Many people who want to stop using drugs think they can handle detoxing at home. It may seem like a convenient and comfortable way to deal with withdrawal symptoms. Privacy is often a consideration when wanting to detox at home. Wouldn’t you rather be in your own bed and have your own bathroom to use than that of a sterile detox center? Seems like a good choice, doesn’t it?

What happens when your withdrawal symptoms become too much for you or those helping care for you to tackle? Will you have the psychological support you will need to not use the drug again when withdrawal becomes too much to withstand?

First, let’s review what withdrawal is.


What Is Withdrawal?

What Is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is a group of physical and mental effects that you experience after stopping or significantly reducing the use of prescription or illicit drugs. Drugs with a strong potential for dependencies, such as stimulants and benzodiazepines, can produce intense withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are the physical and mental symptoms you feel as your body goes through the process of eliminating the substance(s) from it. How intense and how long you experience withdrawal symptoms depends on your physicality, what drug you used, how much of the drug is abused, and for the duration of time in which you took it.

What Are Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms?

Drug withdrawal produces symptoms that are fairly common. It is good to know these before you consider at-home drug detox. They are:

  • Changes in mood
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shakiness
  • Tremors

The more severe withdrawal symptoms can occur when detoxing from some types of drugs. Those symptoms are:

  • Seizures
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations

If any one of those severe symptoms happens, emergency medical assistance is critical because the person experiencing them could lose their life if the symptom(s) is not treated immediately.

Detox withdrawal symptoms can last from about five days to two weeks.

What Causes Withdrawal?

Your body and brain work together to maintain a state of balance called homeostasis. When you take drugs, they change that balance. Withdrawal occurs when your body takes steps to readjust, which includes changing certain neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Drugs act on the brain’s reward system that triggers the release of those chemicals.

When you take drugs for some time, your body becomes tolerant of them. That means you will feel like you need to take more of the drug to feel the same effects as the first time you took it. When you reduce the amount taken or stop taking it altogether and feel withdrawal symptoms, your body has become chemically dependent on the drug or drugs.

Drugs with Dangerous Detox Symptoms

Drugs with Dangerous Detox Symptoms

Some drugs that can be misused or abused have detox symptoms that can possibly be life-threatening if not immediately treated by medical professionals and addiction specialists. If you have been using any of these drugs and want to detox at home, you are putting yourself in a dangerous situation.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is another possibility if you have been abusing these drugs for an extended time. Medical News Today writes that 40% of people who take benzos for more than six months experienced moderate-to-severe withdrawal symptoms. If this is you, it is possible you will experience the following symptoms:

  • Disassociation
  • Heart palpitations
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Mania
  • Memory Loss
  • Catatonia
  • Abnormal sensations, like feeling as if bugs are crawling on you
  • Hyperventilation
  • Panic attacks
  • Detachment from reality

Opioids: Prescription and Illicit

If you have been using opioids, either prescription or illicit, for a long time, Medline Plus states that these withdrawal symptoms may be expected:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

While these may not appear to be life-threatening, if they are not treated, they can be harmful to your health and cause severe dehydration.

Crystal Meth

Meth and crystal meth abuse can cause a huge dopamine release. The ingredient in them, norepinephrine, produces alertness, which can make you feel happy and awake. When the drug wears off, though, you will feel tired, sluggish, sad, guilty, and depressed, which might compel you to use the drug again. Crystal meth may also abuse hallucinations, which can start off pleasant but turn to paranoia or aggressiveness, in turn, potentially causing harm to yourself or others.

Is It Safe to Detox from Drugs at Home?

Is It Safe to Detox from Drugs at Home?

dangers of at home detox

Some drugs can have potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including stimulants, opioids, and benzodiazepines. These types of drugs can produce extremely distressing symptoms that can be intolerable for many people. It is for this reason why some people detoxing at home may return to taking their drug of choice. Also, the psychological symptoms that come during withdrawal can be very difficult to manage. If there is no one to help pull you through the physical and psychological symptoms, you will likely start using the drug again and put yourself in danger.

Why Is Medical Detox Safer Than Detox at Home?

Why Is Medical Detox Safer Than Detox at Home?

Medical detox is the first step in addiction treatment. As your system undergoes the detox process, you will be medically supervised to be sure you are comfortable and safe. Some medications and fluids might be given to ensure you are medically stable and do not become dehydrated.

Withdrawal from drugs may be one of the reasons why you don’t stop using them. A very small number of people using drugs actually go through withdrawal in a detox center. Yet, it is a safe and comfortable environment to do so.

In the U.S., people associate detox with fad juice cleanses and diets. If you think this is a smart way to rid the drugs and their toxins from your body, you are mistaken. Drug detox, when done in a medically managed facility, ensures there won’t be dangers to you as your body and brain work their way back to functioning normally.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Also, when you are detoxing at a medical detox facility, you can avoid life-threatening health hazards, like seizures, because you will be tapered off the drug. Tapering is when the amount of the drug you are taking is slowly reduced to avoid any possible health dangers.

A professional detox center is licensed to give you medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which is also quite beneficial for withdrawal symptoms, and more so for benzo or opioid withdrawal. Antidepressants, opioid-replacement medications, like buprenorphine and naloxone medicines and Suboxone are useful for those in opioid withdrawal.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) writes that “Medications used in MAT are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and MAT programs are clinically driven and tailored to meet each patient’s needs.” Therefore, the medicine given in detox is safe and effective in alleviating the symptoms of withdrawal from some abused drugs.

Anticonvulsants have also been found to be helpful in treating withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral Therapies Should Follow Detox

It is essential to state that detox alone is not enough to end drug addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that “Detoxification is not in itself ‘treatment,’ but only the first step in the process. Patients who do not receive any further treatment after detoxification usually resume their drug use.”  When detox is completed, you may participate in behavioral and other therapies that are designed to help you learn where your drug use first began, find and learn new strategies to recognize drug use triggers. You will also learn and practice relapse prevention methods.

Detoxing at home does not ensure you will be safe and medically stable. It only provides you the comfort of being in your own bed and having your own bathroom available. Even if you stock up on hydration liquids and over-the-counter medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, detoxing at home does not mean that you will learn what you need to know in order to stop using drugs.

What to Expect at a Medical Detox Center

What to Expect at a Medical Detox Center

After you are admitted to the medical detox center, you will undergo the above-mentioned process. Detox can take from a few days to 10 days to complete depending on how much of the drug you misused, and other substances that were abused, and your immediate medical needs. When this is complete, you will be given a thorough medical and psychological assessment to determine your level of addiction and determine any mental health issues you may have and need help managing.

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms, usually psychological in nature, might be present and need attention. You might be experiencing depression and anxiety, and/or other mental symptoms that need care. Any social issues that need addressing will also be tended to.

Also, please know that addiction treatment works best when it is tailored to your individual needs. One treatment plan for everyone does not serve the person with addiction well at all. Your needs are yours uniquely. During your stay, your treatment plan will change and grow as you do.

If you have an Affordable Care Act health insurance plan, you may find that your plan covers these 10 essential health benefits, which include mental health and substance abuse.

How to Find a Reputable Detox Facility

How to Find a Reputable Detox Facility

There are a few ways to find out if the detox facility you are considering is legitimate and licensed. Those are:

Ask if they are accredited by national organizations, including the Joint Commission, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and the National Committee for Quality Assurance. If not, you might want to bypass the place and find one that is accredited. Accreditation means the facility has undergone and passed rigorous and strict guidelines for care.

You can ask the center to show evidence of current licenses and certifications. These allow them to work legally, and they are overseen by the organizations that certified and licensed them. You can also ask to be sure any medical and addiction care personnel are board-certified and licensed.

Ask them if they utilize evidence-based practices and therapies that are backed by research and have a proven track record of success.

If you are interested, ask if you can visit the detox facility if they are who they say they are and meet key staff.

Why Detoxing At Home Is a Bad Idea

Why Detoxing At Home Is a Bad Idea

Detoxing at home is a bad idea because there are several risks in doing it. These are risks that no one should take. Your physical and mental health is valuable and should be safeguarded at all times when detoxing from drugs. When they are not, your life is at stake. Here are some risks to keep in mind before choosing at-home detox:

Medical problems: Medical complications may arise when you are in withdrawal. Underlying medical issues you may have can also become a problem in withdrawal. When these occur, the only medical help you have available is emergency assistance. In most cases, they will transport you to a hospital emergency room. Any chronic issues you have can also return (e.g.., chronic pain) and create more difficulty for you in withdrawal. The urge to use your drug(s) again to alleviate any discomfort might be too strong to bear.

Relapse: It is quite common for people to relapse when they choose home detox. Cravings can be intense and almost impossible to ignore for many drugs. Relapsing on some drugs or taking the same high dose of the drug that you took before home detox can result in a life-threatening situation. In some cases, one dose of the drug can cause an overdose.

Overdose: Once your body rids itself of the drug and all toxins, it has essentially reset itself. It no longer recognizes the drug(s) you took. A typical dose that got you high before is now a dose that can take your life.

Mental health issues: You will experience many emotions as you go through an at-home detox and one in a professional detox center. It is normal to feel tiredness, exhaustion, depression, anxiety, frustration, agitation, embarrassment, and other feelings while you are detoxing. If you have a mental health condition, as many do, before you start detoxing, the symptoms of that condition can escalate and become unbearable with an at-home detox.

Other dangers of an at-home detox could include falling down and suffering an injury, not having any support from friends or family when you need it most, not feeling well enough to get something to eat or drink, being too sick to call for emergency help, and more.

At-home detox is dangerous and potentially life-taking. No matter what or where you read it, detoxing at home is not comfortable or medically safe. It is not the same as the popular juice cleanses or fad detoxing diets. Those will not help you stop abusing drugs.

Drug detox is best done by medical and addiction professionals who have the education, experience, skills, and licenses to ensure you are medically stable and comfortable through the process, no matter how long it takes. You are valuable and deserve better than trying to detox at home and possibly lose your life. You can find help here.

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