Home remedies are methods that people may try at home to stop drinking alcohol. Some turn to home remedies because they do not want to enter medical treatment. People may be resistant to treatment because they are embarrassed to speak about the problem with their doctor. They may distrust medicine in general or they may have a negative view of what treatment means.
Alcoholism is a complex disease and medicine is just beginning to understand it. Addiction does not have a simple cure, and home remedies, while well-intentioned, do not have good evidence to support their usage.
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To understand the complexities of alcoholism, one should understand the different terms used in addiction treatment. Alcohol abuse is when a person drinks more alcohol than is healthy. Alcohol abuse can lead to short-term consequences like alcohol poisoning, or long-term consequences like high blood pressure and stroke. Alcohol dependence is when the cells of the body have adjusted to the presence of alcohol, and a person experiences symptoms of withdrawal when they stop drinking. Alcohol addiction, also called Alcohol Use Disorder, is a pattern of behavior where a person continues to drink alcohol even when they no longer receive pleasure from it, and even if it damages their health, relationships, work or finances.
Certain home remedies may lower cravings and treat short-term symptoms of a “hangover,” but this does not address the underlying addiction. Additionally, when a home remedy fails, the person may be tempted to return to drinking.
Are Home Remedies for Alcohol Detox Safe?
People often attempt home remedies with no professional supervision and sometimes to avoid healthcare professionals. However, non-medical environments may not be safe for the detox process. Alcohol may be on hand and friends and family trying to help may provide harmful medical advice.
Alcohol addiction is unpredictable, and it takes years of medical experience and training to understand what is helpful and what may lead to further harm. Some “home research” may give an idea of what to expect during alcohol detox, but there are subtle variations in how addiction manifests in different people.
Differences in genetics, lifestyle, length of addiction, mental health and other factors can make the detox experience unique to each individual. How one person’s body and mind react to the deprivation of alcohol might play out differently than how another person reacts. Those looking to detox at home should know alcohol detox can involve serious, sometimes fatal complications like Delerium Tremens.
People with no medical training cannot control for these differences and may not even know that such differences exist. When something happens that is beyond their understanding (for example, the patient’s withdrawal does not go according to plan), they may not have any idea how to react; at worst, they do something that actively endangers the patient’s life.
What Should Treatment be Like?
For the safest and most successful outcomes, addiction treatment should take place in a safe, controlled environment away from the distractions and temptations of life. During medical detox, a person has a team of experienced medical professionals to identify and manage issues that arise during withdrawal and treatment.
When detoxing from alcohol at home, alcohol may be on hand or quickly obtainable, making the process more challenging and likely to fail. The home may also have several addiction triggers that sabotage the process.
Addiction professionals can prescribe medications to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can be uncomfortable and sometimes life-threatening. Some examples of withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Tremor of the hands or other body parts
- Trouble sleeping
Prescription medications have the advantage of evidence to support their usage. Home remedies often are promoted by word-of-mouth or weak evidence.
In treatment, the right environment is vital. People may not realize that something as simple as sitting in the same chair they used to drink in may sabotage their detox. The brain is designed to create associations and the things a person used to do while drinking will remind them of the positive feelings they had at the time.
Detox in a controlled environment can improve the chances of treatment success because there are no learned habits (or access to alcohol) in a treatment setting.
Treatment and Diet
One of the advantages of medical detox is a healthy and regular diet. Distracting withdrawal symptoms may make it challenging to focus on proper nutrition during a home detox. People with alcohol use disorder are more likely to have nutrition deficits, especially B vitamins like thiamin. Eating right will drastically improve the chances of successful alcohol detox.
Common complications of withdrawal are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which increase the likelihood that someone may dehydrate. Dehydration during withdrawal will worsen other symptoms like tremors and seizures. Proper nutrition and hydration are critical during this stage.
Clinicians in substance abuse treatment centers are trained to consider proper nutrition during the recovery process. During home detox, a person may not have the energy or capacity to focus on every level of their care. Withdrawal symptoms make it challenging to prepare healthy and nutritious meals.
A critical component of the recovery process is psychotherapy and counseling. An example of psychotherapy used for this process is called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT addresses a person’s emotional reactions to different events that happen to them and helps them evaluate whether those reactions are reasonable or not. CBT can help people understand their own reactions to the stressors of life and choose more healthy reactions.
CBT cannot be performed on oneself, and therefore cannot be included in a home remedy program. Even if a person achieves initial alcohol detox, the underlying addictive behavior will remain unless it is addressed and treated by a trained professional.
Medical rehabilitation programs are structured to include medical detox, addiction treatment and finally, aftercare and relapse prevention. Home remedies often attempt to address the detox stage of alcoholism treatment, but fail to address treatment for addiction in a long-term fashion.
Appropriate relapse support must be in place to achieve a lasting and sustained recovery from alcohol use disorder. Rehab programs incorporate these types of teachings for patients, empowering them to anticipate and prevent future relapses. Relapse planning often includes anticipating and managing stressful scenarios before they trigger a relapse. It may also involve recruiting a sponsor from Alcoholics Anonymous or entering a sober living program.
Taking your recovery into your own hands may be tempting, but it’s not worth putting yourself through an incredibly dangerous process for an uncertain reward. Instead, call The Recovery Village. They have experienced health care and mental health professionals standing by to answer your questions about proper alcohol treatment and why home remedies for alcoholism don’t work. All it takes is one phone call, and your health and recovery will be in the hands of people who know how to help you.
Medline Plus. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, April 9, 2020. Accessed May 14, 2020.
Clapp, Peter; Bhave, Sanjiv; Hoffman, Paula. “How Adaptation of the Brain to Alcohol Leads to Dependence A Pharmacological Perspective.” National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed May 14, 2020.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.