Did you know that over 90,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes each year?
Despite being legal, alcohol is an incredibly dangerous drug. In fact, alcohol is one of the few drugs with potentially fatal side effects when you stop using it. It’s also extremely difficult to quit because it’s everywhere.
The good news; it’s possible to flush the alcohol out of your system.
The first step to sobriety involves detoxing the body from alcohol.
Some people prefer to self-detox from alcohol at home while others opt for medical detox, which, as the name suggests, involves medical supervision.
So, which is the better option?
In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about detoxing from alcohol, including the various approaches you could use.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
When one drinks alcohol excessively, toxins from the alcohol build up in the body over time. Detox is the body’s way of removing traces of the drug from its system. It can be done in an inpatient or outpatient medical detox setting.
Excessive alcohol consumption can impact your mental and physical health.
If you stop drinking alcohol suddenly, your body goes through a period of adjustments known as withdrawal. Being aware of the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can help you navigate through the detox process.
What Is Self-Detox?
Self-detox is when you attempt to quit using drugs or alcohol without professional or medical intervention. You can gradually taper off the substance or go “cold turkey” (withdraw suddenly and completely from an addictive substance).
In either case, you do it at home and without the supervision of a trained professional such as a physician, nurse, or therapist.
Is Detoxing from Alcohol at Home Safe?
It’s possible to safely detox from alcohol at home. However, this approach comes with many risks, which we’ll discuss later in the article. Normally, we would recommend getting professional advice before you embark on the road to recovery.
But if seeking medical help isn’t a viable option, perhaps because you’re isolating, there’s a way you can detox safely at home.
How to Detox from Alcohol at Home
We can’t stress this enough! If you want to detox from alcohol at home, you should check in with your doctor first, and for good reasons.
First, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can cause serious health issues that may require a doctor’s intervention.
Secondly, if you’re addicted to alcohol, chances are you won’t recover without some form of addiction treatment. In this case, medically supervised detox professionals can help you maintain long-term sobriety.
If for some reason, you still want to detox at home, it’s critical that you do it safely. Here’s the process we recommend.
1. Make a Plan to Quit and Clear Your Schedule
You probably have heard the saying, “failure to plan is planning to fail.”
With that in mind, you’ll need a plan if you want your home detox attempt to succeed. Your recovery will largely depend on this plan.
The next thing you’ll want to do is clear your schedule. Some detox programs can take days, others weeks. So, if necessary, take some time off work and put aside your responsibilities temporarily. Bottom line: Do not let anything get in your way of recovery.
2. Understand the Withdrawal Symptoms
Take your time to understand the withdrawal symptoms because you’ll likely experience them at some point during the detox period.
The Advances in Psychiatric Treatment journal cites that people should understand the withdrawal symptoms beforehand to know when to seek medical assistance. Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Cravings for alcohol
- Seizures or delirium tremens (DTs)
- Physical weakness
- Irritability and restlessness
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to serious. Note that mild symptoms can start as early as six hours after you stop drinking.
3. Keep a Drinking Diary
Before you cut down your drinking, it’s important to know how much alcohol you drink each day. You could keep a diary for one week where you record your daily consumption.
Start by jotting down:
- The number of units you consume each day
- The time of the day when you often drink alcohol
- Types of drinks you take
If you aren’t sure how many units are in your drink, try using an online unit calculator.
4. Start Cutting Down your Alcohol Consumption
By now, you have a rough idea of the number of units you consume each day.
Start by reducing that amount by 10% per day.
For example, if you usually drink 20 units per day, reduce your drinking to about 18 or 19 units. Keep drinking at this reduced level for days, then cut it down by another 10%.
If you experience any withdrawal symptoms, it means you’re progressing very fast. Try reducing your intake by 5% rather than 10%. When you’re drinking less than seven units a day, you can try to stop drinking completely.
Pro Tip: Make sure you’re drinking enough fluids during the detox period. Keeping your body hydrated can help to eliminate toxins.
Dangers of Detoxing from Alcohol at Home
Detoxing from home can be dangerous because you may not have the resources and support you need to overcome your body’s chemical and psychological dependence on alcohol.
Moreover, health implications could arise, especially if you have alcohol use disorder (AUD) or any other underlying condition. It’s no surprise that the American Society of Addiction Medicine warns against home detox as a treatment for AUD.
Besides the health risks, many people who try to self-detox often forget about the psychological withdrawal symptoms. Without support during and after detox, these people run the risk of relapsing soon since self-detox does not address the root cause of the problem.
Lastly, stopping alcohol consumption can cause seizures, delirium, and hallucinations. Some of these conditions can be fatal if not treated in hospitals.
Medical Detox: Why It’s the Best Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Because of the serious risks associated with self-detoxing at home, many experts recommend a medically supervised detox treatment, also known as medical detox.
Medical detox requires you to enter an inpatient or outpatient treatment program overseen by a team of medical professionals. This team is usually headed by a physician and consists of nurses, therapists, and clinical staff.
Some of the benefits of a medical detox include:
- Medical monitoring and support
- Therapeutic intervention
- Relapse prevention
- Stress-free and trigger-free environment
- Peer support
- Long term treatment
- Family support
Unlike self-detox, the success rate of medical detox is high. Plus, those who complete medical detox often have long stretches of sobriety.
The Road to Recovery
Detoxing from alcohol can be a challenging and lengthy journey for everyone involved.
You’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms a few days after your last drink. But if you’re determined to quit and experience a lifetime of sobriety, you surely can make it happen. The key point to remember is that it’s never safe to self-detox from alcohol at home.
By entering a medical detox facility or a residential detox center, you’ll benefit from the care of a team of medically trained professionals who will walk with you throughout your journey to recovery.