As of 2018, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that 15 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder. As a chronic and relapsing brain disease, alcohol use disorder, or AUD, involves the compulsive use of alcohol, a loss of control over the amount of alcohol taken in, and an emotional state that is negative when not using alcohol.
Whether a person faces binge drinking, heavy drinking, or dependency on alcohol, it is very difficult to overcome an AUD. However, it is also extremely important for that person’s health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, quitting is not an easy process, and people who drink a considerable amount of alcohol are at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Some people looking to overcome an alcohol use disorder choose to detox from alcohol at home. While this may be the only option for some, it is not the recommended method according to Alcohol.org, a resource from the American Addiction Centers. Keep reading to learn more about alcohol detox at home.
Can you detox from alcohol at home?
At-home detoxing is possible for some, but it is not often successful. Self-detox is a common first step for people attempting to overcome an AUD. Home is a more comfortable and familiar setting for many who are at a time in life when they crave a feeling of safety. In some cases, home also feels like a controlled environment. People may think they are able to exercise more control over their home because it is theirs. In reality, home may be the place where they are able to exercise the least control.
Most professionals recommend detoxing at a rehabilitation facility, so the person can be monitored by medical professionals. Alcohol detox often brings about symptoms that are not easily understood. It is also difficult to understand the timeline for alcohol withdrawal and what should be done at each step in the process.
Detoxing at home by choice
If a person chooses to detox at home, they might eventually find their way to a detox or rehab facility. For some, it takes multiple failed attempts to self-detox before they are willing to submit themselves to professional care. Someone who chooses alcohol detox at home must be aware of several important factors, including the following.
- All alcohol must be removed from the home. This first step is crucial to the self-detox process. Alcohol withdrawal at home often brings about strong cravings, which are difficult to control. The temptation may be easier to avoid if all alcohol is removed from the house.
- Detoxing takes time. It is necessary for a person detoxing at home to completely clear their schedule of all activities and events, including taking time off work. Focusing on the detox process and recovery is key, so it is important to push pause on other responsibilities.
- Do not go through the process alone. Detoxing at home does not mean that someone is cut off from outside support. A trusted friend or family member can help a person detoxing at home stay safe or seek medical care if symptoms worsen.
- Hydration is crucial. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include loss of appetite, nausea, and fatigue. Drinking fluids like water, broth, and juice help a person detoxing stay hydrated and remove toxins from their body.
- Eat a balanced diet. When a person regains their appetite, healthy foods are the best option. Eating from all food groups and maintaining a balanced caloric intake can help them feel strong and healthy again.
- Prepare vitamins and minerals. There are some vitamins and minerals that you can take to help remove toxins from your body. Vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, multivitamins, and calcium may be able to help ease withdrawal symptoms.
- Create a comforting environment. Comfort is important in the detox and withdrawal process. Withdrawal symptoms will make a person feel extremely uncomfortable and even experience pain. A quiet and comfortable place with soft lighting can help counteract the harsh effects of withdrawal.
- Take a shower. A shower will not make you sober up. However, a comfortable shower can help relieve some withdrawal symptoms. It might also help a person relax or find some comfort during the detox process. A lukewarm shower is best because water that is too hot or cold can result in changes to body temperature.
Choosing to detox at home places a lot of stress and responsibility on a person already going through a harsh situation. Researching ahead of time and monitoring symptoms during the process are difficult to do while focusing on recovery. Someone who experiences minor symptoms may be able to get through the alcohol withdrawal process at home. However, there is no way to know how alcohol detox and withdrawal will impact a person until the process is underway.
Is it safe to detox from alcohol at home?
The process of alcohol detox itself is considered dangerous because it involves withdrawal. While home may feel like a comfortable environment, it is actually not safe for the unpredictable nature of detoxing and withdrawal.
For people who feel that detoxing at home is their only option, there are some outside support tools that can help make the process safer. Support groups and outpatient treatment may be able to supplement alcohol detox at home in some cases. However, severe alcohol withdrawal can be potentially deadly.
Dangers of detoxing from alcohol at home
The biggest danger of detoxing from alcohol at home is withdrawal and withdrawal symptoms. There is no set timeline for alcohol detox. While some people can recover from withdrawal symptoms within a week, others with severe dependency may deal with symptoms for much longer.
In-patient treatment at a professional rehab facility involves the constant monitoring of medical staff. They are able to check a patient’s vitals and make adjustments if complications arise. Going through the symptoms of withdrawal are difficult enough, but taking on the role of doctor at home can add even more stress.
Overall, when a person chooses to detox from alcohol at home, they are left vulnerable. The symptoms of withdrawal can be quite severe and debilitating, making it difficult for a person to care for themselves or understand their condition. Without trained medical staff available to recognize dangers and provide adequate treatment and nourishment, a person is left susceptible to severe withdrawal symptoms and even death.
Symptoms of alcohol detox at home
Symptoms of detox and withdrawal will begin several hours after the last drink. Within the first 24 hours of detox, symptoms are likely to be more severe before diminishing over time. After the first two to four days, late symptoms appear. There is no set timeline as the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal at home will be different for every person.
Early symptoms typically include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Seizures are possible
Late symptoms typically include:
- Heart rate changes like a racing heart
- Changes in breathing
- Blood pressure changes
- Heavy sweating
- Delirium tremens, like hallucinations and seizure
Prolonged symptoms are possible with home detox alcohol withdrawal because alcohol can impact a person’s brain. These symptoms can include:
- Issues with sleep
- Mood changes
Alternative to alcohol detox at home
Alcohol detox at home is very dangerous, and it is typically not the recommended method for overcoming an alcohol use disorder. It is also important to note that treating alcohol detox and withdrawal is not a long-term solution for an AUD. It is a short-term fix that gets a person through the symptoms of withdrawal. Continued support and treatment may be necessary to stop drinking for a long period of time.
Professional alcohol rehabilitation facilities are the most recommended form of alcohol detox by medical professionals. These facilities employ trained doctors and nurses who are able to monitor a person’s condition as they go through the various stages and symptoms of withdrawal. They can provide the necessary nourishment and treatment to handle these symptoms and meet any complications that may arise during the process.
For a person going through alcohol detox for the first time, the desire to stay at home may be strong. Home feels like a safe environment and one within their control. However, in-patient facilities provide the ideal environment for detox, including a positive atmosphere and healthy food and fluids. A person going through alcohol withdrawal can even be set up with a doctor or treatment plan following their detox program to help them treat alcohol abuse or dependence long-term.