A Guide to Detoxing from Alcohol & Drugs at Home
Should you or a loved one be considering a detox from drugs and alcohol at home, it is important to understand the risks and the steps you can take to manage your health and safety. We look at detoxing from drugs and alcohol, what your options are, withdrawal symptoms, and how to find the right kind of help for your unique needs.
What is a Home Detox?
A home detox involves quitting the use or ingestion of substances such as drugs and alcohol for a specific period while in a home environment (Drugabuse.com). Individuals will refrain from using any form of the drug or alcohol in an attempt to stop substance use and work towards recovery. A home detox can include monitoring from a local GP who can perform an individual assessment and advise on medical support to prevent severe withdrawal and health risks.
Before You Start a Home Detox
A detox from drugs and alcohol at home carries many risks. Although many believe that detox from substances such as alcohol is safe to perform at home, the severity of withdrawal can place one’s health at risk. Depending on the substance, withdrawal can occur within hours of stopping its use. Withdrawal symptoms can generally be tolerated in the beginning of detox but as it progress, symptoms become increasingly severe. In the case of alcohol addiction, a detox can lead to vomiting, nausea, tremors, and possible cardiac arrest (Alcohol and Drug Foundation).
The safest home detox is performed under the guidance and expertise of a medical GP. A GP will assist in overseeing the detox and advising on inpatient treatment or hospitalization should symptoms worsen and become life threatening. A GP can also advise on specific medications to ease the symptoms of withdrawal.
Speak to Your GP Regarding Prescription Medication
If you are considering a detox at home from prescription medication, it is best to consult with a GP prior to attempting any form of detox or the cessation of prescription meds. It can be dangerous to suddenly stop prescription medication. A GP can advise on a tapering period and will help you with withdrawal, signs of discomfort, and professional medical advice.
Detoxing from Alcohol at Home
Detoxing from alcohol at home carries significant health risks especially for those who have been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and for a long time. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can develop within hours of quitting. Symptoms of tremors, vomiting, and sweating can quickly become more severe and place your life at risk. If it is not your first time withdrawing from alcohol, your symptoms can be worse the second time around.
It is important to speak to your GP to determine the best care plan based on an individual evaluation. A second opinion from your GP can include recommendations for the NHS. A GP or clinician can advise on the level of alcohol dependence using screening tools for alcohol.
Along with the assessment for alcohol use, clients who are seniors, who are drinking alcohol with other drugs, and are considered in a high risk category are advised on inpatient or residential programs with the NHS (NHS Grampian). The NHS can help with a medically assisted detox in severe cases, but waiting times are to be expected.
When to Seek Medical Help
While the initial symptoms of detoxing from alcohol may be tolerable, a mild to severe alcohol dependence can cause difficult withdrawal if not medically assisted. Detoxing from drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opiates carry unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can be deadly to the individual. It can cause severe headaches, delirium tremens, and even seizures.
Delirium tremens is a neurological response that causes nervous system agitation. It is marked by the following symptoms and requires immediate medical attention (Medscape):
- Visual or auditory hallucinations
Alternatives to a Home Detox
Because of the potential severity of withdrawal and the life threatening risks when detoxing from alcohol and certain types of drugs, it is important to seek a medically-assisted detox as part of a residential or inpatient treatment program.
Residential programs provide round the clock medical monitoring. A doctor and medical staff will monitor your blood pressure, body temperature, and vitals to prevent any health risks during detoxification and withdrawal.
Residential treatment also makes it easier to transition from detox into a supported environment where intervention can begin.
Should you wish to proceed with an at home detox service, consider the assistance of a specialist doctor and nurse who will visit to perform a medical examination and determine your well-being throughout the process.
The examination includes the following:
- Checking vitals such as respiration
- Administering support drugs and sedatives to ease withdrawal and discomfort
- Supplements and nutritional advice
- The use of maintenance medication to decrease cravings.
This form of outpatient detoxification allows you to receive treatment and professional assistance without the cost of staying in a full-time residential rehab. Outpatient detox must be medically supervised by a GP and qualified staff whether you are at home or in a program to overcome alcohol and drug addiction.
The Importance of Addiction Treatment
If you are struggling with a long term addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, a home detox may simply not be enough to prevent long term relapse. To help you overcome substance abuse and addiction, seeking the appropriate treatment for your circumstances can make all the difference in your recovery.
Individuals have the option of an outpatient programme in which you can visit a therapist and attend day therapy or group meetings as with a 12 Steps programme (WebMD). A residential rehab requires a live-in treatment plan and can assist in overcoming the difficulties associated with addiction.
Fortunately, with options available, you can make an informed and a valuable decision concerning your health and your options for recovery.