How to Detox From Alcohol at Home Safely
Last Updated: August 28, 2023
If you’re considering how to detox from alcohol, discussing options with a medical professional familiar with your situation is important.
Stopping alcohol on your own at home can seem like an appealing option, but it is very dangerous. It is only ever okay to detox from alcohol at home after consulting a doctor who knows your situation. It may be possible for some people to detox at home; however, having the right plan and the right resources is essential for success.
What Happens During Alcohol Withdrawal and Detox?
When you drink alcohol consistently for a prolonged time, your brain slowly becomes hyperactive to balance out the suppressing effects of alcohol. While you use alcohol, this makes your brain function normally. When you stop alcohol, however, the hyperactive state of your brain is no longer balanced out by alcohol, and withdrawal symptoms occur until your brain can readjust.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
The hyperactive state of your brain when detoxing from alcohol can lead to many withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Clammy, sweaty skin
- Rapid breathing
- Elevated heart rate
A somewhat uncommon but deadly condition called delirium tremens can develop during severe withdrawal. Delirium tremens is often fatal if untreated; someone at risk for this condition should never try to detox at home. This condition leads to:
- Severe agitation
- Other problems
Alcohol Detox Timeline
Alcohol detox symptoms typically last about a week to a week and a half. These physical symptoms go through four distinct steps:
- Onset (6–24 hours): After you stop drinking, you will experience withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours. These initial symptoms may be mild and often include headache and anxiety.
- Intensification (12–48 hours): After symptoms start, they steadily increase in intensity. New symptoms begin throughout this period, also increasing in intensity as withdrawal progresses. Symptoms like tremors, nausea and agitation may develop during this time.
- Peak (48–72 hours): At the peak of withdrawal, all symptoms will be present and at their worst. The peak of detox is the most difficult and dangerous part of withdrawal. Seizures and delirium tremens can occur during this time, and the person detoxing is vulnerable to serious complications.
- Improvement (3–10 days): Withdrawal symptoms gradually ease after the peak. Symptoms will reduce in intensity and drop off one by one until they are gone.
This timeline will be different for everyone based on the severity of their alcohol dependence and how many times they have tried detoxing in the past. To determine the timeline that is most likely to occur for you, you should consult with an addiction specialist.
Benefits and Risks of Detoxing From Alcohol at Home
As with any form of detox, there are pros and cons to detoxing from alcohol at home. It can be easier and more cost-effective to go through withdrawal at home, but it can also be very dangerous and uncomfortable.
Detoxing at home does have its benefits. Some include:
- Privacy: Struggling with addiction can be embarrassing. Detoxing at home gives you more control over what others know about your addiction.
- Comfort: While detoxing at home gives you less control over withdrawal symptoms, the environment can be more comfortable and familiar than a detox facility.
- Affordability: Detox facilities that keep you safe and comfortable cost money. Detoxing at home can seem more affordable, especially for those with no insurance or limited coverage.
- Control: At home, you call the shots and have complete autonomy. This is not necessarily the case in a detox center and can be why some people choose to detox at home.
While there may be some benefits to detoxing at home, there are several major risks to consider:
- Death: Delirium tremens has a 37% fatality rate if untreated. Detoxing at home can kill you if you have serious withdrawal symptoms.
- Discomfort: Alcohol withdrawal creates many uncomfortable symptoms. You will not have the resources to fully treat the symptoms at home, making the detox experience highly uncomfortable.
- Failure: At home, taking a drink and ending the discomforts of detox is very easy. While you have more control, this makes failing to complete the detox much easier.
- Relapse: Without professional help, you may successfully detox but end up ill-equipped to maintain your new sobriety. Relapse can be more common without professional assistance.
How to Detox From Alcohol at Home
Ultimately, you should only ever detox at home after consulting a trained medical professional familiar with your substance use history. A doctor can not only tell you if it is safe, but they can also provide you with resources to support your detox attempt.
If a doctor tells you that you can safely detox at home, there are several things you can do to increase the success and comfort of this process.
- Use over-the-counter medicines (only as directed).
- Stay hydrated.
- Have someone with you.
- Don’t have any alcohol in the house.
- Have a plan if things deteriorate.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Seek therapy or other help after it’s over.
Even if you are detoxing alone, it is important to keep in touch with others and have someone who can check on you to make sure your condition isn’t deteriorating.
Alcohol Tapering Schedule
There is almost no research on how to taper alcohol, and it is generally thought that tapering is not as effective for stopping alcohol as quitting all at once. Tapering can make withdrawal symptoms less intense but stretches them out throughout the taper and past it.
Because tapering hasn’t been well-researched, no specific tapering schedule is recommended. It will be highly dependent on the person and their preferences. A potential schedule could be taking the total daily amount of alcohol you use, then decreasing it by 10% daily for 10 days. If it’s okay with your doctor, you could start with this schedule and then adjust it however works best for you.
Benefits of Medically-Supervised Detox
There are many benefits to choosing a medically-supervised alcohol detox instead of taking the risk of detoxing alone at home.
- Safe, structured environment: A medically-supervised detox provides a secure and organized setting that minimizes your risk of dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
- Physical health monitoring and care: Medically-supervised detox can help manage physical health issues that may arise or worsen due to withdrawal.
- Psychological support: Mental health professionals help you manage co-occurring mental health conditions, providing necessary therapy and medication to benefit your recovery.
- Relapse prevention: Medical supervision can help manage your cravings and provide immediate support during challenging moments, reducing your chances of relapse.
- Peer and family support: Detox programs often incorporate group therapy and family involvement. This can offer emotional support and a sense of community, helping you feel less alone in your journey.
- Transition to the next steps: Medical detox programs finish by helping you access the next steps of recovery. This typically includes psychological and behavioral therapies that address the underlying causes of your addiction.
- Medication management: Medical supervision allows for the careful use and adjustment of powerful medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and support overall recovery.
Alcohol Detox Medications
Medications play a key role in medical detox, helping to relieve detox symptoms and support your long-term success. Some of the most common alcohol detox medications include:
- Benzodiazepines: These include drugs like diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan) and are often used to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of seizures during alcohol detox.
- Barbiturates: Barbiturates, such as phenobarbital, may be used as an alternative to benzodiazepines in some cases to manage severe withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications.
- Baclofen: This is a muscle relaxant that can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms while you are undergoing alcohol detoxification.
- Anticonvulsants: Medications like carbamazepine (Tegretol) and gabapentin (Neurontin) can be used to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of seizures.
- Acamprosate (Campral): This is used to restore the balance in the brain that has been altered by alcohol use, helping to ease withdrawal symptoms.
These medications can be very helpful during medical detox but should be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional. The choice of medication and dosage is based on many factors and requires a doctor to supervise safely.
Medically Supervised Alcohol Withdrawal and Detox in Atlanta
At The Recovery Village Atlanta, we have many medical detox options to help meet your lifestyle while giving you the best chance of a successful and comfortable recovery. Our caring staff has extensive experience and can help you recover from alcohol without the serious risks you’ll face trying an at-home detox. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to learn how we can help you achieve lasting recovery.
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