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Is it Dangerous to Detox at Home?

Dangers of At-Home detox, Dangers of At-Home Drug or Alcohol Detox,

Dangers of At-Home Drug or Alcohol Detox

In my human services work, I have crossed paths with people who were in various stages of their recovery journeys. One fellow, who I’m not likely to ever forget, had struggled with alcohol dependence for most of his life. For him, detoxing was especially brutal, and I remember asking him why he chose to do it at home instead of inpatient somewhere. He said, “I want to be at home so that I can be in control of my detox.”

While I absolutely understood his desire to be in charge of his own process when dealing with something very scary and potentially dehumanizing, I was also worried about things that could have gone horribly amiss if his detox had taken a wrong turn.

Severe Withdrawal Symptoms

Detox is different for each person. Some people are lucky to have fairly mild detox symptoms, while others may experience life-threatening reactions. 

Alcohol – severe symptoms are most likely to occur after heavy, prolonged use:

  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea

Benzos – a gradual decrease over time is the preferred method of getting off these drugs;  otherwise, a person could experience:

  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures

Opiates – through Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), it is possible to take prescription medications to gradually wean off opiates and avoid:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Dilated pupils
  • Restless legs
  • Muscle/joint pain 

Amphetamines:

  • Psychosis
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Excessive sleeping 
  • Excessive appetite

For many of these drugs, a person experiencing the most severe symptoms while detoxing could be in life-threatening danger without the knowledge and tools a medical professional can offer to keep them safe. If you are detoxing or know someone who is detoxing and is experiencing these symptoms, seek medical care immediately.

Home Versus In-Patient

There are several ways that a home detox fails to match up to a detox in a quality facility:

  • When detoxing at home, the person doesn’t typically have the benefit of medications to assist them with the withdrawal process or their cravings.
  • Many people experience pain and dehydration while detoxing, and these may be easier to treat in an inpatient setting.
  • While detoxing at home, a person may not receive a diet that compliments the recovery process.
  • There is no medical provider on hand to monitor vital signs and help the person through any extreme symptoms.
  • There may not be an adequate support system at home to help the person overcome the emotional and psychological hurdles that arise during detox. 

Considerations When Detoxing at Home

If you decide that you are going to detox at home, be sure to have an open, honest conversation with your doctor first. It is important that they have the opportunity to talk to you about concerns they might have for your health. Also, be sure that you have a reliable support person available: one or more people who will be able to stay with you, monitor your symptoms, and get you to a hospital if needed.

Who Should Never Attempt a Home Detox?

In most cases, it is not recommended that a person try to detox at home at all. According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health, people experiencing the following conditions should not detox at home: 

  • lack of a support person and safe, stable housing 
  • a history of withdrawal seizures 
  • a history of experiencing delirium while detoxing 
  • problematic drug use
  • a history of suicidality
  • any serious illness

While it might be reassuring to feel as though you have the power to make every decision related to your detox process, it can be extremely dangerous to try to detox without the close supervision of a trained and certified medical team. If you have questions about the detox process or any other recovery topics, Ivory Plains Recovery Center is here to give you the tools to make the right decisions to start your own recovery journey or help someone who is ready to do so.

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