It’s wonderful when those with an addiction to alcohol realize the need to stop drinking and live a sober life. But it’s critical to point out the dangers of alcohol detox at home alone without medical supervision.
There’s no doubt that addiction to drugs and alcohol brings with it an emotional storage room packed from the floor to the ceiling with guilt, remorse and shame.
This is in part due to the effects substance abuse has on the brain’s chemical makeup, which often increases the symptoms of depression.
Another factor, sadly, is public perception, and the way society views people battling addiction as being weak or lacking morals, despite numerous studies proving addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes, cancer or Crohn’s.
These issues, among others, such as not having health insurance or access to medical treatment are why some individuals make the dangerous, occasionally fatal, attempt to stop drinking cold turkey and detox from alcohol at home, by themselves.
“While you’re withdrawing from other drugs,” Cyndie Dunkerson told NBC News, “you may want to do die, but alcohol detox is the only actual drug detox you can die from.”
Dunkerson, a supervisor at a drug and alcohol detox and rehab center in San Juan Capistrano, California, added, “The body just can’t handle getting off [alcohol] that well.”
It should be noted that trying to detox alone at home from benzodiazepines can also have fatal consequences, like alcohol. In contrast to alcohol though, many people take benzos under a doctor’s care and they usually taper off, per their physician’s instructions instead of trying to do it alone to minimize the risks.
Why is Alcohol Detox at Home Dangerous?
Alcohol withdrawal, according to Alcohol Health and Research World, affects chronic drinkers who decide to decrease their alcohol intake or stop altogether. The body’s central nervous system adapts and compensates for the depressive effect constant alcohol consumption has on the brain.
Going “cold turkey” throws the central nervous system into a state of shock that brings on alcohol withdrawal.
The symptoms of alcohol detox will vary from person to person, depending on their normal alcohol intake, the length of time they have been drinking regularly, and at what intensity alcohol dependency has been a part of their life.
The mild effects of detox, such as insomnia or depression, can present as quickly as two hours after an individual’s last drink. Left untreated, however, the symptoms can quickly escalate.
When detoxing from alcohol at home and alone, the withdrawal symptoms can become excessive and cause seizures or heart problems that become fatal.
It’s crucial that detox from alcohol be supervised by a medical professional to monitor vital signs and take appropriate action if necessary.
Side Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal and Detox
Some of the painful side effects of alcohol detox or withdrawal can include the following:
- Anxiety or agitation
- Irritability and other mood swings
- Hyper-excitability or sensory overload
- Hand tremors
- Loss of appetite, digestive distress
- Excessive sweating
- Heart palpitations
Detoxing from heavy, long-term drinking raises the stakes and should never be done at home or without medical supervision.
These symptoms can arrive two to three days after a person’s last drink and lead to Delirium Tremens (DTs), which may include the following:
- General confusion about surroundings
- Body tremors
- Sensitivity to light
- Abnormally rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Profuse sweating and agitation
Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal Can Be Fatal
It’s estimated that 5 to 15 percent of people who experience delirium tremens from alcohol withdrawal each year do not survive. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a high profile death to remind people about the dangers of alcohol withdrawal and, most especially, detoxing at home.
In 2017, 39-year-old actor Nelsan Ellis, most famous for his work on HBO’s vampire series “True Blood,” attempted a home detox. His struggle with alcoholism lasted over the course of many years and he’d decided to withdrawal on his own, which resulted in him being rushed to the hospital where ultimately died of heart failure.
“During his withdrawal from alcohol,” Ellis’s father told the Hollywood Reporter…
“he had a blood infection, his kidneys shutdown, his liver was swollen, his blood pressure plummeted, and his dear sweet heart raced out of control.”
Alcohol and drug addiction is a chronic disease, not a moral failing. For those struggling with it, the physical and mental symptoms are very real.
There is no shame in asking for help, getting treatment and returning to a fulfilling, and healthy life.
It can’t be stressed enough that detox from alcohol should never occur at home because of the dangers it presents. There are a wide range of drug & alcohol rehab treatment centers in the U.S. that offer a safe detox from alcohol that is monitored by medical professionals who understand the proper way to accommodate withdrawal symptoms.
Despite what others have said about doing it at home, every person is different and it’s not worth taking a chance without medical supervision.