How To Safely Self-Detox from Alcohol at Home

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Alcohol addiction is a serious condition that leads to many health issues both physical as well as mental.

According to academic research institutions and the latest UK statistics, alcohol misuse is one of the highest risk factors causing disability and ill-health, not to mention death. [1], 

Alcohol dependence refers to drinking more than the required amount of alcohol daily. It includes alcohol cravings that lead to a debilitating behaviour. 

When an individual's drinking starts causing them harm, then it is wise to seek professional medical advice from licensed medical professionals who are trained to deal with substance abuse issues. 

Any treatment options for alcohol rehab will start with detox. Detox can either be done at home, or from a professional addiction treatment. 

Home detox refers to a medically supervised detox process that is done at home. This is an option for most people who are unable to enrol at a professional treatment centre for a period. 

Why is detox necessary? 

Detox is essential as it helps you assess your drinking habits and get rid of unwanted toxins from your body. 

To understand whether you need alcohol addiction treatment, try and answer the following questions: 

  • Do you drink every day? 
  • How much beer or wine do you consume in a day? Is it more than the recommended amount? 
  • What kind of problems are you dealing with in your daily life that's causing you to drink? 
  • Do you suffer from any mental health disorder? 
  • Have you had any medical complications because of your alcohol intake? 
  • Are you having some behavioural health conditions due to alcohol? 
  • Do you abuse other drugs other than alcohol? 
  • Have you ever been in trouble with the law due to your alcohol consumption? 
  • Have you ever been to a treatment facility before to treat your alcohol dependency problems? 

Who qualifies for alcohol detox at home? 

Not everyone qualifies for an at home alcohol detox, because it can have some serious implications on your body.

These are normally manifested through the serious withdrawal symptoms. If you are not under medical supervision, these can be more severe symptoms making them fatal. 

People who qualify to safely detox from home are: 

  • Those who have never had seizures or fits. These could be related to alcohol, or they could be pre-existing conditions. 
  • Those who have a strong support system such as a medical professional, alcoholics anonymous, local support groups, other qualified healthcare provider, family members, and friends.  
  • Those who are willing to set some days aside to go through the alcohol rehab at home. This is usually a maximum of ten days; in which time you have to stop drinking and concentrate on your recovery. 

If you find that you cannot meet these criteria, then you are advised to seek help from a doctor, who will provide medical advice on how you can go through the detox process. 

Other reasons why you would wish to stop drinking are: 

  • If you have been diagnosed as suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder - AUD. 
  • If you have cirrhosis of the liver. 
  • If you have Hepatitis C. 
  • If you have a heart condition or chronic pain. 
  • If you are struggling with serious complications from alcohol use. 
  • if you are suffering from high blood pressure. 
  • If you are on medication that doesn't interact with alcohol. 
  • If you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. 

There are many services and advanced recovery systems available for anyone detoxing from alcohol, but some can be pretty costly, and not everyone can afford a private medical detox, so, this is where an at home alcohol detox comes in.  

This refers to a medically supervised detox that is carried out at home, and includes all aspects of an outpatient treatment, although, in this case, you do not have to go to the hospital, but the doctors and nurses come to your home. 

Medically assisted alcohol home detox

This is the safest form of home detox, because as we have stated above, it is a form of advanced recovery systems that happens at home and includes the complete treatment of alcohol addiction. 

It is a supervised treatment option where the patient is carefully helped through detox and the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. 

Alcohol withdrawal process is one of the most dangerous parts of addiction treatment. This is because, it is accompanied by some serious symptoms that can be fatal.  

The most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal have got to be delirium tremens or DTs. We will discuss this below. 

How dangerous is alcohol home detox? 

Very. If done without the supervision of a medical professional, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that accompany detoxing are extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening.  

Quitting cold turkey can take a toll on your body, especially if you have had alcohol abuse for a long time.  

While it’s not everyone that goes through the severe alcohol symptoms, detoxing from alcohol is unpredictable, and you really do not know how your body will react to it. 

Professional help ensures that complications are addressed as soon as they arise, which saves lives.

The professionals are well trained to administer the right medication that will help ease these symptoms and make the process much safer. 

So, even after all of this, one of the reasons why most people struggling with alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence will choose an at home detox compared to an inpatient treatment is due to the financial costs. 

Inpatient treatments usually include access to prescription drugs, counselling, a healthy diet, and residential accommodations. These tend to be very expensive, and most people cannot afford.  

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What to expect from a home detox 

Now, it’s extremely important that we tell you what you should expect during the alcohol withdrawal treatment, and most especially what happens to your body when you stop drinking. 

Alcohol affects your body, and especially your nervous system which means that an abrupt detoxing from alcohol will have some effects. 

One of these effects is health problems which are characterized by the withdrawal symptoms you are likely to experience. 

You need to know that these are no walk in the park and trying to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms is never easy. They can involve an uncomfortable life for a few days.  

The best option for alcohol withdrawal would be to do it at an alcohol rehab centre, where you will have access to round the clock care in case of any of the following health complications.  

  • Headaches 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Shaking or tremors 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Fever 
  • Fatigue 
  • Sleep problems 
  • Mood swings 
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Difficulty thinking and making decisions 
  • Hallucinations or delirium tremens 
  • Seizures 

If you start detoxing at home and begin to experience any of these symptoms you will need to get help immediately. Delirium tremens alone is life threatening. 

What type of medications can be used during detox? 

Alcohol withdrawal is associated with the above physical symptoms and most doctors will prescribe medication such as: 

  • Benzodiazepines like lorazepam,  
  • Alprazolam, and  
  • Diazepam  

These are the most common drugs used in reducing the symptoms and making it easy to go through the rehab process.  

For people who have had alcohol abuse for a long time, the medical professionals will advise you to seek rehab treatment from a residential clinic so they can deal with any of these symptoms whenever they occur. 

The first steps for home alcohol detox

The first steps are extremely important, and they play a central role towards the success of home alcohol detox. You must make sure to prepare and complete the following tasks very well:  

Have a detox plan in place that's medically approved 

This is extremely important, because we have outlined above the main withdrawal symptoms you will experience while detoxing from alcohol at home.

The reason behind the symptoms is that your central nervous system is normally greatly affected by the prolonged use of alcohol and needs time to recover and get rid of the alcohol in your system. 

Choose a peaceful and safe place for the home detox 

Of course, you are doing the detox from alcohol at home, but if for example you live with children or elderly people, it would be best if you sought a different location for your detox. You could do it at a friend's or relative's home. 

Get rid of all alcoholic drinks

Well, it defeats the purpose of detox from alcohol if you keep the alcohol in your home while going through the process.

Get rid of all the alcohol in your home immediately, and if this is not a viable option, then you should consider inpatient treatment instead. 

Make a detailed plan to follow each day 

Don't just abstain from alcohol use, plan of achievement on a daily basis, so you can be able to check and assess your progress at the end of each day. 

Others include: 

  • Inform your family members and friends about what you are doing so you can count on their support. 
  • If you suffer from any severe withdrawal symptoms, then you should make arrangements to visit the hospital immediately. 
  • Ensure you have sufficient fluids in your home to prevent dehydration. 
  • Buy enough supplements and vitamins so your body is appropriately nourished during the process. 

How to safely detox at home 

Generally, detoxing at home is safe if it is done in a medically controlled environment and administered by as strong medical support.

The biggest risk however is in the withdrawal symptoms, but they can handle that with the medications we have outlined above. 

Make sure that you are not alone throughout the process. For your detox from alcohol to be successful, there must be a strong support system willing to sit with you through the hardest parts of it and to take you to the hospital with the symptoms of withdrawal become too much to handle. 

How long will the process take? 

Usually, this depends on the individual, although a complete alcohol detox takes at least seven days. The more serious cases may need more time. 

The time it takes for an alcohol at home detox is also reliant on many variables, and it may take more time when you are trying to avoid problems. 

Here's the complete timeline of symptoms and expectations: 

At six hours 

At this time, they kind of symptoms you should expect include nausea, headaches, tremors, and a dry mouth. 

Between 12 and 24 hours 

This includes some more severe withdrawal symptoms, and they will develop after the six hours have elapsed. They include tremors, vomiting, sweating, headache, and trouble focusing. 

These symptoms may intensify as you near the 24-hour mark before they subside a little. Some people will even report hallucinations at this stage although they will not last long. 

Day 1 and 2 

There will be minor withdrawal symptoms such as the ones listed above, and they are likely to progress further into other days after quitting alcohol. You will experience stomach problems, headache, and tremors. 

If you are experiencing minor alcohol withdrawal, then the symptoms will come into a climax at 24 hours then they will start diminishing. 

Day 2 and 3 

These days are filled with severe withdrawal from alcohol, and this is where doctors will keep a close eye on you for delirium tremens.

Other symptoms you will fine include - Hallucinations, high body temperature, seizures, confusion, and agitation. 

Day 3 and above 

This time comes with withdrawal symptoms that have reached their worst. They can last for up to four weeks after the patient's last drink.

They include high blood pressure, increase heart rate, changes in breathing, hallucinations, and seizures.  

Look out for seizures as they are the most serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms when going through detox from alcohol. But it is important to note that they only affect a small number of patients. 

Conclusion 

Alcohol withdrawal is a serious condition that requires a serious game plan. If you wish to succeed in detoxing and quitting, then you must follow the plan and listen to all advice given. 

The main risk is relapse, which, according to statistics happens more often than you can imagine. With adequate medical support however, it can be achieved, and sobriety sustained. 

Possible signs that could indicate relapse include what we call "Romancing the bottle," this is taking the alcoholic beverages frequently and hanging out with people who are still heavy drinkers.  

You must never miss your therapy sessions or AA meetings. this will be detrimental to your success, and in the end, you may end up in square one, where you start the whole process again. 

Detox is an integral part to the recovery process, and it is important for every addict to successfully go through it.

Recovery however is a whole other process, and one must be psychologically prepared after rehab to go through it. 

All the meetings should be attended, the tasks completed, and dedication showed. As we mentioned earlier, no rehab process, no matter how well planned it is can be successful if the addict is not committed to sobriety. 

Pay attention to the medical professionals and they will help you remain sober for a long time. All the best as you start this journey. 

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: November 3, 2021

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.