The standard alcohol detox protocol is to take someone who is trying to get off of alcohol and have them stop drinking immediately and then monitor them in a medical setting while giving them medication. The reason you need to give them medication is because alcohol withdrawal is dangerous and can lead to seizures or even death. Quitting drinking cold turkey can produce very severe withdrawal symptoms in some people. It all depends on how much they drank and for how long they have been drinking, but anyone who is physically dependent on alcohol is going to have a much tougher detox than someone who is not.
If you need to drink every day or you end up getting the shakes, then this is a red flag that you are physically addicted.
If you can’t go to sleep at night unless you get drunk, that is another indicator right there.
Essentially you have trained your body and your nervous system to get used to the alcohol, and if you take it away suddenly, the body over reacts in the other direction and the nervous system becomes too agitated. This leads to seizures eventually if it is left untreated, which is why you need a detox protocol of some sort.
Now if you do go into rehab and you are physically addicted to alcohol, then they will give you medicine to help taper you off the alcohol. They will also taper you off the medicine that they give you, probably over a period of about a week or so. Sometimes it takes a bit longer than this; it all just depends on your symptoms and how quickly you can become stable.
What medicine do they use? Well it depends on where you go and it might depend a bit on personal history and your unique situation as well. There was a tendency to use Librium in the past, and recent trends have more and more treatment centers using Gapapentin instead. There are pros and cons to using each medication, but those fall outside the scope of this discussion here. Just know that there are different medicines that might be used, and that they are given to try and prevent seizures while the alcoholic is detoxing. Even if you have never had a seizure before, you are much more likely to have one if you are quitting drinking and you tend to get the shakes or tremors. Seizures are more common in this situation than you might think so it is important to seek medical treatment.
Most people who seek treatment will also end up:
1) Attending residential treatment immediately following their detox.
2) Seeing a counselor or therapist who will work with them and try to help them to form a plan for their recovery, and also set up some form of aftercare.
3) Being introduced to the 12 step program of AA, where they may or may not find a good source of support for their continued sobriety. It works for some but not for others.
The important thing is to get there to rehab and keep an open mind; see what works for you.