When you’re addicted to alcohol, there comes a point when enough is enough. You’re tired of blacking out, waking up hungover and having no idea what happened the night before. You’re tired of disappointing friends and family over and over again. You want to stop. That realization is the first step toward recovery. But how do you approach alcohol detox?
Alcoholism can affect the person struggling with it as well as their loved ones. Detox may seem like the only way to address the alcoholism. However, it’s important to keep in mind that alcohol detox can be dangerous if it’s done at home. Detox at a professional rehab facility is typically the most recommended method for addressing alcohol addiction and dependence.
Withdrawal from alcohol isn’t easy and not everyone can do it on their own. That difficulty is why alcohol detoxification and alcohol withdrawal treatment is administered by medical professionals at rehab facilities throughout the country.
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Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment at Home
Many people consider detoxing from alcohol at home. They may consider at-home detox because it makes the challenging situation seem easier to address. There’s usually no place more comfortable, safe-feeling and controllable than a person’s home. However, detoxing at home can have risks when people do not understand the alcohol withdrawal timeline and the risks that accompany alcohol withdrawal.
The Risks of At-Home Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal
Many people are under the impression that detoxing from alcohol isn’t as dangerous as detoxing from other drugs. However, this belief couldn’t be further from the truth. There are serious, potentially life-threatening risks involved with detoxing from alcohol—especially when you’re doing it on your own.
When you stop drinking alcohol suddenly, the body reacts with a series of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are painful, difficult to manage, and may last for weeks. Without any medication to help you through it, the process is even harder. Sudden alcohol cessation can cause hallucinations, seizures, and even heart failure that may result in death. Although this is rare, you never really know how your body will react to detox until you’re going through it.
Additionally, if you used other substances while drinking—such as heroin, prescription medications, cocaine, or meth—withdrawal symptoms may be worsened or unpredictable.
For some people, the pain is so bad that they decide to start drinking again. It ends up being a cycle of trying to quit but not being able to because of the withdrawal symptoms. When you enter an inpatient alcohol treatment program, you’re removed from your environment and bad habits.
Many individuals who struggle with alcohol addiction are also battling other medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, or personality disorders. People frequently use alcohol to self-medicate themselves, but when they stop drinking, these disorders can worsen. In fact, some people don’t even realize they’re dealing with mental health disorders until they stop drinking.
By entering an addiction treatment program, you’ll benefit from medical care that addresses alcohol withdrawal and any underlying co-occurring disorders you have.
Pros & Cons of Detoxing at Home
Alcohol detox can be a dangerous process, which is why it’s typically best handled by a medical professional at a detox or rehab center. Alcohol detoxification involves withdrawal, and withdrawal involves physical symptoms. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be severe. Ultimately, the severity of symptoms depends on a number of factors, including age, gender, and longevity of the addiction.
- The pros of home detox include:
- No financial obligations
- Anonymity and confidentiality
- The cons of detoxing at home include:
- Higher risk of unwanted mental health effects
- Higher risk of dangerous physical health effects
- Lack of medications means limited symptom relief
- Increased possibility of a setback occurring
- Possible harm to relationships during the discomfort of withdrawal
Choosing to Self-Detox from Alcohol at Home
Many people attempt to self-detox at some point, and it’s often a string of failed attempts of self-detoxing that lead an individual to enter rehab in the first place. That’s not to say, however, that people haven’t successfully self-detoxed from alcohol on their own.
If you decide that detoxing at home is the right situation for you, it’s important that you do it safely. Here are a couple of factors to keep in mind when detoxing at home:
- Remove alcohol from your home: This may sound obvious, but it’s a critical first step when self-detoxing. When you first start experiencing withdrawal symptoms, you may not be able to control your cravings. Avoid the temptation altogether by getting rid of alcohol that you have on hand.
- Clear your schedule: For some people, it may seem impossible to clear your schedule for days or weeks, but it’s necessary if you want your detox to be successful. Take some time off work and put aside your responsibilities – at least temporarily – so you can focus on your recovery.
- Get support: Just because you’re detoxing from alcohol at home doesn’t mean you should do it alone. Find a friend or family member to help keep you safe during the process and who will get you medical help if your withdrawal symptoms get too severe.
What to Eat During Your Self-Detox
When your body is withdrawing from alcohol, food will probably be the last thing on your mind. Eating is an important part of your recovery because alcohol affects how your body metabolizes and utilizes nutrients.
Focus on Hydration First
Alcohol withdrawal causes a variety of different symptoms including fatigue, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms are most severe between 24 and 72 hours after the last drink and may limit your ability to eat.
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids during this time as it will help rehydrate your body and get rid of toxins. Water, juice, broth, ice pops, and gelatin are good choices for hydration during the early stages of withdrawal.
Start With a Balanced Diet
Once you can start eating again, it’s important to focus on eating a healthy diet. Eat foods from a variety of food groups in the right amounts to help meet your caloric needs. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but don’t neglect the importance of whole grains and lean sources of protein.
Take Your Vitamins and Minerals
When you’re detoxing in an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility, they’ll usually prescribe medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms of alcohol. At home, you won’t have that luxury. But there are some vitamins and minerals you can take that are often beneficial and help remove toxins. Some of these include B vitamins, multivitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, and calcium.
Benefits Of Medically-Supervised Detox Treatment
Because of the serious risks associated with self-detoxing from alcohol, you shouldn’t attempt to detox from alcohol at home. A much safer option is to enter an inpatient or outpatient treatment program overseen by a team of medical professionals who can offer you the care you need.
Some of the benefits of medical detox include:
- Medical stabilization.
- Peer support.
- A safe and structured environment.
- Relapse prevention.
- Therapeutic intervention.
- Family support.
- Long-term treatment (aftercare).
You have several options available to you when it comes to where you’ll detox:
- Inpatient Treatment: Choosing to go through withdrawal at an inpatient treatment facility means you’ll benefit from around the clock care by a team of medical professionals. Inpatient treatment is usually recommended for people who have been drinking for a long time or who consumed excessive amounts of alcohol during their addiction. Another benefit of inpatient treatment is that, should you need it, a doctor can prescribe medications to help you manage your withdrawal symptoms.
- Outpatient Treatment: If your addiction wasn’t severe, outpatient treatment is an option. Outpatient detox consists of visiting a treatment facility on a regular basis during detox. For the majority of outpatient detox, you’ll detox at home. When you visit the treatment facility, you may be prescribed medications that can help with withdrawal symptoms.
Starting On The Road To Recovery
You can overcome your alcohol addiction and achieve sobriety. The key point to remember is that’s never safe to self-detox from alcohol at home. People with the highest risk of complications from alcohol withdrawal are those who drink heavily in excess and those who have attempted to self-detox in the past.
Although you may be deterred by entering a treatment program, it’s the safest way to detox from alcohol. Friends and family can provide emotional support, but the reality is they’re not medically trained to handle the dangerous symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
By entering alcohol addiction treatment, you’ll benefit from the care of a team of medically trained professionals who can help you through the withdrawal process and guide you toward the road to recovery.
If you have questions about alcohol withdrawal treatment or home detox, call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative about how professional treatment can 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.