Can You Detox at Home Without Treatment? | What Are the Dangers?

Current global affairs have worsened the prevalence of drug and alcohol addiction. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released preliminary data which highlighted drug overdose deaths in the previous year. It was widely believed in the medical community the figures would be higher than usual because of prolonged lockdowns and hard closures of things like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but no one could have predicted the sheer volume of overdose deaths. 

Provisional data released by the organization found that drug overdose deaths rose by a staggering 30 percent from 2019 to 2020. An estimated 72,151 people died of a drug overdose death in 2019, with an estimated 70 percent of those deaths attributed to opioids, which is a substantial number. However, in 2020, the CDC estimates 93,331 drug overdose deaths took place, a 29.4 percent increase from the year before. It’s beyond comprehension how it could drastically increase this much in a short period, especially with the resources our government has put into slowing this from happening. 

Across the board, drug use is skyrocketing. Whether it be opioids or cocaine, the statistics back up this increase. In 2020, overdose deaths from fentanyl, methamphetamine, and even cocaine were up significantly from the year before. As drug use continues to rise, ways to battle it are also becoming more mainstream. When you become addicted to drugs, it’s never something you want. The stress of trying to rationalize stealing, avoiding getting sick, and then getting more drugs becomes a cycle that’s too much. 

Unfortunately, it has led to many people trying to stop by themselves. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step. But the most important step is following through and getting help. You can admit you’re an addict until you’re blue in the face, but until you make the decision to change it, everything will stay the same. If you’re in this position, the safest and most practical option is to seek professional addiction treatment. For those who want to get sober, there could be barriers to getting help, so they opt for detoxing at home, but are there dangers associated?

The Odds of Relapse Are High

dangers of at home detox

Relapse is the biggest threat to those who get sober. Even for a person who attends formal addiction treatment, the danger of relapse is still serious. Sobriety is a journey that requires lifelong care to manage. The relapse rates for drugs and alcohol are about what you’d expect from other chronic diseases, such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes. Unfortunately, it can be as high as 60 percent for all drugs a person can become addicted to using. One such reason is withdrawal symptoms, which appear in a variety of physical and psychological ways. The most common is an overwhelming urge to use more of the drug. 

With relapse rates so high, it might seem like an obvious choice to attend an addiction treatment program. However, many opt to detox at home, which poses many threats. First, withdrawal from several drugs, including alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates, can be fatal without the proper help. Second, if you can get through the dangerous symptoms without harming yourself, you’ll be so overwhelmed by how you feel that you’ll have no reason not to give in and get high. At this stage, your brain is trained to seek drugs, especially when you know it’s the only option to make you feel better.

Another issue is that after a few days of sobriety, your tolerance drops dramatically. When you have no one to hold you accountable for your actions, you could go out to purchase drugs, which could end up being a fatal decision. This is especially if you take the same dose your body was accustomed to using before you stopped. For this reason, detoxing at home can be extremely dangerous. By seeking professional medical detox, you can mitigate the dangers associated with drug or alcohol withdrawal, and you’ll have structure and accountability for when everything gets overwhelming. 

Psychological Distress

Stimulant drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, or prescription stimulants like Adderall can cause severe psychological withdrawal symptoms. Although they’re not considered dangerous like the depressants mentioned above, they can lead to suicidal thoughts, which a person could act upon and harm themselves. 

Stimulant drugs flood the brain with dopamine, leading to feelings of excitement, power, and a shot of energy. This leaves a person ready to get up and go. Dopamine is responsible for psychological functions like motivation and pleasure, so our natural response to withdrawal will also be psychological. By foregoing this process alone, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Detox at home can be dangerous, especially if you’re battling suicidal thoughts alone. Surrounding yourself with medical professionals will mitigate any dangers and give you full access to medication that relieves the worst withdrawal symptoms

Symptoms of stimulant withdrawal include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Nightmares and severe sleep disturbances
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Lethargy
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Severe anxiety
  • Inability to feel pleasure

 

Prolonged methamphetamine use can damage dopamine receptors, meaning it could take several months or even years to heal. For this reason, an individual may not feel normal for years after stopping stimulant use. By doing this alone, you’re setting yourself up for failure. 

Detoxing at home doesn’t give you the same access to therapy, which helps you get to the core of your addiction. Therapy will also provide you with the tools to come to terms with how you feel and that you’ll eventually get better. Without it, you’ll likely relapse or give in to your suicidal thoughts. 

If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please reach out for help to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. If this is an emergency that requires immediate attention, please call 911.

Signs and Symptoms of Potentially Dangerous Withdrawal

As mentioned above, some drugs will pose more immediate dangers during withdrawal than others. For example, opioid withdrawal is among the most uncomfortable to overcome, but the odds of succumbing to your symptoms and losing your life are much lower than alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal. With that said, it doesn’t mean your risk of zero; you should always seek immediate medical care for your safety. Not to mention, clinicians at professional treatment facilities can provide medication that makes your symptoms much more tolerable. 

If you’re concerned about the potential of dangerous withdrawal during home detox, there are some signs you or someone taking care of you should look out for. By paying attention and knowing the symptoms, it may save your life. If you or someone you’re watching has decided to detox at home, make sure to call a doctor if you witness the following symptoms:

  • Extreme depression (Talking about suicide is a red flag.)
  • Shakiness
  • Tremors
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Confusion 
  • Suicidal actions
  • Panic
  • Dysphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

 

Seizures and delirium tremens (DTs) are extremely dangerous. If the individual is talking about suicide or acting unusual, you must reach out for help. If you believe it’s a medical emergency, drop everything and call 911. 

What Makes Medical Detox Safer Than Home Detox?

By now, we hope you understand the importance of medical detox and why you should not do this without help. Sometimes, it might be something as simple as you’re afraid of what others will think, so you attempt to do it alone. Imagine if something serious happened and you ended up in the hospital, or worse, lost your life. What you should know is that no one who cares about you will ever look down on you for admitting you need help. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can be on the path toward recovery.

When you’re checked in to medical detox and the clinicians have done a thorough assessment, they’ll immediately administer medications that alleviate your withdrawal symptoms. There is nothing you can take over-the-counter that will treat how you feel like the medicine they have to offer. When you have the urge to use drugs, which will happen, you’ll have a team of empathetic staff members who will hold you accountable and talk sense into you. 

While detox can be helpful, in some cases, medical detox is your best bet if you’re ready to get sober. 

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