You are currently viewing The Dangers of Attempting Alcohol Detox at Home

The Dangers of Attempting Alcohol Detox at Home

The Dangers of Attempting Alcohol Detox at Home. Many people are under the misconception that alcohol and alcohol consumption are wholly safe and totally innocuous. This is most likely because alcohol is legal and affordable, and it essentially permeates every aspect of society, both in the U.S. and abroad. However, truth be told, alcohol in its very nature is a toxic substance that can cause serious damage. It can even be deadly, which is why an alcohol detox at home, without medical supervision, should never be attempted.

What Is Alcohol Detox?

Now, before moving on, we would like to include a disclaimer. We are not here to demonize alcohol. Many legal-aged people engage with alcohol safely and healthily. However, there is a large swath of the U.S. population that does not and cannot have that type of healthy relationship with alcohol. Unhealthy relationships with alcohol can lead to alcohol addiction, which affects more people than one might think.

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the prevalence of past-year alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the U.S. was “29.5 million people ages 12 and older (10.6% in this age group).” Moreover, many of these people will experience alcohol detox at some point in their lives. Hopefully, it will only be done once, in a medical setting that is both safe and supervised. Alcohol detox is essentially the same as its name dictates. It is the process of detoxifying the body of the presence or remnants of alcohol use. However, though the action is very basic, the process is often much more complex. 

According to the clinical write-up Alcohol Withdrawal by Doctors Newman, Stobart Gallagher, and Gomez, “Patients [experiencing alcohol detox] should be kept calm in a controlled environment to try to reduce the risks of progression from mild symptoms to hallucinations. With mild to moderate symptoms, patients should receive supportive therapy in the form of intravenous rehydration, correction of electrolyte abnormalities, and have comorbid conditions as listed above ruled out.” Most likely these are not the type of support devices that are commonly found in the home, and even if they were, a professional would still have to be present to ensure the health and well-being of the individual detoxing.

Why You Should Never Attempt Home Alcohol Detox

How to Help a Loved One Transition Into Alcohol Detox

The ultimate answer to why someone should never attempt an alcohol detox at home is relatively straightforward: Unsupervised detox can be fatal. In fact, alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances to detox from.

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can not only be uncomfortable but they can also be physically and emotionally challenging. The following are just a few of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:

  • Experiencing intense headaches and/or migraines
  • Feeling overly anxious and nervous
  • Having the “shakes” and experiencing tremors
  • Experiencing difficulty sleeping; insomnia
  • Feeling overly fatigued and lethargic
  • Having gastrointestinal problems including vomiting, dry heaving, constipation, and/or diarrhea 
  • Feeling intense mood changes
  • Experiencing hallucinations, both auditory and visual (this is also part of what are commonly referred to as “delirium tremens”)

Avoiding Home Alcohol Detox: What Does an Effective Alcohol Detox Look Like?

What Does Effective Alcohol Detox Look Like?

Now, an effective alcohol detox in a medical setting will look much different than one that is done in the home. It will involve a full medical assessment, as well as full medical supervision as the process goes on. 

Having professional medical personnel present for detox is crucial because, depending on the severity of the symptoms, medications are often used to ensure that the process is as smooth and comfortable as possible. Generally, these are sedatives like Diazepam (Valium) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium). A medical professional will be able to administer these as well as tend to any of the patient’s needs. It is also important to be in an appropriate setting for detox because it will help lead the individual into the next stage of recovery: Treatment.

What Happens After Alcohol Detox?

It is important to remember that alcohol detox is only the first step to recovering from alcohol addiction. The next steps, such as psychotherapy and 12-Step programming, can be crucial for working on the emotional “hangover” that detox can bring about.

Many detox centers are either directly located at a recovery facility or closely connected to one. This takes the guessing out of where to go after detox. It also eliminates the potential of a relapse between alcohol detox and participating in an initial treatment program.