Last Updated: September 15, 2023
Article at a Glance:
- The most important step in detoxing from alcohol at home is to check with your doctor if it is safe.
- Home detox often involves tapering or gradually reducing how much alcohol you use.
- There are things you can do to help a home detox; however, it will never be as safe or comfortable as a medical detox.
- Those likely to have severe detox symptoms should never detox at home.
Alcohol detox and withdrawal are difficult and dangerous. If you or a loved one are attempting to detox at home, we have provided strategies to help you cope. However, please always consult trusted medical professionals before detoxing at home.
Detoxing from alcohol is the first step toward a life of sobriety, but many find it to be the most challenging part of the recovery journey. Detoxing from alcohol at home might be possible for people with mild symptoms. However, a medical detox is recommended for those with moderate to severe alcohol addiction.
Alcohol withdrawal can kill you. It is not recommended to detox from alcohol at home without proper medical supervision. Call (866) 432-0219 to find a medically supervised alcohol detox center in Columbus, Ohio.
How to Detox From Alcohol at Home
The first and most important step of at-home alcohol detox is to check in with your doctor and ensure it is safe. They can also provide you with medications that can help make the process easier.
If you detox from alcohol at home, several things can make the process safer and more successful. These include:
- Always have someone with you while detoxing.
- Clear your schedule for two weeks so you have time to detox correctly.
- Ensure there is no easily available alcohol in the home.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Eat healthy fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid people who could tempt you to drink.
- Try relaxing activities like yoga, exercise or meditation.
- Have an emergency medical plan if serious symptoms occur.
Tapering off Alcohol
Tapering off of alcohol involves slowly reducing the amount of alcohol use over time, eventually stopping entirely. However, tapering is not a medically recommended form of quitting alcohol because it is difficult. Alcohol addiction is characterized by an inability to control one’s drinking, and a taper requires strict control of how much alcohol is used. This makes it very difficult to taper yourself off of alcohol successfully.
For those who wish to taper off alcohol, there is very little research on how to do it because alcohol tapers are not recommended. One study suggested a 10-day schedule, but there is no accepted tapering schedule since self-tapering is less likely to work for alcohol detox.
Hydration and Nutrition
During withdrawal, dehydration is common. You are also more likely to neglect eating healthily due to the distraction of withdrawal symptoms. Staying hydrated, and eating healthy foods during detox, however, can improve your overall health and ability to cope with the strain that withdrawal places on your body. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary or processed foods is likely beneficial.
Herbs for Alcohol Detox
Some people use herbs and other alternative medicine-based treatments to help during alcohol detox. However, no herbs have been proven to support detox efforts, and you should check with your doctor before using herbs, as some can interfere with medicines you are taking or pre-existing medical problems.
Medication and Other Remedies
One of the problems with detoxing at home is that you can only access over-the-counter medications. Medicines such as Tylenol or ibuprofen may help with headaches. Other than over-the-counter painkillers, most other medications likely to help with at-home detox require a doctor’s prescription.
Busying Your Mind and Body
Staying busy can help distract you from the cravings and thoughts that make detox difficult. Keeping your mind and body busy can involve physical exercise, meditation, involving yourself in a hobby or activity or many other things. Keeping yourself distracted can help when trying to detox.
Dealing With Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms are difficult to deal with, creating discomfort and distress. Without medical help and support, those detoxing at home will have to find a way to push through them by themselves. Over-the-counter medicines, staying hydrated, eating well, keeping yourself distracted and exercising are all helpful; however, they don’t provide the same support as a medical detox. Ultimately, those detoxing at home will have to push through the difficulties of withdrawal themselves.
Risks and Complications of Alcohol Detox at Home
Detoxing at home might be difficult, but it also carries a high risk. Alcohol withdrawal is the most dangerous form of substance withdrawal, more dangerous than even heroin or cocaine withdrawal.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are caused by overexcitation of the nervous system. Symptom severity is primarily influenced by how heavily alcohol was used, but it can vary based on many factors. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:
- Mood swings
- Sweaty, clammy skin
- High blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weight loss
Alcohol Detox Timeline
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms will begin as soon as alcohol levels in the bloodstream drop below normal. While the alcohol detox timeline will differ for everyone, it will involve:
- Initial symptoms: The first symptoms can start as soon as six hours after the last drink. These symptoms can include headaches, tremors and stomach issues.
- Intensification: Withdrawal symptoms will gradually worsen until 48–72 hours after the last drink. New symptoms may begin, and existing symptoms will intensify.
- Peak: The peak is the worst part of the detox and when the most severe symptoms are likely to occur. The peak of withdrawal symptoms marks the end of the intensification phase and occurs about 48–72 hours after the last drink for most people.
- Improvement: Symptoms will improve following the peak, although they may improve more slowly than they intensified. They will normally resolve within 7–10 days after the last drink. However, it may take up to two weeks for some people.
Severe Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal is considered the most serious form of withdrawal because of its severe symptoms. Seizures are potentially dangerous, especially because vomiting is also common during withdrawal. This combination can lead to someone inhaling and choking on vomit during a seizure, potentially obstructing their airway and breathing ability.
The most dangerous complication of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens. This condition causes psychosis, a detachment from reality, often resulting in aggressive and dangerous behaviors. Delirium tremens can also cause seizures, heartbeat changes and an increased temperature, which can be dangerous.
Alcohol Withdrawal Fatalities
Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, especially when people with severe withdrawal go untreated. Those who develop delirium tremens are particularly at risk, with a fatality rate of 37% if it is not treated. Delirium tremens is still dangerous with treatment; however, the risk of death decreases to less than 5% with high-quality medical care.
Alternative Alcohol Detox Options
If someone with more than mild symptoms plans to detox at home, they should strongly consider alternative detox options. At-home detox will be much more uncomfortable, and they could be risking their lives. A medically-supervised detox is the only good option for those likely to experience more severe symptoms. Other detox options do not provide the same level of safety in the face of the high risks of alcohol detox.
Is It Safe To Withdraw From Alcohol at Home?
It can be safe to withdraw from alcohol at home in some cases. However, it is absolutely essential to speak with a doctor about your situation before you try this. Detoxing at home works best for people trying to quit alcohol for the first time and are likely only to have mild withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol can cause some of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms of any substance and can be fatal in some cases. For this reason, withdrawing from alcohol at home is highly discouraged for anyone who could experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms.
Medical Alcohol Detox
A medically supervised alcohol detox is the safest way to detox from alcohol. This method of detox involves monitoring and treatment provided by healthcare professionals. Medical detox allows complications and dangers to be quickly recognized and treated before they become a problem.
Medical alcohol detox is not only the safest way to detox but also the most comfortable. Withdrawal symptoms can be very unpleasant, and a medical detox can enable quick treatment using effective IV medications that cannot be used at home. This provides comfort and reduces the worst alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
How To Find a Detox Program
Finding a local medical detox facility can seem daunting, but considering these factors can help you locate the best medical alcohol detox facility in your area:
- Quality: Checking reviews, accreditations, size and reputation can give you insight into a facility’s quality.
- Capability: Not all medical detox centers provide the same level of treatment, so you will want to ensure that your medical detox facility can give you the care you require.
- Post-detox care: Medical detox only helps if you can maintain your sobriety afterward. Finding a facility with good follow-up care is essential for effective recovery.
- Cost: Paying for medical detox is an important consideration. You will want to check with your insurance provider and the medical detox facility to learn more about potential costs.
If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol misuse, The Recovery Village Columbus can help put you on the path to a better, alcohol-free life. Our facility provides around-the-clock medical care as you are gently weaned from alcohol. We also offer a full continuum of treatment options, including inpatient and outpatient rehab, to help keep you sober. Contact our Recovery Advocates today to learn more about how we can help get you started on the path to recovery.
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