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If you are struggling with alcohol abuse and you’re ready to quit drinking for good, you’ve probably considered detoxing from alcohol at home. Most people who are addicted to alcohol will experience uncomfortable alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly stop drinking. Although there are many benefits of quitting alcohol, the thought of having to go through withdrawal can be a deterring factor.

While inpatient alcohol detox is the safest, most comfortable, and most effective way to detox from alcohol, this type of treatment may not always be an option due to financial reasons. In this instance, a person may need to know how to safely detox from alcohol at home.

In this blog, we’ll thoroughly review the risks of at-home alcohol detox and provide some alternative options. However, if you decide to detox from alcohol at home, we’ll also provide some important tips so you can do it safely.

Alcohol Detox At Home

Detoxing at home often seems like the most comforting and secure way to get sober due to the anticipated discomfort of alcohol withdrawal. However, depending on the situation, alcohol detox can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

If you’ve been drinking alcohol for weeks, months, or years, you may experience serious physical and psychological side effects when you stop. Alcohol withdrawal is different for everyone and the symptoms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms can also last anywhere from a few days to several weeks or months.

About five percent of people who experience alcohol withdrawal will also experience delirium tremens.1 Delirium tremens (or DTs) involves very severe side effects that can sometimes include hallucinations, delusions, high blood pressure, racing heartbeat, and other serious side effects like seizures.

If you are severely addicted to alcohol and you experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop drinking, inpatient alcohol detox is the safest way to get sober.

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Risks of At-Home Alcohol Detox

As stated above, there are some very serious risks if you choose to detox from alcohol at home. Here are some of the most common potential risks of at-home alcohol detox include.

  • Unpredictable physical and psychological side effects: Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from moderate to mild to severe and the severity of the symptoms varies greatly on a case-by-case basis. It’s not always possible to provide proper medical and clinical care in a home environment, so it’s safest to complete alcohol and withdrawal in a medically-supervised environment.
  • Limited access to professional medical and clinical care: In the event that you do experience a medical emergency during alcohol withdrawal, emergency care may not be fast enough to treat the complex issues that arise, such as grand mal seizures, heart attacks, and extreme paranoia, which can lead to dangerous and irrational behavior.
  • Lack of professional support to maintain sobriety: People who detox from alcohol at home face a higher risk of relapse because they don’t have professional support to keep them on track while they detox. They also don’t have immediate access to ongoing professional care and support via counseling, rehab, and community recovery groups unless they seek those services out on their own.
  • Exposure to potential triggers: If you have family members or roommates who regularly drink alcohol, it may be impossible to remove all the alcohol from your home. Additionally, certain areas of your home, like your living room lounge chair or your home office may be triggers for you. Being nearby while you detox may make you want to drink again.

The most serious risk of at-home alcohol detox is the potential for life-threatening physical withdrawal symptoms which can occur if you develop symptoms of DTs. Signs and symptoms of delirium tremens can occur very suddenly without warning, so it’s very difficult to properly treat DTs at home. Not to mention, alcohol withdrawal can lead to complex physical and psychological issues that require prompt medical attention.

Symptoms of DTs often occur within a few days of quitting alcohol and may include:

  • Severe confusion
  • Body tremors
  • Irritability
  • Deep sleep that can last for days
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Excessive sweating
  • Chest and/or stomach pain
  • Seizures2

What is the Success Rate for At-Home Alcohol Detox?

According to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the success rate for self-detox at home is only 30 percent. This is likely due to the lack of professional support and aftercare, which helps prevent relapse. Another study found that people who did not seek professional help and completed self-detox were more likely to relapse.3

At-Home Alcohol Detox: Pros and Cons

PROSCONS
  • You get to rest in the comfort and privacy of your own home while you detox.
  • At-home alcohol detox is cheaper and/or free.
  • At-home alcohol detox is rarely successful and many people relapse within the first 24 hours.
  • It is difficult to properly manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms at home.
  • Your support system is made up of family and friends instead of trained medical and clinical professionals.
  • You do not have immediate access to medical treatment in the event of serious or life-threatening side effects of withdrawal.
  • You may not be able to distance yourself from all triggers (people, places, things that make you want to drink).
  • You won’t receive any aftercare or support services after you detox.

How to Detox from Alcohol at Home

Due to the potential risks, it’s not usually recommended that you detox from alcohol at home. However, there are many routes to recovery and if you choose to do so, here are a few things you can do to stay safe and prepare for any potential issues you may experience.

  • Taper instead of quitting cold turkey. Quitting alcohol cold turkey can be dangerous so it’s best to taper and limit your daily alcohol consumption while you gradually reduce it down to nothing.4
  • Get rid of all alcoholic beverages in your home. Having alcoholic beverages around your home while you are detoxing will greatly increase your risk of relapse. Getting rid of everything won’t completely protect you from relapse, but it will reduce the likelihood that you will give up when withdrawal gets uncomfortable.
  • Don’t detox alone. Detoxing alone is physically and emotionally difficult, so having support from friends and family members will help. Additionally, your support person can help ensure that you remain safe throughout withdrawal and they can also get emergency medical support if it becomes necessary.

Alternatives to At-Home Alcohol Detox

Some popular alternatives to at-home alcohol detox are quitting cold turkey or enrolling in a professional alcohol detox program. As mentioned above, quitting alcohol cold turkey can be dangerous and may result in more severe withdrawal effects.

Enrolling in an inpatient detox program is the safest and most comfortable way to detox from alcohol. Throughout the course of your program, medical and clinical staff will work together to treat your physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal, provide individual and group counseling, and ensure that you are eating a well-balanced, healthy diet that is ideal for complete recovery. After your program, your treatment team will also provide personal recommendations and referrals for ongoing support programs like rehab, IOP, and sober living programs.

Detoxing on your own at home is not only physically challenging, but it can also be extremely isolating. Professional and peer support can provide much-needed support to ensure that your personal experience with alcohol detox and withdrawal is safe, effective, and as comfortable as possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about alcohol detox at Briarwood Detox Center or you’d like to enroll in the program today, please call (888) 857-0557 to speak with an admissions representative.

 

References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments#1
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000766.htm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1976118/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/cold-turkey-alcohol-withdrawal-can-cause-serious-health-issues#1
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