The Dangers of an At-Home Detox

Detox is an important initial step on the road to recovery. Some people may try to undergo this process on their own. But detoxing at home can be largely ineffective and even dangerous.

Read on to learn more about the risks of an at-home detox and why supervised medical detox from drugs and alcohol is generally the preferred standard of care.

What Is an At-Home Detox?

man lying on sofa with a blanket, in pain, going through an at-home detoxAt-home detox is when a person attempts to go through detoxification from drugs or alcohol at home, on their own, without any medical supervision.

Detoxification is the body’s natural process of ridding itself of toxins. During this time, symptoms of withdrawal may arise and require medical intervention.

In a professional detox facility, medications and other therapies may be given to ensure patients are as safe and comfortable as possible. Doctors, nurses, and other addiction specialists provide around-the-clock care to monitor vital signs and acute reactions.

By contrast, an at-home detox entails a person simply refraining from drugs or alcohol and often taking a “cold turkey” approach to withdrawal, which can be dangerous depending on the substance of abuse.

Is an At-home Detox Safe?

An at-home detox may be unsafe and even dangerous. For certain drugs, the risks are minimal, but detoxing at home decreases the person’s likelihood of successfully completing detox.

Not all substances cause severe withdrawal symptoms and aren’t as risky to abruptly quit.

Drugs with mild withdrawal syndromes include:

However, certain substances should never be stopped cold turkey because it may cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. These include:

Alcohol withdrawal can lead to a severe symptom called delirium tremens, which is the onset of confusion and autonomic hyperactivity when stopping alcohol consumption after physical dependence has formed. Delirium tremens can cause fever, rapid heartbeat, and, in rare cases, death.

Delirium tremens typically develops 3 days after a person stops drinking, but can happen anywhere from 2–10 days after last use, even though withdrawal symptoms may start as soon as 6 hours after peak intoxication. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 5% of people who attempt detoxification from alcohol on their own without medical assistance develop delirium tremens.

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines like Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (Clonazepam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide), Ativan (lorazepam), and Halcion (triazolam) can cause seizures or even death. A person may start to experience psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines in as little as 3–4 days after last use, although short-acting benzos like alprazolam and triazolam may cause withdrawal symptoms sooner.

While not life-threatening, stopping opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers without medical assistance can result in intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, often leading to relapse.

Supervised medical detox is recommended standard of care for these and other substances of abuse. If you’re considering an at-home detox, consult with your doctor or a physician at a drug and alcohol rehab facility first.

What Are the Risks of Detoxing at Home?

Due to the discomfort of withdrawal, those who attempt to detox on their own often return to using the substance in an effort to make withdrawal symptoms go away. Risk of overdose is high in these instances, so an at-home detox may be inherently less safe than supervised medical detox.

Withdrawal symptoms vary based on the substance. Some examples of physical withdrawal symptoms from opioids include:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Goosebumps.
  • Yawning.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Fever.

People who experience physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may experience the following:

  • Tremors.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Seizures.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause various symptoms, such as:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Tremors.
  • Headaches.
  • Stiffness.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Memory problems.
  • Nausea.
  • Seizures.
  • Psychosis.

Psychological withdrawal symptoms from various substances of abuse include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Thoughts of using.
  • Cravings for the substance.
  • Numbness.
  • Nightmares.
  • Heightened emotions.
  • Agitation.
  • Mood changes.
  • Difficulties with stress management.
  • Insomnia.
  • Oversleeping.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Fuzzy thinking.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Feeling tired all the time.
  • Lack of interest, or anhedonia.
  • Lack of initiative.
  • Sleep issues.

Even mild withdrawal symptoms are often unpleasant and can sometimes be more than a person can bear. This can lead an individual to relapse, just to avoid the discomfort, which is why at-home detoxes are typically less effective than medically supervised ones.

Why Should Someone Choose Medical Detox?

Medical detox allows the body to rid itself of drugs and alcohol in a safe environment, where medical professionals monitor clients to ensure a comfortable experience. Clients may be given medications to address specific symptoms, such as medications to treat anxiety or aid with sleeping problems. In some instances, clients may receive anticonvulsants in an effort to prevent seizures.

Due to this continuous monitoring, staff members can intervene early when uncomfortable symptoms arise. Immediate medical intervention is available if serious issues arise, such as seizures, delirium tremens, or any emergency event. In addition, staff members provide moral support and encouragement throughout the process, which often proves critical to successful completion of detox and long-term recovery.

Undergoing the detoxification process at home leaves a person socially isolated in many cases. They may become withdrawn and feel shame. Oftentimes, this makes depression and anhedonia worse. In a medical detox facility, the person will be surrounded by others in similar circumstances. These individuals can share their stories and experiences, serving as encouragement to those going through withdrawal.

Overall, there are many dangers associated with at-home detox, which is why supervised medical detox is the recommended standard of care.

Recovery First Treatment Center in Hollywood, Florida, offers medical detox and other types of addiction treatment, including:

To learn more about our quality programs, paying for addiction treatment, or how to use insurance to pay for rehab, contact us at today.

The thought of detox can be scary and overwhelming, don’t go through it alone. When you’re ready, we are here to help.

The Price of Not Getting Help
When contemplating the costs of addiction treatment for yourself, child, or loved one, consider the costs, or consequences, of “things as they are now.” What would happen if the substance abuse or addiction continued? Contact Recovery First, and we will help you or your loved one get the treatment needed to stop the dangerous, progressive effects of addiction.