How to Safely Detox from Alcohol at Home
In This Article
What is ‘Self-Detox?’
Self-detox is when someone tries to stop using drugs or alcohol without professional help. They might taper their substance use or go “cold turkey." In either case, they have no outside support or treatment.
Typically people who want to do an alcohol detox at home will do the following:
- Choose a quit date
- Work out a plan
- Keep a drinking diary
- Avoid drinking
- Avoid activities that involve drinking
Some people plan for the experience carefully. Others just decide to stop using and don’t alter their lives in any other way.
Self-detox is an individualized approach without professional or medical support. Because of this, it can be dangerous for people who don’t understand the risks of detoxing.
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Is it Safe to Detox from Alcohol at Home?
At-home detox is not recommended because its safety levels vary from person to person. It depends on the severity of alcohol use.
The detoxification process can be dangerous for people with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Supervision and support can increase the chance of a successful, long-term recovery.
The benefit of self-detox is that it is less expensive than medical support. However, the early stages of sobriety pose a dangerous risk for medical complications. People also have a higher risk of relapsing during this time.
Dangers and Risks of Self-Detox
Self-detox poses many risks, including:
- Low rate of success
- Lack of professional counseling and other resources
- Difficulty avoiding triggers
- Lack of medical attention if serious complications arise
- More Intense withdrawal symptoms
- Potential for life-threatening symptoms, including seizures, hallucinations, delirium, and heart failure
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
If you do not experience severe withdrawal symptoms, at-home detox may be an option. However, for many people, alcohol withdrawal is a medical emergency.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (and its symptoms) are dangerous. These symptoms include:
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- Delirium tremens (DTs)
Delirium tremens (DTs) is a life-threatening condition that requires medical attention. If you experience nausea, seizures, and hallucinations, seek help.
7 Tips to Safely Detox from Alcohol at Home
Attempting detox at home can be an intense experience. Here are a few tips to help increase the chance of a successful detox:
1. Set Aside Time to Focus on The Detox
The detoxification timeline varies based on the severity of the addiction. It can take weeks, and you might still feel withdrawal symptoms for months. Setting aside time to focus on the detox can help you prepare for withdrawal.
2. Remove all access to alcohol
Having easy access to alcohol can tempt you to start drinking again. You should avoid bars and liquor stores and throw away any alcoholic drinks in your home. Making alcohol difficult to access can significantly increase the chances of a successful detox.
3. Ask For Support From a Loved One
Ask friends or family to check on you throughout the detox process. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be painful and potentially life-threatening. Your loved ones can call medical professionals if something goes wrong.
4. Gradually Taper Your Alcohol Intake
Gradually tapering from alcohol helps with handling withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It can help your body adjust to the lack of alcohol. Tapering increases the length of the detox process, but it might be better for you in the long run.
5. Find New Hobbies or Activities to Avoid Triggers
Keeping yourself busy can help you avoid alcohol triggers. Start a new hobby or plan a project to keep your mind off cravings and triggers. You can even use this as an opportunity to develop healthier habits.
6. Stay Physically Active and Maintain Proper Nutrition
Light exercise and a proper diet can help you adjust to the detox. Exercise can reduce stress, improve mood, and bolster your immune system.
Eating healthier helps your body heal from the effects of alcohol. It also ensures your body has proper nutrition to maintain stamina during the stress it will go through during detox.
7. Attend a 12-step Program or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Having a community of understanding and empathetic people can help you in your recovery. These support groups require no commitment from attendees, and you can attend meetings online.
How to Manage Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms at Home
You can do several things to better manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms when detoxing at home. For example:
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat a healthy diet
- Take vitamins and supplements
- Be prepared for cravings
- Get a first-aid kit
- Get plenty of sleep
- Find support from loved ones
- Avoid people who drink with you
Pros and Cons of Detoxing from Alcohol at Home
Despite the risks, there are some benefits of choosing to detox from alcohol at home. For example:
- Saves money
- Provides the comfort of a familiar environment
- Allows you to meet work, school, family, and other obligations
- Access to family and friends
- Avoids the unfortunate social stigma of going to rehab or admitting you have a substance use disorder (SUD)
- Allows for anonymity and privacy
- Increases the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms
- Higher risk of relapse
- Lack of access to medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms
- Increases the risk of mental health side effects, including stress, anxiety, and depression
- Puts greater pressure on someone’s support system, including friends and family members
- Can be dangerous depending on withdrawal symptoms
Home Detox vs. Medically-Monitored Detox: Which is Right for You?
In almost all cases, medically monitored detox is better than self-detox. Medical supervision ensures that care is immediately available if serious symptoms arise.
Medical detox provides:
- Professional monitoring and support
- A safe, structured environment
- Peer support
- A stress-free and temptation-free environment
- Relapse prevention
- Aftercare support
- Therapeutic intervention
- Mental health treatment for co-occurring conditions
- Support for family members
Addiction Treatment Options
If you are considering at-home detox, speak with your doctor before beginning the process. They can help you determine the best and safest action for your needs.
However, there are plenty of readily available treatment options. Click to learn more about the most effective types of addiction treatment:
- Inpatient Treatment
- Partial Hospitalization Treatment
- Outpatient Treatment
- Medication-Assisted Therapy
- Support Groups
Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
- Davis, C. “Home Detox - Supporting Patients to Overcome Alcohol Addiction.” Australian Prescriber, 2018.
- Tam et al. “Alcohol Screening and Brief Interventions in Primary Care - Evidence and a Pragmatic Practice-Based Approach.” Australian Family Physician, 2016.
- Australian Government Department of Health. “How Can You Reduce or Quit Alcohol?” Australian Government Department of Health, 2019.
- Das, SK. “Detoxification of drug and substance abuse.” Medical Toxicology, 2020.
- Shahrouz et al. “Telemedicine detoxification treatment for alcohol, opioid, or sedative-use, hypnotic-use or anxiolytic-use disorders.” Addictive Disorder and Their Treatment, 2018.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Detoxification and substance abuse treatment: A treatment improvement protocol (TIP 45).” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015.
- Rahman A., Paul M. “Delirium Tremens.” StatPearls, 2021.