When a person is ready to start a life of sobriety and detox from drugs or alcohol, they have a few options for how to conduct their detox, including doing it unsupervised at home. Going through detox at home can create uncomfortable, possibly dangerous or even fatal complications.
When an individual is physically dependent on drugs or alcohol and abruptly stops taking them, the body will react strongly, as it has come to rely on these substances to function. To become free of dependence and live without substance abuse, a person must go through withdrawal from the substance while coping with the resulting side effects. These withdrawal symptoms can become painful and difficult to handle alone, without medical help, during a home detoxification.
The Disadvantages of Detoxing at Home
Home detox is risky and potentially life threatening due to unexpected complications that often arise during withdrawal. A medically supervised detox is equipped to handle any issues that may develop.
Withdrawal symptoms can include adverse psychological events, triggering unpredictable and uncontrollable behavior that can pose a danger to oneself or others. Rage, paranoia, suicidal thoughts and hallucinations are a few examples of what can occur.
A home detox is not equipped to handle an emergency medical situation. Unforeseen and life-threatening physical or psychological emergencies can’t be anticipated and promptly handled. If emergencies arise, there will be a wait time for first responders to come to the scene, and this lost time can be critical.
A person undergoing severe withdrawal alone can become distressed but is now relatively helpless and typically in no condition to drive to a hospital or clinic. Incapacitation may be serious enough where the person can’t reach a phone to summon help. This isolation from medical help can lead to permanent damage or prove fatal.
Undetected health problems experienced at the same time as the stress of drug or alcohol withdrawal can cause unexpected complications, resulting in unconsciousness, heart attack and respiratory failure.
A medically supervised detoxification by trained healthcare professionals is the safest way to break the chains of addiction, especially when there is either heavy substance abuse or long-term dependence. Prescribed medications can be administered as needed to prevent health complications and ease withdrawal symptoms.
Many people beginning their journey to sobriety quickly return to substance abuse as psychological and physical issues that were previously masked by drug or alcohol use appear during or after a detox.
For example, if someone is drinking for relief from uncomfortable symptoms of an anxiety disorder, as soon as the drinking stops, the symptoms will reappear—in addition to alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This heavy burden can drive the person to abandon their newfound sobriety and return to substance abuse.
Experts in drug and alcohol dependence as well as addiction specialists report that, besides the inherent dangers, home detox has a low chance of success. About 90 percent or more of substance-dependent people cannot and do not get through the withdrawal side effects and instead quit the home detox and begin using drugs or alcohol again.
These statistics demonstrate that the odds of staying sober increase greatly with professional help. The evidence is clear; home detox has numerous downsides and isn’t the best way to begin your life of sobriety.