Not everybody chooses to attend rehab to get sober and beat their alcohol addiction – some people prefer to detox from alcohol at home.
But what is different about detoxing at home? Is it easier to detox from alcohol in a residential rehab facility or at home? And what should I expect from detoxing at home?
That’s what we’re going to explore on this page. Read on to learn all about the alcohol withdrawal process, including how long it takes and what withdrawal symptoms to expect. We’ll also be exploring the differences between detoxing at home and medical detoxes.
If you have a form of alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder (alcohol abuse/ alcohol dependence) then you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol or drastically lower the number of units you usually drink. This is almost always the case when you have physical alcohol dependence.
The main reason that you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking is because of the way alcohol affects the chemicals in your brain.
When you drink, alcohol increases the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA – as well as decreases glutamate levels. This can make you feel calmer and more relaxed.
When you drink more often and for longer periods, your body gets used to these changes – meaning your body will produce less GABA and more glutamate to make up for these changes.
However, when your drinking habits change and you stop drinking, your body continues to produce more glutamate and less GABA, which can lead to you experiencing uncomfortable symptoms.
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The length of time it takes to withdraw from alcohol varies from person to person – it may take you much longer than it takes somebody else in a similar situation.
Many factors can impact the length of time it takes you to withdraw from alcohol. For example, the length of time you’ve been drinking alcohol, or your addiction history. Likewise, your genetic profile can impact your withdrawal, as can your age, height, and weight.
If your alcohol addiction is mild, then the withdrawal process will likely be much shorter than if you had a severe alcohol addiction. Likewise, the symptoms are usually milder with mild addictions, and more severe with severe addictions.
The same applies to when you start to feel withdrawal symptoms. If you have a severe dependence, then you may begin to experience alcohol withdrawal as soon as a few hours after your last drink. However, most people will go through alcohol withdrawal a day or two after stopping drinking.
Symptoms of withdrawal typically peak around the third day – however, you may experience milder symptoms for a longer period of time.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant and uncomfortable – you may experience a range of psychological withdrawal symptoms and physical withdrawal symptoms.
Some psychological or behavioural withdrawal symptoms you may experience include:
Some physical withdrawal symptoms include:
Although most withdrawal symptoms are manageable, some can be especially unpleasant. Read on to learn about some of the potential complications that can occur during alcohol withdrawal.
The more severe your addiction, the more likely you are to experience complications such as severe withdrawal symptoms – or delirium tremens.
Delirium tremens can be a life-threatening condition and should be considered a medical emergency. Delirium tremens is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, characterised by hyperactivity and an altered mental state (autonomic hyperactivity and global confusion).
Some symptoms of DTs include auditory hallucinations and visual hallucinations, hypertension, whole-body tremors, and vomiting.
If not managed correctly, delirium tremens can be fatal – which is why you should seek medical attention immediately if you think you are displaying signs of it. That being said, delirium tremens is rare.
Being on certain medications or having existing medical conditions can also cause complications during alcohol withdrawal, so it’s important that you speak to a professional before detoxing from alcohol.
Before stopping drinking alcohol, it’s important that you’re fully informed about what an alcohol detox entails. Alcohol detox is when you stop drinking alcohol to free your body from the substance. This means that you’ll have no access to alcohol for your body to flush the alcohol out of your system.
Detoxing ‘cold turkey’ is when you suddenly stop drinking without giving your body time to adjust to the lack of alcohol. This can be dangerous if you have a severe alcohol dependence, or if you regularly abuse alcohol/ binge drink.
There are two main forms of alcohol detox – inpatient detoxification and outpatient detoxification. During inpatient detox, you’ll reside in a residential facility, whereas during an outpatient detox, you’ll detox from home but regularly attend sessions at a detox clinic.
The amount of time it takes to fully detox from alcohol can vary from person to person – for some people, it can be over within a week – but for others, it can take a few weeks to detox from alcohol.
Typically, the more severe the addiction or the longer you’ve been addicted to alcohol, the longer it will take to detox from alcohol.
Detoxification aims at overcoming physical addiction – detox alone doesn’t deal with the social, psychological, and behavioural aspects of addiction. This is why most people choose to detox as part of a larger alcohol addiction treatment plan.
After you have completed the detoxification process, you may wish to receive alcohol addiction therapy, which can help you to gain a further understanding of yourself and your addiction, including the root causes and your addiction triggers.
Some forms of therapy commonly offered in alcohol rehab include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), interpersonal therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and one-to-one counselling.
However, private rehab centres may have more therapy treatment options – including holistic therapies.
One size does not fit all when it comes to detoxing from alcohol, and what works for you may not work for somebody else.
Some people benefit more from detoxing at home, whereas others are best detoxing in a medical facility or residential rehab centre. Read on to learn more about detoxing at home, and medical detoxes.
Unfortunately, detoxing can be a dangerous process, whether it be from hard drugs such as cocaine or heroin, or from substances such as alcohol.
This means that there is plenty to consider when completing an at-home alcohol detox/ alcohol home detox.
First of all, it’s important that you have a good support system around you. Detoxing from alcohol can take its toll on you not only physically, but mentally – so Having both physical and emotional support is essential when you’re undergoing alcohol detox.
There are potentially life-threatening risks associated with detoxing from alcohol – and these risks are increased when you’re doing it alone. Withdrawal symptoms can not only be unpleasant but in some cases, dangerous.
For example, you may experience delirium tremens or severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures. Quitting alcohol suddenly can even lead to heart failure, which can be fatal. However, this is a rare occasion.
Without the right medication, the process can be much harder. Medications such as Acamprosate and Disulfiram can not only help to manage unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal but can help to stop the compulsion to drink alcohol.
Detoxing at home can also be more dangerous if you’re dependent on other substances – whether it be heroin, cocaine, or prescription medications. This can make withdrawal symptoms more severe and unpredictable.
The discomfort and pain that can be caused by withdrawal symptoms can lead to you turning to alcohol to relieve the pain.
At home, you may have more access to alcohol and be more tempted to drink. However, if you choose to undergo alcohol detox in a residential rehab centre or a medical environment, all access to alcohol will be removed.
Outpatient treatment involves you attending a treatment facility regularly throughout your detox, but completing the majority of the detox at home. You can still be prescribed medication and have medical assistance where needed, but instead of living in a residential facility, you’ll reside at home.
If you are severely dependent on alcohol, or regularly drink excessive amounts of alcohol, detoxing at home may be more dangerous – and you should consider detoxing in a medical facility or residential rehabilitation clinic. Read on to learn more about what a medical detox entails.
Many people prefer to undergo a medically monitored detox as it is considered a safer option, especially for people that have severe alcohol dependence.
As well as medical assistance, during detox in a medical environment, you’ll have access to medical stabilisation such as medication in a safe and structured environment. If you experience dangerous complications, then you’re in the right place to receive quick and appropriate care.
Medical detoxes are often part of a larger treatment plan. Once you complete a medically monitored detox in a rehab facility, you’ll likely have access to therapeutic intervention and secondary treatment.
Secondary treatment aims at relapse prevention, providing you with ongoing support throughout your alcohol recovery journey. Some other forms of aftercare include support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as group therapy.
Choosing to detox in an inpatient treatment centre means that you’ll benefit from round-the-clock care, as well as peer support. Recovery can be lonely, and you can benefit from having other people around you who are going through the same thing as you are.
Likewise, doctors and licensed medical professionals will be on hand to prescribe medications where needed and can respond quickly in the case of a medical emergency.
However, medical detoxes can involve long waiting lists if you choose to go through the NHS – and may not be an affordable option for many people wishing to undergo alcohol detox.
This is one of the reasons that some people choose to detox from alcohol at home, or use an outpatient detox. Read on to learn how you can detox from alcohol at home safely.
Detoxing from alcohol isn’t easy at the best of times, and you may be presented with additional challenges when you choose to detox from home – which is why many people prefer to detox in a medical environment such as a rehab clinic.
Read on for some of our top tips on how to safely detox from alcohol at home, from checking whether you’re eligible for an at-home detox kit to take it at your own pace.
At Help4Addiction, we can provide you with an at-home detox kit – however, there are certain eligibility criteria that you need to meet first to ensure that it’s safe for you. You can find out your eligibility to detox using a Help4Addiction at-home detox kit by filling out this questionnaire.
If you’ve been a heavy drinker for a long time, then you’ll likely experience more severe withdrawal symptoms – and a medical detox would be the best option for you.
Likewise, if you regularly abuse alcohol or binge drink, then you won’t be eligible for an at-home medically assisted detox from Help4Addiction.
Certain health problems such as heart conditions, epilepsy, and high blood pressure can increase the risk level of detox, which can make the process more difficult and lead to medical complications.
If you are unsure whether you have a health condition that could impact the severity of your alcohol withdrawal, get professional medical advice or chat with our team at Help4Addiction.
Certain mental health conditions such as severe depression, anxiety, or bipolar, as well as mental impairments, can make you ineligible to detox from home.
Alcohol withdrawal can worsen an existing mental health disorder, so it’s best to undergo alcohol detox in a medical facility or rehab centre. The same applies if you have a dual diagnosis.
Before detoxing from alcohol at home, check whether anti-addiction medications will conflict with any of your current prescription medications. If you’re unsure, answer our questionnaire – or contact us today.
If none of the above applies to you, then chances are, you should be okay to detox from alcohol at home – and use our at-home detoxification kit.
During a home alcohol detox, it’s important to know your limits and take it slowly. Especially if you’re not receiving medical help, begin by slowly cutting down the amount of alcohol you drink.
The alcohol recovery process isn’t always fast, and it can take time to stabilise, reduce, and eventually stop your drinking.
If you’re detoxing alone, begin by reducing your alcohol intake by around 10% per day. If you stop too quickly, you could experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms. If you’re used to drinking 25 units per day, lower the number of units you drink to around 22 units per day.
Once your body gets used to these changes, lower your drinking intake by another 10% – and repeat the process every few days.
However, if you experience unpleasant or particularly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, this could be an indication that you’re cutting down too quickly, and you should stabilise your intake again by not cutting down for another week or so. Instead, you could try lowering the number of units you drink by 5-7% instead of 10% per week.
However, if you drink fewer than 10 units per day, you could try to stop drinking completely, as the withdrawal symptoms may not be as severe.
If, during your alcohol detox, you find yourself struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Some people benefit more from detoxing in a residential rehab facility as part of a larger treatment program.
At Help4Addiction, we are in contact with rehab facilities all over England and Wales – and can discuss your treatment options with you to ensure you get the support you deserve.
If you’re experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms, contact a medical professional/ healthcare professional as soon as possible. If you believe that the symptoms you are experiencing are life-threatening, call for immediate medical attention, as you’ll likely require hospitalisation.
Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.
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