Sometimes called, “cold turkey”, detoxing from alcohol at home is something that many individuals struggling with alcoholism have attempted. Is it a good idea? The only answer to this question is, no, and here’s why.
The Danger of Detoxing from Alcohol at Home
Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances to detox from. For those experiencing the most serious symptom of withdrawal – the shaking, sweating, heart palpitations, hallucinations, and marked confusion of delirium tremens, or the DTs – the death rate has been estimated to be as high as 1 in 25.
Because of this risk, safe alcohol treatment begins with medical detox. But why? What really happens that’s so serious?
Alcohol is a depressant and it has an effect on your entire system, from blood sugar levels and heart rate to brain functioning. Since alcohol slows all bodily functions down, your body (which is always working to keep you alive and alert) overcompensates for this by sending chemicals to your central nervous system to try to keep you functioning properly. If you continue to use alcohol on a daily basis, your body adjusts to this and begins to rely on the alcohol as part of what it needs to survive. This state is called physical dependence, and with alcohol it becomes pretty complicated. That’s why many people addicted to alcohol will feel restless and shaky until they get that first drink to “calm their nerves” in the morning.
Once your body becomes dependent on a substance (even if the substance is unhealthy) your brain will actually send signals to your body causing you to crave the substance, because at this point your body has become used to this unhealthy adjustment and now needs the substance to operate normally.
When a person is detoxing from alcohol “cold turkey” there is risk of a rebound response from your central nervous system. This is known as delirium tremens, which can lead to grand mal seizures.
You might be saying to yourself, “But I’ve never had a seizure. This isn’t going to happen to me.”
While you may not be at risk of seizures, there are other withdrawal symptoms that make detoxing from alcohol a dangerous thing to attempt on your own. Alcohol treatment prevents the risks of withdrawal.
Medical Risks of Detoxing from Alcohol on Your Own
- Heart Failure
- Losing Consciousness
Within the first 48 hours of abstaining from alcohol, acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome can occur. The symptoms can be sudden and severe. There is a risk of losing consciousness or experiencing a seizure. You may hallucinate and there’s also a risk of heart failure. When you’re detoxing from alcohol at home, you don’t have access to medication necessary to prevent these things from happening, nor do you have the medical staff needed in an emergency.
The best and safest treatment for alcoholism begins with inpatient medical detox. The decision to stop drinking should lead to new life, not the risk of death.
Other Issues When Detoxing from Alcohol
There is also the matter of dual diagnosis. Often, there are underlying medical conditions playing a part that haven’t been diagnosed. Mental health disorders may be present. For those who might be self medicating depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, or schizophrenia, the sudden removal of alcohol can cause increased psychological distress, outbursts of anger, confusion, and even suicidal thoughts.
When alcohol treatment begins with inpatient detox, you will be assessed for any cooccurring disorders and your treatment plan will be tailored to include this diagnosis.
Do You Need Help? What Are the Signs of Alcoholism
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder-5 (DSM-5) lays out the 11 signs of alcoholism.
- You will drink longer or more than you intended to.
- Trying to cut down on alcohol use doesn’t work.
- You spend a lot of time getting alcohol, drinking, and recovering.
- You experience a strong craving to drink.
- Drinking causes you to fail at fulfilling responsibilities in all aspects of your life.
- You continue to drink despite the impact it’s having on your relationships.
- You give up or reduce activities due to the use of alcohol.
- You drink in situations that can be hazardous to you physically.
- You will continue to drink even though you’re aware of physical and psychological problems that came from alcohol use.
- You develop a tolerance where you need more alcohol to get the same intoxication effect.
- You experience withdrawal symptoms such as; anxiety, headache, nausea, sweating, vomiting, inability to sleep, and uncontrollable shaking in your hands.
If you can agree with even two of these symptoms within the last 12 months, you are considered to have an alcohol use disorder. Two or three symptoms indicates a mild disorder, five symptoms are moderate, and six or more puts you in the severe alcoholism category.
Denial is a common theme among individuals who recognize a problem but don’t want to face it. Often, it helps to reach out and talk to an addiction specialist, a pastor or a trusted friend about the possibility of drinking being a problem for you.
Treatment for Alcoholism
As we’ve stated, treatment for alcoholism will begin with safe medical detox. A long-lasting benzodiazepine like Ativan or Valium may administered through a tapering program. This can help control seizures, helps you relax, and allow you to sleep. Until the alcohol is out of your system it will be difficult to address the psychological reasons for your addiction. Once detox is complete, you can move on to get to the root cause of addiction through treatment.
At Gracious Care Recovery Solutions, we treat mind, body and spirit, providing a solid path of recovery. Your journey begins with safe, comfortable, medical detox and a treatment plan that is individually tailored to meet your unique needs. Your life has a purpose and alcohol addiction is not part of that plan. Call us today and start your journey to freedom:
Call Now 24/7 – 855-923-3733