Alcohol detoxification is a big step towards getting sober. But suddenly stopping can be dangerous because of alcohol’s impact on the brain and body.
I would recommend professional support before you try to cut down your drinking. In situations where seeking guidance and professional help for sit-ins and sessions are costly, maybe because you are isolating, detoxing from alcohol at home can be suitable to cut treatment costs.
Indeed, there are many advantages of home alcohol detox. However, inpatient detoxification can never be entirely disregarded, as home detoxification is not a sustainable alternative for some patients. Examples are those with heavy alcohol dependency leading to extreme withdrawal symptoms and patients lacking a suitable home environment.
Read on to get the pros and cons of at-home detox.
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol misuse and is characterized by the drinker’s inability to manage the amounts and intervals at which alcohol is consumed. Alcoholism is a very detrimental habit and can have heavy effects on your body.
Alcohol use disorder, also called alcoholism, can be categorized in three ways, that is, mild, moderate, and severe. Observe whether your drinking pattern results in problems and a break in the normal functioning of your life.
If so, then you likely have alcohol use disorder. Even a mild disorder can quickly accelerate to a severe situation with binge drinking, and early treatment is important. Symptoms of alcohol use disorder may include:
- Falling short of major obligations in the workplace, school, and home because of repeated alcohol use.
- Developing tolerance to alcohol, often indicated by needing more of it to achieve similar effects
- There are multiple instances where unsafe activities have been performed under the influence, including driving, swimming, and restricted activities.
- Constant feeling of urge to drink
- Continued use of excessive amounts of alcohol even after knowing it poses a serious health danger to you.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, shivering, and sweating.
Health complications from alcohol abuse are far-ranging and many. Alcohol addiction is one of the few forms of addiction that may result in death or severe health challenges.
From a shrinking brain to heart damage, alcohol has both short-term and long-term effects, for example, an increased risk of throat, mouth, and liver cancers.
Alcohol’s impact on your body can be seen immediately when you take your first sip, and while an occasional glass of wine at dinner should not worry you, the compounded effects of drinking wine, beer, or spirits can take their toll. Alcoholism’s effects are also felt at a societal level.
What is alcohol detoxification?
Detoxification is usually a period in which the body naturally attempts to rid the system of waste products and toxins from excessive alcohol consumption. Heavy drinkers are more likely to experience negative side effects after and during detox, some of which are dangerous.
Biological changes that lead to higher alcohol tolerance create false homeostasis, and disrupting this false balance is a very delicate process.
The detoxification stage is the first step in the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Many withdrawal symptoms take two weeks, after which they typically subside. However, this process could take even longer, depending on the level of your AUD.
After this stage, you will focus on other areas of recovery like physical therapy and counseling. The detox stage can also include withdrawal symptoms. They vary in intensity from mild to severe.
Minor symptoms of detox include:
Serious health complications that occur during alcohol detox are:
- Extreme hallucinations
- Seizures (can be fatal if no one is around)
However, these cases rarely happen during detox.
Positives of detox at home
1. Reduced cost in the short and long term
- Home detox has been seen to attract young alcoholics aged 35 and below. A set of alcoholics normally would seek help or treatment otherwise at such an early stage. Because alcohol use disorder is treated at earlier stages, it requires less expenditure on your side. Early treatment prevents mild and moderate forms of alcoholism from escalating into severe, which would cost more to treat and rectify.
- Overhead clinical costs of being admitted to specialist clinics/units. Treatment facilities will cost quite a penny for services, hosting, and equipment. By detoxifying from home, you effectively have minimal to no financial obligations.
2. The COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has in many ways shaken our society. The health department has given many guidelines on social distancing and stay-at-home orders. It is understandable to detoxify from home in this trying time. COVID-19 is a dangerous respiratory disease that can easily spread and may even make the situation worse.
3. Safety limits
Within the home, environment detoxification can be done one step at a time. Take a pace with which you are comfortable. This is important as suddenly breaking the body’s routine has been seen to be dangerous. A solution for this is tapering, in which you slowly decrease your alcohol intake instead of stopping abruptly.
4. Familiar and comfortable environment.
There is no need to sever routine, social, and family ties, allowing a patient to detoxify in a familiar background and environment. One of the biggest advantages of home detox is that it does not entirely disrupt one’s daily schedule. Family and friends will also remain close, creating a strong support system needed for later stages of recovery.
5. Social stigma
Less stigmatization compared to in-patient care or being admitted to a specialist’s treatment facilities. Going to a special and dedicated treatment program almost always carries a lot of social stigma around it. How will family, friends, and society view me when I get admitted for treatment?
Instead of getting into an inpatient and medically supervised or outpatient (home detox) program for help, many will choose instead to continue their struggle alone. In the society we live in today, there are often many stigmas associated with addictions in general. When many people picture a person fighting addiction, they may not see it from a compassionate place.
An example is that all alcoholics are untrustworthy and not worth meaningful love and connection. As a result, people are less inclined to get the help they need because they feel ashamed publicly. A stigma can be viewed as a sign of disgrace that sets a person. In this case, alcoholics, apart from the rest of society.
6. Favorable to women and young alcoholics.
Home detox is a favorable proposition for marginal groups like young and female patients. It especially appears to favor and attract women who make up between one-quarter and one-third of all recoveries from home detoxification.
7. Early treatment of severe preventing server cases.
Home detoxification attracts problem drinkers to seek help way earlier than they would have otherwise signed on for help. Its low entry barriers enable you to start detox as soon as you decide to stop drinking. This is in comparison to medical attention and inpatient facilities, which will involve more planning and forethought.
Negatives of detox at home
1. An unstable environment may lead to a relapse.
Domestic tension and an unstable environment may lead to a relapse. If the home does not represent a safe and stable environment, it cannot be an ideal option. Alcoholics need strong foundations and relationships that are positive to help in recovery.
Tensions within family and friends can potentially disrupt the process of detoxification. Many might think that alcohol use disorder has only physical treatments. But it is also mental. You need a stable environment to thrive and make progress in detoxification.
2. Lack of professional care.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of detoxing from alcohol at home is the lack of immediate professional care in the case of a medical emergency. Extreme withdrawal symptoms might occur. Even mild and moderate levels of use disorder can result in a wide range of symptoms.
It is always advised to seek medical attention during alcohol detox to help control the side effects. Due to the intensity of certain withdrawal symptoms, alcohol detox should be monitored by a medical professional.
This is especially emphasized for people with previous and underlying conditions such as lung or heart diseases, which can quickly escalate. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, and as a safety, you should tell the people you live with to call an ambulance if you display:
- Become disoriented
- Experience extreme hallucinations
- Delirium tremens (in rare cases)
Lack of strong peer support, unlike inpatient treatment, expands the risk of relapse. Medically-Supervised Detox provides higher levels of care, treatment for painful withdrawal symptoms, and any medical conditions.
Medically-Supervised Detoxification treatment, also referred to as Inpatient Treatment, will mean that you will benefit from around-the-clock care by medical professionals. Inpatient treatment is highly recommended for severe alcohol abuse cases, in which patients will have consumed a high amount of alcohol during their addiction.
An added benefit is that if you need them, a doctor can write you a prescription for medication that will help you manage your withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol detox at home is suitable for patients whose addictions are not severe and who have not experienced excessive withdrawal symptoms. It consists of a familiar environment around the patient, which helps recovery and support.
Home detox also involves regularly visiting a clinical facility during detox; for most, outpatient detoxification will happen at home. During visits to treatment facilities, you may be prescribed medications that can help withdrawal symptoms.
Home is likely to be a suitable choice for those with moderate and mild usage such that they will not suffer extreme withdrawal, strong social support, and no other medical and psychiatric complications.