influence whether you need hospitalization or less intense medical supervision during the withdrawal process. Learning about your recovery needs will keep you from needing to go to the ER during detox and withdrawal.

Choose Treatment to Avoid the ER

Any addiction is an emergency situation. Get professional support now to avoid health crises in the future. Call Michael’s House at 760-548-4032 to learn more about your unique recovery needs. We will help you determine the right level of care. We will help you map out the healthiest, safest, and most effective path to recovery.


Sources

[1] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-poisoning/home/ovc-20211589. “Alcohol Poisoning.” Mayo Clinic. 21 Jul 2016. Web. 5 Apr 2017.

[2] https://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/ParentsandStudents/Students/FactSheets/factsAboutAlcoholPoisoning.aspx. “Facts About Alcohol Overdose (or Alcohol Poisoning).” College Drinking: Changing the Culture. Web. 5 Apr 2017.

[3] http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1407298#t=article. “Recognition and Management of Withdrawal Delirium (Delirium Tremens).” New England Journal of Medicine. 27 Nov 2014. Web. 6 Apr 2017.