Alcohol detox can sometimes be done at home if the person has only mild withdrawal symptoms and has not been abusing alcohol for a long time. However, alcohol detox can be very dangerous as well. If you experience confusion, shaking, tremors or hallucinations when you try alcohol detox, you should seek medically supervised detox.
Alcohol detox at home should be done by slowly reducing the consumption of alcohol. If you cautiously taper down your alcohol use, you may be able to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms. The only downside to this is that it will take longer, and it might be harder to stick to it. It’s also important to remember that detox doesn’t treat addiction. Even if you go through medical detox, the desire to drink again is likely to come back without addiction therapy.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
During detox, you’ll generally have alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol is considered a depressant. It causes chemical changes to the brain by increasing the production of serotonin and norepinephrine. If you drink alcohol heavily and then stop, it will take your body and brain time to go back to the previous level of chemicals. During this time of detox, many elements of your body are out of balance. This is when you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable. In some cases, they can be life-threatening.
Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal
If you’re considering alcohol detox at home, then it’s important to know the stages of withdrawing from alcohol. The difficulty of detox depends highly on how severe the alcohol abuse. Seizures and hallucinations happen in the most severe cases of alcohol withdrawal.
Stage One Detox
This stage of alcohol detox happens in the first six to 12 hours of discontinuing drinking. You’re likely to experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, tremors and anxiety.
Stage Two Detox
More severe symptoms of alcohol detox begin to show up within 24 hours of discontinuing drinking. These might include palpitations, high body temperature and excessive sweating.
Stage Three Detox
This stage of detox is when you might see the most serious symptoms. It happens within 48 hours of discontinuing drinking. Symptoms may include seizures, hallucinations and delirium tremens.
Can You Do Alcohol Detox Alone?
It’s fairly common for people to want to detox from alcohol at home. It can be done, but the person must remain alert and aware of potentially dangerous symptoms from detox. Specifically, you must be ready to call emergency services if you have any stage three symptoms. However, there are some dangers of trying alcohol detox alone. Withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, and some people won’t be able to withstand them while avoiding alcohol. There are also significant dangers to doing alcohol detox alone. For example, you might not be mentally aware enough to call for help if you’re having seizures or hallucinations. It’s also possible to mistake serious symptoms for the less serious ones and avoid getting help.
Ways To Detox Safely
If you’re trying to detox from alcohol on your own while also attending addiction therapy, your efforts might be more successful. This is especially true if your alcohol use disorder is not as severe. The key is to gradually reduce your consumption of alcohol rather than stopping all at once. Alcohol has a strong depressive effect on the brain. The brain compensates by becoming hyperactive. When you suddenly stop drinking, the brain continues being hyperactive, but the effects are no longer being suppressed. This can result in delirium tremens, which is a severe symptom of detox that includes tremors and hallucinations. Seizures are also common detox symptoms of severe alcohol use disorder. Both symptoms can be life-threatening.
How To Taper Drinking In Detox
If you decide to detox alone, the first thing to do is figure out how much you generally drink and slowly reduce from there. You should plan for it to take about three to seven days depending on your usual amount of drinking. Many detox experts recommend using beer to taper versus liquor or wine due to the lower alcohol content by volume. Reduce the amount you drink every day until you reach little to none. If you experience withdrawal symptoms, increase your consumption until they stop. If you can’t reduce the amount you drink, i.e. your drinking sessions always get out of control, then it’s likely you suffer from alcoholism and will need professional detox treatment.
It’s important to be flexible with your tapering schedule and adjust as necessary for withdrawal symptoms.
Doctor Howard Samuels is an addiction Therapist in Los Angeles who specializes in treating substance use disorders, including alcoholism. Whether you’re working on getting sober on your own or with a treatment center, ongoing therapy for addiction can help. Get in touch with Doctor Samuels today for more information.