If you drink excessively over a long period of time, you can develop an alcohol dependency. This happens because your system becomes used to the alcohol being present, and it adapts to that presence.
Because alcohol is a depressant, it generally suppresses activity in the central nervous system. Your own brain and body will produce more ‘alert’ chemicals to compensate. When the alcohol is suddenly removed, the other chemicals will still be produced, and your central nervous system can be overstimulated. This can result in a range of unpleasant and sometimes dangerous symptoms, commonly known as alcohol withdrawal.
Detoxification, or detox, is the process of ‘flushing’ alcohol from your system and dealing with these withdrawal symptoms.
Can You Detox from Alcohol at Home?
So can you detox at home? The quick answer is that you can – but that might not always be the best option, especially if you are a particularly heavy drinker.
The more you drink and the longer you have been drinking, the more likely you are to have developed a physical dependency on alcohol. Any withdrawal symptoms you experience may also be more severe the more you drink.
It is worth noting that different people can experience detox in different ways. Some relatively heavy drinkers might experience only minor discomfort and cravings during the detoxification process, while others might experience extremely serious symptoms that – at the furthest end of the scale – can even be life-threatening.
If you are a regular drinker who is considering a home alcohol detox, you should at least consider seeking medical advice beforehand.
Is a Home Alcohol Detox Safe?
Is alcohol detox at home safe? Again, for some people, it will be, but there is always a risk of experiencing more severe withdrawal symptoms that can be dangerous.
Continuing to drink heavily or leaving an alcohol addiction unchecked can be even more dangerous. Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill health and disability among 15-49-year-olds in the UK, and the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages. Alcohol is also a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including several types of cancer, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver and depression.2
Stopping drinking or reducing your intake is always the best option, but it is generally recommended that detox is done under medical supervision due to the potential for withdrawal symptoms.
Some common alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Hand tremors (‘the shakes’)
- Increased heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Depression and anxiety
- Irritability and mood swings
- Restlessness and insomnia
More severe withdrawal symptoms can include visual, auditory and tactile (sense of touch) hallucinations, severe disorientation and seizures. The most severe type of alcohol withdrawal is known as delirium tremens (‘the DTs). It is considered a medical emergency and can be life-threatening.
How Do You Detox From Alcohol?
If you have a drinking problem that you want to address, one of the first questions you might be asking yourself is ‘How do I detox from alcohol?’ The short answer is that you simply stop drinking, but there are some extra steps you can take to make the process safer and more likely to succeed.
If you drink a lot, you could try gradually reducing the amount of alcohol you consume before finally stopping. Make sure there is no alcohol in the home when you are ready to take that step and tell anyone you live with what you are planning, asking them not to give you alcohol either.
If you do live with other people, you should also ask them to keep an eye on you and to call for medical advice, especially if you appear extremely disoriented or experience tremors and seizures.
Alcohol Detox at Home vs Alcohol Detox in Rehab
One option you have is to undergo alcohol detox in a supervised setting such as a rehabilitation centre – commonly known as rehab. This allows you to go through the process under medical supervision – which can quickly ensure you have the proper care and make things safer if you do experience severe withdrawal symptoms. There may also be prescription medications available to help with some of the symptoms, where appropriate.
When undergoing alcohol detox at home, you will be under minimal supervision at best. You will be in familiar surroundings and may be surrounded by familiar people, but this is not always a good thing. The same triggers and temptations may be around, and some people are more likely to enable your drinking than help you to stop.
Even if you do not experience withdrawal symptoms that are considered dangerous, it is still likely to be unpleasant, and cravings can be difficult to deal with. You are much more likely to fall at this hurdle and seek out more alcohol to get rid of the cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you are trying to go through detox at home.
With residential alcohol rehab, you will be away from all those triggers and temptations. You will have no access to alcohol and will be surrounded by a team of experienced recovery professionals. A more comprehensive rehab programme will also take you past detox and address the root causes of your alcohol misuse and addiction through a range of therapies and other treatments. This makes you far less likely to relapse and start drinking again – making all the pain and effort of detoxification pointless.
Seek Support for Alcohol Detox with Our Help
Supervised detox is generally much safer than a home detox, while a full rehabilitation programme can give you the very best chance of making a complete and long-lasting recovery.
At Action Rehab, we work with a range of top rehab centres and are experts in matching people looking for help with the right facility and programme. Whether you are just looking for a safe place to go through an assisted detox or a more comprehensive rehabilitation programme, we can help you take the first steps towards recovery and a brighter, healthier life. Get in touch today for more information.