Alcohol addiction can feel like an incredibly shameful experience, and it makes sense that a person who has reached the end of his rope would not want to draw any further attention to himself and his problem.

Or maybe he’s worried that he won’t be able to afford getting treatment and rehab. Or maybe, because alcohol is so widespread and popular, he thinks that breaking an addiction can’t be too difficult. Whatever his reasons, home alcoholism treatment remedies are fraught with danger.

What are home remedies?

mixing prescription medications: the dangers of poly-drug useThe term “home” in “home remedies” (also found in “home detox”) refers to the practice of a drinker trying to quit alcohol outside of a treatment center. This may be in her own home, or it could be at the house of a friend or family member, but what’s important is the do-it-yourself nature of home remedies. These remedies are often attempted with no medications, no professional supervision, and no contingency plan if something goes wrong. The homes are often unsecured, meaning that privacy may be at a minimum (or nonexistent), alcohol may be on hand, and the people who are ostensibly trying to help their friend or family member through the process may not hold fast against pleas and demands to “medicate” the patient.

Part of the trouble arises because of the unpredictability of an addiction. Complications with alcohol withdrawal are not only possible, but probable. While it is true that substance abuse follows a general pattern, there are subtle variances in how it manifests in different people. This may be attributed to distinctions in genetics, lifestyle, length of the addiction, mental health, etc. How one person’s body and mind reacts to the deprivation of alcohol, even for the ostensible purposes of treatment, might be very disparate to how another person reacts.

People with no medical training cannot control for these differences; they may not even know that such differences exist. When something happens that is beyond their understanding (the patient’s withdrawal does not go according to plan, for example), they may not have any idea how to react; at worst, they do something that actively endangers the patient’s life.

It’s enough of a problem for The New York Times to refer to it as “the perils of alcohol withdrawal,” in a story on how British singer Amy Winehouse’s attempt to wean herself off alcohol killed her.

What should treatment be like?

doctors looking at paperProper alcoholism treatment, on the other hand, takes place in a safe, controlled environment, away from the distractions and temptations of normal life. In attendance are not well-meaning but inexperienced family members, but doctors and health care professionals who have worked with a number of other people going through the same process. If the patient begs and pleads and demands alcohol, they know that giving in to their demands is not the answer; also, there is no alcohol to be found in treatment centers. If the patient is struggling with the myriad symptoms of withdrawal, treatment staff can administer the right kinds of anti-anxiety or anticonvulsant drugs, in the right dosages, and then gradually taper those medications off as the patient’s condition improves.

None of that will happen in a home setting, in part because some of the drugs that are used in alcohol detox (such as chlordiazepoxide (sold under the trade name Librium), diazepam (Valium), or lorazepam (Ativan)) are not available without a valid prescription. Not for nothing does the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration warn that attempting to obtain prescription drugs fraudulently is illegal.

In treatment, environment is vital. Everything surrounding the addict, from the room in which she sleeps to the kitchen in which she eats, either helps or hurts her journey to sobriety. A domestic residence cannot control for every minute factor that has the potential to derail a detoxification – and certainly cannot provide the necessary psychotherapy to follow the detox.

For example, a healthy diet may not be taken into consideration in a casual treatment paradigm, but eating the right food is fundamentally important for someone who is recovering from alcohol abuse. Alcohol’s high caloric content tricks the body into thinking it is receiving the calories it needs to function. As a result, hunger is replaced by a craving for drink (a hallmark of addiction that applies to many other aspects of life).

When a patient is detoxing from alcohol, he is learning how to survive without the substance upon which he has been dependent for months or years. His body is weakened, deprived of vital nutrients. As part of withdrawal, he may have been throwing up and is likely dehydrated, due to diarrhea (both symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, according to WebMD). As he recovers from the detoxification process, it is imperative that he eats healthily and that he eats the right kinds of food (in the right amounts) to help both his body and mind, now freed from the desire for more alcohol.

Doctors in a treatment center know about nutrition; they know about the importance of something as basic as a good breakfast, lunch, and dinner being important first steps for a newly sober patient. A home remedy for alcoholism may not take this into account, and the consequences of that could be deadly. As explained by Medline Plus, someone with a history of substance abuse problems has a higher chance of relapsing if he has a bad diet.

Even if the patient is detoxing in the presence of people who have been through the process before, and who have some idea of what to expect from the withdrawal process, there is still the second stage of treatment that needs to take place, in order for the patient to experience as clean a break from alcoholism as possible. This second stage is psychotherapy, and it is highly unlikely that the people involved in a home detox have the necessary licensing and certifications to counsel the now-sober addict through the baby steps of his new life.

One of the goals of detoxification is to prepare the patient for the rigors and examinations of psychotherapy, where he talks through the circumstances and events behind what lead him to abuse alcohol. This is something that he cannot do if he is still fending off the physical craving to indulge in drinking again. Psychotherapy sessions can sometimes be very intense, as the patient may need to confront deep-seated issues of unhappiness and trauma that bred the alcohol addiction, in order to take the steps needed to put those issues in the past.

If home alcoholism treatment is so fraught with flaws and potential pitfalls, how can a patient be ready to face down his demons?

Additionally, a psychotherapist needs to have a deft touch, knowing when to prod and when to let go. Therapy can bring out some very ugly things from a patient, and a psychotherapist has the clinical and professional training to see through years of rage, hurt, and resentment that are being dragged into the light for the first time. It is through this, and not detox alone, that the patient can finally start to tame the beast of addiction. Even on the off chance that the patient survives his home detox somewhat intact, what is the likelihood that there will be such a psychotherapist on hand to walk him through the next stage of treatment? Most home alcoholism treatment remedies don’t account for a next stage of treatment.

Relapse prevention

There is also little thought given to the topic of relapse prevention. One of the goals of psychotherapy is to teach patients how to recognize the triggers that would prompt them to start drinking and then to keep drinking.

Once these triggers are identified and defined, the patient learns coping skills and tools to learn new and better ways to respond to any challenges and temptations that come around in the future.
  • But in addition to home environments not having psychotherapists who know how to do this, home environments lack the control of a treatment center. Even if the domicile where the detox takes place is cleansed of alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and other addictive substances, can the same be said for the immediate surroundings? It’s unlikely. A patient who goes through home alcoholism treatment may be prematurely thrust back into the real world, without any idea of how he is going to protect himself against a bad day, an invitation to drink, or some other kind of test of his abstinence.
  • In 2003, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that there are an annual average of 500,000 cases of alcohol withdrawal that require medical attention. There are far too many things that can go wrong during or after home alcoholism treatment to take the risk. For every person who somehow makes it through, there are dozens more who do not survive or who find themselves relapsing, with no safety net to help them back on their feet.

The thought of 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.

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.