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The Dangers of At-Home Drug or Alcohol Detox

While it may not necessary for everyone, detox may be an important first step for some of the people working toward recovery.

Is It Dangerous to Detox from Drugs or Alcohol at Home?

Can you detox at home? It may be dangerous to detox from drugs or alcohol at home, depending on the substance of abuse and the withdrawal symptom risks. Completing detox from drugs and alcohol at home is only a viable option for substances that don’t produce particularly dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

What Are the Risks of At-Home Drug or Alcohol Detox?

Is it safe to detox at home? While there may be relatively few expected medical dangers with certain substances, some unexpected dangers of detoxing at home may arise. These risks and dangers may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting (Individuals can aspirate on their vomit, which can be fatal.).
  • Severe discomfort.
  • Seizures.

Inadequately managed withdrawal can sometimes negatively affect one’s mental health, resulting in:1,3

  • Anxiety.
  • Anger and irritability.
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Delusional thinking and paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.

Is At-Home Drug or Alcohol Detox Ever Safe?

Is it dangerous to detox at home? Completing detox from drugs and alcohol at home is only a viable option for substances that don’t produce particularly dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Remember, however, that while there may be relatively few expected medical dangers, some unexpected dangers may arise, including several medical complications that can occur during detox.

The uncomfortable nature of withdrawal symptoms and the presence of accompanying substance cravings can contribute to relapse or a return to drug or alcohol use when withdrawal symptoms aren’t managed.3 Drug cravings can be immensely difficult to resist when withdrawal feels too uncomfortable to handle. Getting professional support can make a big difference in preventing relapse and making it to the next step of treatment.

Detoxing from drugs and alcohol can take place in a number of settings, and while it may be tempting to try it at home, medically supervised detoxification can help minimize unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and address any withdrawal complications that arise—keeping a person as safe and comfortable as possible during detox.

How Does Detoxing from Drugs and Alcohol Work?

Detoxification includes a set of interventions aimed at managing acute intoxication and symptoms of withdrawal.1 During this phase, toxins are cleared from the bodies of those who are intoxicated and/or dependent on drugs or alcohol.1

What Happens During Medical Detox for Drugs or Alcohol?

Are you wondering how to detox safely? To begin a safe detox from drugs or alcohol, be sure to consult with a medical professional—preferably one with addiction treatment or withdrawal management experience. This specialist can provide a thorough assessment of your status and risks.

Medical detox is a safe way to withdraw from substances and may involve various interventions to ease the discomfort and dangers associated with drug withdrawal.1,2  For the safety and comfort of the recovering individual, drug detox often takes place under the care of a team of trained professionals able to medically manage the withdrawal period.1,2

Fortunately, when it comes to types of drug and alcohol detox, medically assisted or medically supervised detox can take place in a number of inpatient and outpatient settings.

After assessment during the intake process, your treatment team will outline a comprehensive withdrawal management plan. This plan may be reassessed throughout your recovery process, with any needed treatment adjustments being made according to the progress you’re making.

In determining an appropriate treatment plan for you, he or she may ask you questions about:1,2

  • The type or types of substances you use regularly and whether you are currently intoxicated.
  • The frequency, dose, and duration of your use.
  • Any preexisting and concurrent mental health symptoms.
  • Your physical health/medical history.
  • Previous withdrawal and detox attempts.
  • How much support you have at home.

Your answers to these questions will help to determine an appropriate level of care.1

Whatever setting detox occurs in, it is an individualized process that will vary based on your specific situation and required levels of addiction treatment.

Safe Medical Detox for Alcohol

When it comes to detoxing from alcohol, there are certain medications that may help with the management of withdrawal symptoms.

  • Benzodiazepines/barbiturates. These are the primary treatment for alcohol withdrawal. The initial effective dose will be tapered over time to reduce the risk of seizures and delirium tremens.
  • Anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin (Neurontin).
  • Other agents such as clonidine or beta blockers to augment symptom management.

Safe Medical Detox for Opioids

Detoxing from opioids may involve the use of certain medications that can help with the management of withdrawal symptoms.

  • Methadone or buprenorphine. As opioid agonist medications, these medically prescribed treatment drugs are given in controlled doses to ease cravings and minimize withdrawal distress associated with quitting heroin or prescription painkillers.
  • Clonidine or lofexidine (Lucemyra). These alpha-adrenergic agonist medications may be used to help manage treat certain opioid detox symptoms like high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.

Safe Medical Detox for Benzodiazepines or Other Sedatives

Detoxing from benzodiazepines or other sedatives may involve the use of certain medications that may help with the management of withdrawal symptoms.

  • Benzodiazepines/barbiturates. In some cases (for example, if you’re abusing a benzodiazepine with a short half-life such as Xanax), you may be first switched to another benzodiazepine that has a longer half-life (such as Librium or Valium) or to the barbiturate phenobarbital. This will limit the likelihood of dangerous withdrawal effects and increase your comfort. The substance will then be slowly tapered until your body is clear of any sedatives.
  • Anticonvulsants.
  • Sedating antidepressants, such as trazodone.

The detox process for other substances may be aided with medications that address the secondary symptoms of withdrawal, like nausea or sleeping problems, with other prescription or over-the-counter medications.1 Learn more about medical detox programs.


Get Admitted to Medical Detox

To ensure the best possible outcomes, complete care—including behavioral therapies, support groups, educational/employment services, and community supports—is needed.

Rehab facilities are located throughout the U.S., and many offer specialized treatment that can cater to individual needs. You can use SAMHSA’s Treatment Services Locator to search for treatment centers. Many state government websites will also provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’ Once your state website is located, substance use resources shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should provide further phone contacts for your assistance.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of safe drug and alcohol detoxification. If you’d like to learn more about available treatment options with AAC, including programs that include detox, please contact us free today at . There are also free drug abuse hotline numbers you can call.

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