The painful symptoms of withdrawal are one of the biggest reasons it’s hard for people to quit drinking or using their drug of choice. Despite all the negative consequences of addictive behavior, the fear of going through such physical and emotional discomfort is enough to make some people think twice about putting a halt to their substance use. However, detoxing is the first step in breaking free of addiction. So, it’s a vital step in the recovery process; and one that is unavoidable for anyone seeking recovery from addiction. Many try to quit using addictive substances on their own, hoping that once they are free of the cravings, sobriety will be smooth sailing afterward. But is it safe to detox at home, or is it always necessary to seek medical care during the detox process? In this article, we discuss the dangers associated with detoxing at home and the importance of weighing different options before making your decision.
Why Do People Detox at Home?
Some people choose to detox at home because of the stigma associated with drug use or excessive drinking. They are afraid that if they enroll in a medically supervised detox program, people will find out and develop negative judgments about them. Others are unable to check into a residential detox program and miss days or even weeks of work, school, or home life responsibilities. And, some may even believe that their drug or alcohol habit isn’t “bad enough” to warrant a clinical detox and that they can handle detoxing on their own at home. Whatever the reason may be, choosing to detox at home isn’t as easy as it may seem at first, and it can come with some serious consequences.
Why Medical Detox for Alcohol and Benzos is Necessary
Besides the physical discomfort and emotional stress, withdrawal can have some potentially dangerous and even fatal side effects. Of course, an individual’s experience with withdrawal symptoms may differ from the next. This is due to the fact that different substances provide different withdrawal symptoms. And, a person’s using history may also have an effect on how severe or long the withdrawal process will last. For example, alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal can both cause potentially deadly seizures, and choosing to detox at home from either of these substances can prove to be fatal. Alcohol withdrawal is particularly nasty and can include nausea, tremors, hallucinations, anxiety, and convulsions. Benzodiazepine withdrawal causes similar symptoms- most dangerously, life-threatening convulsions. For individuals dealing with addiction to these types of substances, choosing to detox at home without the supervision of medical professionals can be deadly. Not to mention, extremely and excruciatingly painful.
Detoxing from Home from Other Substances
Other drugs may not offer the same fatal withdrawal symptoms as benzos or alcohol. However, choosing to detox at home without the aid of medical care can result in a number of issues that can put your sobriety efforts at risk. Namely, symptoms so uncomfortable that the urge to use to reverse withdrawal is inescapable. Many people who attempt to detox at home from drugs such as heroin end up using simply because the pain caused by opiate detox is so severe. Without medical intervention, opiate withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cold sweats, severe cravings, and mood swings. So, even if your drug of choice doesn’t provide deadly withdrawal symptoms during detox, regardless, it’s going to be uncomfortable without medical intervention. And, if you want the best chance of recovery success, detoxing at home isn’t the best decision for you.
These are just some of the symptoms of withdrawal from certain classes of drugs- in reality, every addictive drug comes with some type of withdrawal that is unpleasant. And in some cases, experiencing these detox symptoms can be deadly. Depending on the type and amount of substances used, choosing to detox at home, without the help of medical professionals, can include experiences ranging from pain and sickness that evokes relapse to fatality.
Benefits of Having a Medical Team There for Your Detox
Despite the reasons someone may wish to detox at home, it is usually neither safe nor productive. In order to successfully and safely detox from any substance, it’s necessary to be monitored by nurses and doctors. This way, if anything were to happen like seizures or convulsions, medical professionals can make sure that they don’t lead to anything more serious. Furthermore, individuals monitored by medical staffing during detox can rest better knowing that they’re safe in the care of professionals who know what they’re doing. This helps to create a more relaxed state for the patient. This may be the reason why more people complete the detox process and move on to treatment when medical professionals are involved with detox.
Additional to providing safety, medical professionals can prescribe medications that make the detox process less uncomfortable and safer. For example, anticonvulsants for patients who are addicted to alcohol, or benzo-replacement medications for people dependent on benzodiazepines. This way, individuals detoxing from substances with dangerous withdrawal symptoms can get the medical care they need to get through the process safely. Plus, not only can detox professionals prescribe medications that make withdrawal safer, but they can prescribe medications that make withdrawal symptoms less severe. So, for example, patients dealing with agitation withdrawal symptoms from heroin may find some craving relief and relief from other symptoms. Along with getting some much-needed relief, these individuals can also benefit from a better chance at finishing detox. And, moving on to the next phase of treatment.
Another Option for at Home Detox
So, what about all the reasons someone may wish to detox from home? For example, not being able to miss work, having to take care of children, or other daily routines.
For these cases, there is a way to detox at home safely and effectively, through outpatient detox services. Rather than doing it on their own, with little more than a couch and some ibuprofen, patients can enroll in medically supervised, clinical detox programs that work on an outpatient basis. What this means is that a client gets assessed by a doctor, gets set up with a detox treatment plan, is prescribed prescriptions for any detox meds they made need, and attends regular check-ups and sessions on a daily basis to monitor their health and progress.
At the end of clinical sessions, patients can return to their homes and normal lives, rather than having to stay in a residential facility. Patients still get drug-tested and monitored to make sure that they are successfully abstaining from drugs, but they don’t have to be stuck in an institution or miss out on life at home during the process.
Then, after this medical approach to detox is complete from your own home, you can move on to various treatment services. It’s important to consider treatment after detox so you can learn and utilize skills needed to protect sobriety. And, manage the underlying reasons you may have developed a dependence on addictive substances in the first place.
Think That Medical Assisted Detox may be Right for You?
For patients who want to detox at home without risking their health, life, or newly earned sobriety, an outpatient detox is an option. Diablo Valley Drug and Alcohol Services offers this option to our clients. For information on our outpatient detox program or to enroll, call us at 925-289-1430 today.
**Originally posted April 11, 2017. Updated on June 27, 2019.