Detoxing from Drugs or Alcohol at Home – is it Safe?

A common theme with people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol is an unwillingness or inability to seek help for their problems. Addicts learn very quickly to hide their substance abuse using various means, including by shutting themselves off from people who would otherwise try to help them. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many people suffering from addiction attempt to detox on their own. However, Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is a serious set of symptoms that can be uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes – deadly. For this reason it is absolutely imperative that people addicted to certain substances seek out professional medical help in order to detox.

ALCOHOL: Alcohol is not only one of the most dangerous substances to detox from; it is also one of the most common. According to the Association of American Family Physicians; “It is estimated that only 10 to 20 percent of patients undergoing alcohol withdrawal are treated as inpatients, so it is possible that as many as 2 million Americans may experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal conditions each year.” (1) This is an especially disturbing figure considering that many of these individuals suffer through withdrawal symptoms without any type of treatment. Accordingly, many are not successful in this endeavor.

Alcohol detox must occur in a medical setting. Severe symptoms of Acute Withdrawal Syndrome set in within 12 -36 hours of the last drink and can continue for up to ten days or even longer. Some symptoms are considered minor to moderate and include vomiting, vertigo, sweating, fever, and elevated heart rate. Other more serious and potentially life-threatening symptoms include extremely high blood pressure and grand mal seizures, among others.

BENZODIAZEPINES: Often used to treat the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol detox, the process is somewhat more complicated when the individual is addicted to this class of drugs, which includes Valium and Xanax. states that the following are some of just many symptoms that may occur while withdrawing from such substances: migraine, rage and hostility, panic and anxiety attacks, respiratory difficulties, rapid weight loss, insomnia and sleeping disorders, seizures and suicidal thoughts. (2)

OPIATES: Withdrawing from opiates is not as dangerous as withdrawing from alcohol or benzodiazepines, but symptoms begin much more rapidly and are nonetheless quite unpleasant and often painful. These symptoms include agitation, anxiety, muscle aches, insomnia, sweating, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. (3)

Acute Withdrawal Syndrome experienced while detoxing from other drugs like cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy have similar but less severe symptoms than those listed above. And while withdrawing from some drugs may be possible at home, the risk of complications –even minor ones – dictate that detox should always occur in a professional facility. This is especially important considering that Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome– which occurs immediately after initial withdrawal, can cause a person to relapse in an effort to seek relief. This means that seeking the help of an inpatient treatment center or outpatient treatment facility is critical in order to be successful. If you want to stop using right now, simply call the number at the top of your screen for help. We’re here 24 hours per day to confidentially help guide you in the right direction. You have nothing to lose except your addiction, and you have your entire life to gain.

(1) Association of American Family Physicians Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome March, 2004

About The Contributor
Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More