Why an Alcohol Detox at Home Is Dangerous
Detox can be a long and difficult road, and if you or someone you love is getting ready to go down this path, you may be wondering what is the best way to detox from alcohol. While many individuals choose to go through detox at home, this is a risky, and even dangerous option, especially in the case of alcohol dependence and withdrawal. The symptoms associated with this withdrawal syndrome can be severe and, in some cases, life threatening, which is why you should always seek alcohol withdrawal help in a safe, professional detox center.
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Alcoholism Statistics in the U.S.
In 2015, it was estimated that over 15 million people over the age of 18 were suffering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in America. This accounted for a staggering 6.2 percent of the total age group. Sadly, only 6.7 percent of those who suffered from an AUD in the past year received treatment. Alcohol use disorders have become a serious issue in our country, and in many ways, it is often overlooked.
An estimated 88,000 US residents die from alcohol each year, which makes the misuse of this substance the third highest preventable cause of death in the US. In addition, 31 percent of all driving fatalities in 2014 were attributed to alcohol-impaired drivers.
Many individuals do recognize that they have an issue with alcohol abuse and vow to stop drinking. This can sometimes be the best choice, especially for someone who is severely addicted to alcohol. If you have made this choice for your recovery, it is highly important to seek safe, professional care in a detox center rather than attempting to go through alcohol detox at home.
Can I Detox from Alcohol at Home?
Detoxing from alcohol dependence at home is, unfortunately, very unsafe and is not recommended for those who are addicted to alcohol. The side effects associated with alcohol withdrawal can actually be extremely dangerous and, in some cases, life threatening. In addition, it is difficult for anyone to be able to predict how severe one’s alcohol withdrawal symptoms will be, and more severe symptoms could come about very quickly with little to no warning. These are some of the reasons why alcoholics should not detox at home.
According to a study published by the NIAAA, some of the more common symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can include:
- Sleep disturbance or insomnia
- Mood swings
Those who have mild dependencies on alcohol may only experience these symptoms and nothing more. There is also a severe form of alcohol withdrawal known as delirium tremens (DTs). The DTs are difficult to predict and can occur as late as 7 to 10 days after the individual’s last drink. The National Library of Medicine lists the symptoms associated with delirium tremens, some of which are similar to milder alcohol withdrawal, and some of which can even be deadly.
- Mood swings
- Sensitivity to stimuli (including light, touch, and sound)
- Deep sleep from which the individual may not wake for several days
- Psychological changes (including changes in the individual’s mental functionality)
These symptoms often occur as a result of the effects alcohol has on the brain when used in excess. Users experience alcohol withdrawal when the substance they have become reliant on begins to slow down the functions of the brain. The brain then counters these changes by producing a large amount of stimulating chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine. Then, if the individual suddenly stops drinking, symptoms occur because the brain is producing a large amount of these chemicals with nothing to balance them out, causing it to become over stimulated.
Delirium tremens most commonly occurs in people who have used alcohol for more than 10 years.
What Are the Possible Consequences of Going Cold Turkey?
Most people who decide they need to stop drinking will do so completely, a practice known as going cold turkey. Alcoholics Anonymous advises its members to stop drinking altogether when they join, but it does not condone going through alcohol withdrawal without the proper help. When an individual decides to go cold turkey, there are certain consequences of this action that can only be safely treated at a detox center.
It is always possible for an individual going through alcohol withdrawal to experience the DTs. Some people are more likely to experience this syndrome than others, including
- Those who have been drinking for more than 10 years
- Those who have undergone alcohol withdrawal before
- Those who have a head injury
Still, there is no way to be certain of if or when these symptoms will occur, which is a serious danger associated with going through alcohol detox at home. If you suddenly begin to realize you or someone you love is exhibiting symptoms of the DTs, treatment may not come quickly enough if you are at home. In addition, not having a doctor close by could ensure you do not recognize the dangerous symptoms until it is too late.
The seizures caused by the DTs can be extremely risky if not treated correctly. Some individuals fall and hurt themselves as a result. In addition, an alcoholic going through withdrawal could also begin running a fever or participate in unsafe actions because of the severity of their mental symptoms.
These are all possible consequences of going cold turkey during alcohol withdrawal. If you are in a detox facility, you will be much safer if these results do occur. Also, these facilities will use medications as well as other treatments to ensure you do not have to weather these symptoms without help.
What Is the Best Way to Detox from Alcohol?
The best way to detox from alcohol is always going to be in a professional, medical facility. This is because there are many benefits associated with alcohol detox completed at a medical center that one cannot count on during an at-home detox. For one, all patients are given a professional examination by trained medical staff, which allows for a much clearer idea of the needs of each patient. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, blood tests and other examinations are usually involved so as much information about the patient’s condition can be gathered as possible.
Other benefits of professional alcohol detox include:
- The safety of treatment versus the potential dangers of going through withdrawal at home
- The ability to transition easily from detox treatment into addiction treatment, whether at the same facility or as part of another program
- The reassurance of having trained medical professionals close by in case something does go wrong
- The abundance of resources offered by detox centers, including connections with other treatment and community programs
- The ability to choose between different types of detox programs in order to find the one that best suits your recovery
In many instances, alcohol withdrawal takes place in general hospital settings. There are a number of detox centers that provide different types of care to patients in alcohol withdrawal recovery so they can find the best option for their needs.
An alcohol detox center could save your life. Get the help you need today!
Inpatient Alcohol Detox
Inpatient detox centers provide 24-hour care in a controlled environment. They also usually provide medications to patients who need them. These facilities are most effective at treating those patients with severe—or the possibility of experiencing severe—withdrawal symptoms, dual-diagnosis, etc.
Outpatient Alcohol Detox
These facilities provide patients the care they need without a 24-hour treatment regimen. Patients are free to go after receiving treatment and are expected to visit often, usually once a day at first. This is a good choice for those with mild alcohol withdrawal and/or a strong, supportive network of friends and family members who can care for them while they are not in treatment.
Holistic Alcohol Detox
Holistic detox facilities will often provide additional treatment options—such as yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, etc.—to treat withdrawal symptoms. These facilities take a whole-being approach to wellness.
Natural Alcohol Detox
These facilities do not provide medication as a treatment option, as they believe in helping patients get back to homeostasis without the use of drugs. These programs can be less safe for someone likely to experience delirium tremens.
Private Alcohol Detox
Private programs are focused on the patient’s privacy above all else. These are often effective for individuals who are afraid to seek treatment because they believe they will incur the judgment of others.
What Should I Expect During Professional Alcohol Detox?
The treatment you will receive during alcohol detox will vary from facility to facility, but most programs treat this syndrome in much the same way.
1. Intake and Examinations Occur
Patients are admitted to the facility and examinations take place. Some of the tests a detox facility doctor may be likely to run include
- Blood magnesium level test
- Blood phosphate level test
- A toxicology screening
- An EEG or an ECG
2. Medications are Provided
Benzodiazepines are often used to treat patients with severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These drugs can help keep the patient calm or, if necessary, sedated for the length of withdrawal. They can also treat seizures. Other medications may also be used to treat mental disorders when appropriate.
3. Preparations Completed for Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Many detox centers want to prepare patients for their alcohol addiction treatment, which is still necessary after withdrawal ends. This can include attending therapy sessions, if the patient is able.
In other cases, a facility may offer holistic treatment options or spiritual help based on what the program entails.
Signs You Need an Alcohol Detox
If you believe you may be likely to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you probably will. It can help to be aware of the signs of heavy alcohol use and alcohol use disorders.
Make sure you answer these questions truthfully, and ask yourself if you are concerned that you may experience this life-threatening withdrawal syndrome. It is always better to err on the side of caution.
- Do you often drink more, or continue drinking for longer, than you originally intended?
- Have you ever continued to drink even when you realized you had consumed too much alcohol?
- Have you begun to shirk your responsibilities in order to drink more?
- Have you given up on certain activities you used to love in order to drink more and/or because these activities no longer seem to matter?
- Have you noticed your drinking is causing problems between you and your loved ones? Do you still continue to drink anyway?
- Have you ever gotten in trouble—at work, at school, or with the law—as a result of your drinking?
- Do you make excuses in order to drink or to drink more?
- Do you ever experience cravings for alcohol?
- Has your tolerance for alcohol become very high to the point where it takes a lot to get you drunk?
- When you cannot drink, do you become upset, anxious, or depressed?
- Do you spend a lot of your time drinking and/or recovering from drinking?
- Have you tried more than once to stop or cut back on your drinking and been unable to do so?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, it is likely you are struggling with an alcohol use disorder and possibly even a serious dependence on alcohol. An alcohol detox at home would be unsafe and unwise, and you should instead seek treatment in an alcohol detox center where you will be surrounded by medical professionals who can help you put an end to your substance misuse safely.
Alcohol Addiction and Getting Help
Alcohol addiction is a serious issue. Many individuals in the US are struggling with this disorder and must put a stop to their drinking completely. Without the proper care, though, detoxing from alcohol can be extremely dangerous. Alcohol withdrawal in a professional detox center is often the best, safest way to get through this syndrome, and afterward, treatment in a rehab program is necessary. After all, detox is only the first stage of addiction recovery, and alcohol can cause a serious addiction syndrome just like many other substances of abuse.
We want to help you find the best detox treatment program for your safe recovery from alcohol dependence and withdrawal. Call us any time at 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) , day or night, and we will match you with the safest facility for your current needs. Start your recovery right.