When someone decides to stop drinking alcohol, they may try to jump straight into the recovery process. For some individuals, this means attempting an alcohol detox at home. However, detoxing at home is not the best way to approach addiction treatment.
At-home detoxes are less likely to succeed and more likely to involve dangerous complications than those supervised by a medical professional. For these reasons, it’s important to consider alternatives to safely detox from alcohol.
Continue reading to learn more about the detox process, including why it’s necessary, what withdrawal is like, and how to approach it in the safest manner.
When Is an Alcohol Detox Necessary?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 14 million people in the United States live with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Considering the number of people who never seek professional treatment for their symptoms, the real number could be even higher.
Addiction can have many long-term ramifications on someone’s physical, mental, and social well-being. Some of the signs of alcohol use disorder include:
- Wanting to stop drinking but being unable to
- Needing higher amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effect
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after the cessation of drinking
- Struggling to complete tasks at work, school, or home due to alcohol use
- Drinking alcohol in unsafe situations, such as while driving
- Continuing to drink despite knowing it causes problems
- Spending most time drinking, buying, or recovering from alcohol
Anyone who exhibits the above signs of alcohol abuse may feel tempted to try an alcohol detox at home. This is especially true for those who experience withdrawal symptoms whenever they go too long without a drink.
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Withdrawal suggests that someone’s body has become physically reliant on alcohol and can no longer function properly without it. This level of physical dependence on a substance is one of the primary indicators that someone should seek professional treatment to stop using it. Withdrawal symptoms are also one of the reasons why an alcohol detox at home can become dangerous.
What to Expect During Detox
Detoxing from alcohol is a process that generally lasts multiple days. For most individuals, withdrawal symptoms peak within 24–72 hours after the last drink. However, in rare cases, someone may develop more severe symptoms after this initial period.
As far as the most common side effects go, people may develop a variety of mild withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Feeling jumpy or restless
- Difficulty focusing
- Anxiety or depression
- Loss of appetite
- Elevated heart rate
- Dilated pupils
In their least severe forms, some withdrawal symptoms may persist for several weeks after detox. It is also worth noting that individuals with more severe addictions or a history of past detoxes are more likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms.
Therefore, if you have already experienced withdrawal in the past, it is even more important for you to avoid attempting an alcohol detox at home. Due to the fact that you are more likely to face worse symptoms, it is best to seek professional assistance during detox.
Risks of an Alcohol Detox at Home
There are two main reasons why most medical professionals advise against trying an alcohol detox at home: safety and success rate. Detoxing at home greatly decreases both of these factors, which can result in physical harm or a failed detox attempt.
First, why are people less likely to successfully stop drinking alcohol at home than they are in a specialized detox center? The answer involves how easy it is for them to access alcohol. At a detox center, patients are completely unable to access alcohol. On the other hand, those who detox at home could have alcohol anywhere.
This presents a problem because it increases the risk of relapse. Some people return to drinking alcohol just to escape the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms they experience. When this happens, they are back at the same starting point as before and must begin the detox process over the next time they want to attempt it.
What about safety? Many of the withdrawal symptoms discussed above are minor annoyances, but other than making someone uncomfortable, they are unlikely to pose any real threat. However, in rare cases, someone may experience a far more severe set of withdrawal symptoms during detox. This makes it dangerous to attempt an alcohol detox at home.
The most extreme manifestation of alcohol withdrawal symptoms is known as delirium tremens (DTs). If someone develops delirium tremens during detox, they become highly disoriented and confused. They may also experience seizures, difficulty breathing, irregular heart rate, hallucinations, and high blood pressure.
Facing DTs while attempting an alcohol detox at home can be highly dangerous. Most individuals are not equipped with the right tools or knowledge to navigate withdrawal symptoms like seizures on their own. While it is a rare complication, it is not something someone should risk encountering by themself.
Fortunately, there are treatment programs available to limit the risks of detox. Namely, a medical detox program can guide someone through the detoxification process in a safe, secure facility.
Medical Alcohol Detox
There are many reasons why a medical detox program outperforms an attempted alcohol detox at home. As mentioned previously, at-home detoxes can be dangerous and unsuccessful. Conversely, medical detox programs eliminate these risks and make it far easier to succeed.
When someone opts for a medical detox, they undergo the detox process while under the close supervision of medical professionals. This means that any negative side effects of withdrawal are met with swift, corrective action. A trained detox team can soothe mild withdrawal symptoms and work to prevent the more dangerous complications as well.
A medically supervised detox also removes the temptation to relapse entirely. Even though it may still be difficult, patients can fully commit to detox while at a treatment center due to the lack of readily available alcohol.
For these reasons, a medical detox program makes for the smoothest possible start to addiction recovery. Rather than attempt an alcohol detox at home, it is always best to seek out the support of a medical professional.
What Happens After Detox?
Detoxing from alcohol is often only the first step to overcoming addiction. Just like someone shouldn’t attempt an alcohol detox at home, they may not be able to tackle the mental components of addiction on their own, either. Thus, to further addiction treatment, they may consider enrolling in a dual diagnosis treatment program after detox.
Dual diagnosis treatment specializes in helping those with co-occurring disorders. This means that, in addition to alcohol use disorder, patients meet the diagnosis criteria for another mental illness as well. Depression and anxiety disorders are some of the most common co-occurring disorders.
During treatment, patients participate in a variety of evidence-based treatment options to learn vital coping skills and move past addiction. These include:
- Psychiatric evaluations
- Individual psychotherapy
- Group therapy
- 12-step programming
- Medication management and education
- Recreational therapy
- Discharge planning
- Links to community-led resources and support groups
The above treatment modalities help patients learn to manage their symptoms and regain control over their lives. Healthy communication, emotional processing, and self-regulation are all only a few examples of the crucial life skills developed during dual diagnosis treatment.
Safely Detox from Alcohol at The Blackberry Center
The Blackberry Center is a mental health and addiction treatment center located just outside of Orlando, Florida. If you have been considering an alcohol detox at home, we suggest reaching out to our admissions experts to learn more about our medical detox program instead.
You can get in touch with a team member by calling 888-512-9802 or filling out a confidential contact form online. By choosing a medical detox at The Blackberry Center, you set yourself up for the highest level of safety and success. Start your addiction recovery journey on a strong, positive note—and don’t wait any longer to take that first step.