Table of Contents
What is Detoxification?
Alcohol detoxification can be a difficult process, especially if a person is dealing with acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms can be life-threatening, so an at-home alcohol detox can be very dangerous without the assistance of a medical professional.
Alcohol detoxification is the process of eliminating toxins from the system after ceasing the consumption of alcohol or other addictive substances that are harmful to the body. During the process, a person endures withdrawal symptoms and ignores cravings they will have for the substance they were addicted to.1
The drugs schedule or alcohol that the person has been abusing must be removed so that the individual can no longer access them. At-home detox can increase the risk of accessing these harmful drugs or alcohol and relapsing.
Manage Withdrawal Symptoms
Managing withdrawal symptoms is one of the most important factors of the alcohol detox process. Attempting to manage these withdrawal symptoms at home can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
What Does Detox Treat?
Detox is used to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) and substance use disorder (SUD).
- AUD: AUD is a medical condition in which a person cannot control their alcohol consumption. The cases of this disorder can vary from mild, moderate, or severe. Alcohol detox is essential for the path of recovery from AUD.
- SUD: SUD is a medical condition in which a person cannot control their consumption of harmful, addictive substances. The cases of this disorder can vary from mild, moderate, or severe. Detoxification is crucial to recover from SUD.
Dangerous Alcohol Withdrawal Effects
The dangerous Alcohol withdrawal effects make alcohol detox at that home a very unsafe choice. Alcohol withdrawal can include physical and psychological symptoms that can have long-term adverse effects and can even be fatal.
Risks of Delirium Tremens
Delirium tremens is one of the most severe withdrawal symptoms in people recovering from long-term alcoholism. This symptom involves extreme confusion, tremors, anxiety, vomiting, nausea, and hallucinations. If left untreated, delirium tremens can lead to cardiovascular collapse, resulting in permanent damage or death.2
Seizures are another potentially deadly effect of detox and withdrawal. Withdrawal seizures can occur between six and seventy-two hours after the last drink was consumed. These seizures can lead to injury, brain damage, or in worse cases, death, which is why seeking an inpatient detox setting is essential.
There are a variety of issues that can go wrong when attempting to stop alcoholism with outpatient detox. The effects of alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and deadly, so seeking medical attention and an inpatient detox is crucial to the recovery process.
In some cases, medical professionals will provide medication-assisted therapy (MAT) to help alleviate severe symptoms.
How Long Will It Take to Get Through Withdrawal Symptoms?
Withdrawal symptoms from a substance use disorder or alcoholism can last from a few days to up to several months, but the duration will depend on several factors:3
Type of Substance
The type of substance, along with the dosage, can affect how long the symptoms will last. Alcohol withdrawal typically lasts for one month but can be longer in severe cases.
Duration of Addiction
The duration of the addiction can affect a person’s tolerance to the substance, overall affecting how long the detoxification process will last.
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms may play a role in their duration. More severe symptoms may take longer to subside.
Method of Abuse
The method of abuse can affect the duration of withdrawal symptoms. Substances orally consumed may have shorter durations than something injected.
Family history of addiction and substance abuse can lead to a longer-lasting withdrawal period during recovery.
Genetics can play a significant role in how a person’s body responds to withdrawal and how long the detoxification lasts.
Underlying Medical Conditions
If a person has underlying medical conditions, this can prolong the withdrawal period.
Can I Detox Myself?
No, it is not advised that you attempt to detox yourself. The alcohol detox process can be dangerous, and at times, deadly. Medical assistance is vital for alcohol detox. Detoxification can include symptoms that can be deadly if not properly treated.
Moreover, stopping alcohol use completely without tapering off, also known as stopping “cold turkey,” can result in severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be potentially fatal if not in a safe environment or under medical care.
Dangers of Self-Detox at Home
- Relapse: When self-detoxing at home, there is a much higher risk of relapsing when the substance cravings set in during the withdrawal.
- Overdose: During a relapse, there is a chance a person may overdose on the substance, which is another reason it is safe to do a medically assisted detox.
- Mental Health Issue: Mental health issues that arise during the withdrawal process can lead to dangerous suicide ideations if left unaddressed in some severe cases.
- Medical Complications: Medical complications, such as seizures, fainting, fever, hallucinations, or heart issues, can arise during the withdrawal process, making self-detox at home very dangerous and possibly deadly.
Process of Detoxification
One of the first stages of professional alcohol detox is a medical evaluation to determine the severity of the person’s alcoholism and what kind of treatment they need. Having a professional perform this first step of the detoxification process is critical in creating a successful route to recovery.
The stabilization period of alcohol detox involves the body regulating itself after the harmful substance has been cleared from the system.
Healthy eating is an important aspect of recovery, as the body needs essential nutrients to heal from the damage alcoholism has caused. When recovering from alcoholism, an individual should strive to achieve a balanced and nutritious diet.
Attending group therapy is an excellent way for recovering people to connect with other people on a similar journey to seek support and advice.
Sleep is crucial for the body to recover from alcohol detox. Aim to have a balanced and controlled sleep schedule during the recovery period.
Preparing for Treatment
Both inpatient and outpatient treatments can be effective during the detoxification process, but the stage of recovery a person is at will determine whether inpatient or outpatient treatment is more appropriate for their case.
Inpatient treatment is essential for someone still consuming alcohol and about to embark on the alcohol detox process. Because some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous or even deadly, it is vital that a person goes to an inpatient detox to receive medical attention during the difficult process.4
Outpatient treatment can be helpful to a person recovering from alcoholism but who has already completed the stabilization stage of detox. Typically, outpatient treatment involves a series of different therapies that can provide a recovering person with the tools they need to avoid relapse. These programs often include group therapy, skill-building, and recovery aftercare.4