Why Detoxing From Alcohol at Home Isn’t Safe

Edited by Paul Alexander

Last updated January 21, 2020

Millions of adults face alcohol addiction every year. Many of those who struggle with alcoholism believe they can quit drinking or cut back whenever they want to. The reality is that when the brain becomes addicted, it changes the physiology as it learns to adapt to the increased presence of alcohol over time. Switching from a drinking pattern of moderation to everyday consumption alters a person’s tolerance level and causes the brain to respond differently than before. After excessive use, there can be major effects of alcohol on the brain

Detoxing from alcohol at home puts you in a vulnerable state. There’s no way to predict how your body will react to the alcohol withdrawal stage. Plus, you don’t receive medical attention or emotional support as you would through a treatment program. It’s safer to detox in a secure environment where there are certified therapists and health monitoring in place to help you through the process without the temptation of alcohol being present. 

Those who consume alcohol frequently find it takes more to reach intoxication because their tolerance levels have increased. This can lead to alcohol dependency and makes abstaining from alcohol increasingly difficult. Becoming sober is not as easy as deciding not to drink. It requires comprehensive care that starts with ridding the system of alcohol and any other substances. During the first phase of treatment, people experience uncomfortable and painful alcohol withdrawal symptoms that often lead to a return to their regular drinking behavior. 

Trying to quit cold turkey or limit how much you drink may work in the short-term, but addiction won’t let it stay that way for long. Anyone who has tried detoxing from alcohol from home knows how difficult it is, especially when withdrawal symptoms begin. Typically, these start within six to eight hours after the last drink, depending on how long and how often you’ve been drinking. They range in intensity and can feel overwhelming to a point where continuing to drink seems like the only option. 

The longer you’ve experienced alcohol dependence, the more severe the symptoms will likely be as your body tries to recalibrate back to the “norm” of functioning without alcohol. Additionally, as your body increases its dependency, it causes progressive damage it does to your organs, specifically your liver, heart, brain. 

Detox is a crucial part of a complete alcohol treatment plan and can help improve and preserve your future health and well-being. Receiving help with detoxing is nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. Addiction is a disease that requires medical attention and a continually supportive environment in order to heal. 

Alcohol Detox Symptoms and What to Expect

Detox is the process of eliminating alcohol from the body completely and prohibiting further use. When alcohol withdrawal begins, it’s normal to feel a combination of symptoms. These may include: 

  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Insomnia

These side effects vary in intensity with the first few days of detox often being the most difficult to endure. Other serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include heart palpitations, seizures, and hallucinations. Some people compare detox to a severe case of the flu, while others experience symptoms so intense they’re unable to get out of bed or function. 

Since there’s no way to tell how your body will react or what symptoms you’ll endure, it’s safer to detox in the presence of certified professionals who are familiar with the withdrawal process and know how to assist you in the best way possible. Physically, detox is a challenging time, and it’s mentally taxing as well. Having a team who is capable and trained to give you the kind of support you need during this time is crucial in order to prevent relapse and make sure your safety is intact.

Handling Relapse with the Help of a Detox Center

One of the dangers of detoxing from alcohol at home is that the chance of relapse is significantly increased. Relapse shouldn’t be considered a failure and it doesn’t mean that you’re unable to overcome addiction. It just means the body needs extra time to adapt to this massive change and the detox process must start over. 

For those who experience extreme withdrawal symptoms, the pain may be unbearable to the point where the only remedy seems to be relapsing. This is far easier to succumb to if you’re going through the detox process alone, especially when the symptoms have lasted for several days. Due to the intensity of alcohol withdrawal and the goal of overcoming detox to the next level of care, having the support of a detox center is vital to reach the next stage of recovery. 

Alcohol dependency and addiction is built up over time, which means the recovery process takes time, too. The beginning stages often feel like the most difficult because of the stress and pain it causes on the body, but it’s only temporary. Each day and each step forward puts you in a healthier place as you move forward on your road to recovery. 

Mapping Out the Detox Timeline

Detox is the first step of a continuous care program, followed by residential treatment, outpatient care, and alcohol support services. Detox typically lasts anywhere from seven to ten days, but can be longer depending on your particular situation. The body has to rid itself of all traces of alcohol before advancing to the next stage of recovery. It’s important to start with a clean slate.

There is no “right” amount of time for detoxing from your alcohol dependence. It’s what’s needed for your recovery and how your body handles the change. There are several factors that play a part in the alcohol withdrawal phase, but your treatment is personalized for your specific needs and can’t be compared to another to predict success. 

Continuing Care Following Detox 

An important part of substance abuse recovery is understanding your addiction and what triggers you to drink. During the residential treatment phase, you’ll begin to learn about your alcohol dependence, where it stems from, and how you cope with temptation and recognize potentially harmful patterns in the future. 

During this time, your recovery team will help you identify any co-existing conditions that are often overlooked or missed when someone is dealing with alcoholism. It’s not uncommon for people who experience alcohol addiction to also experience mental illness, such as depression. 

By taking the time to thoroughly explore your relationship with alcohol and anything else that might be contributing to it, you can treat it at the core of where it begins. It’s important to uncover a dual diagnosis in the beginning so your treatment can be customized accordingly. Residential treatment is based on what you need for care. After this phase, there is a period of outpatient care and support services all designed to help you maintain your sobriety. 

Through these phases of care, you’ll receive education, counseling, and compassionate support based on what you need to live a life free of addiction. Not only does the recovery process address the current situation and solutions, it also provides ways to handle future challenges and integrates you slowly back into a routine you’re comfortable with. There are several different facets of alcohol treatment. Detox is only the beginning. 

Pursuing a Healthier, Happier Life Without Alcohol

Alcohol addiction is a disease and it’s important to remember that it’s not a matter of willpower in order to find healing. Being in the right mindset to want to quit drinking is helpful, but it’s not as simple as making the decision not to. Alcohol use disorder is a disease, and it should be treated like one. There are many complexities associated with each person’s substance abuse addiction, which all require supportive care and treatment in order to detox in a safe way.

An alcohol addiction treatment program explores how alcohol has affected your health, mental well-being, and professional and personal relationships. Taking back control of your life by abstaining from alcohol requires an acclimation period. Dealing with addiction is a painful experience and takes time to fully look into everything that has played a role in it. If it’s affected your job, for example, part of your plan may require assistance to get back on the interview circuit. If it’s affected your family relationships, it may require guidance on how to communicate successfully and with kindness.

Detoxing from alcohol from home isn’t safe and it doesn’t give you the compassionate and reliable support you need to make it through. Although the detox period is unpleasant and often painful, the alcohol withdrawal timeline is short-lived. It’s always the first step forward whether it’s your first time experiencing it or you’ve been down the road before. 

Alcohol addiction can feel truly isolating, but your recovery doesn’t have to be. There are options to give you what you need when you need it. With the right support and continued care to guide you through each stage of recovery, you’ll start to see shifts all leading you one step closer to sobriety. Each day you’re recovering from your alcohol abuse is a new opportunity to switch paths to a place where you will be most at peace. Going through the process in the presence of others dedicated to your care makes it much more manageable and safe.

Sources: 

  1. “NEUROSCIENCE: PATHWAYS TO ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Apr. 2009, pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa77/aa77.htm.
  2. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health, Apr. 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/alcohol-withdrawal-a-to-z.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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