Dangers of Detoxing Alone: Why Assisted Medical Detox is the Best Alternative

The inclination to get clean and sober may come after months of increasingly negative consequences associated with drug and alcohol abuse. Yet the dangers of detoxing alone are so great that no one should attempt it. That is why assisted medical detox1 the best alternative.

Alcohol detox and drug detox, done properly at an alcohol treatment center or drug rehab center, ensures a safe withdrawal from toxic, addictive substances. For those who sincerely desire sobriety, assisted medical detox is both effective and more comfortable than risking the dangers of detoxing alone.

Alcohol: The Most Dangerous Self-Detox

Millions of people consume alcohol, yet not all of them get to the point of abuse or addiction. Some, however, slowly begin to realize that alcohol has taken over their life and they want to make a change. Rather than admit to others that they need help, they may decide to go it alone, to detox at home. The problem with this line of thinking is that the consequences of detoxing alone can be deadly as sudden cessation from drinking can cause convulsions, hallucinations, even fatal heart seizure.

Alcohol detox is a two-stage process. While the initial period is short, only a few days, this is the time when the person detoxing could experience problems. With professional medical2 supervision and care, however, there’s less risk and more assurance that any problems that do occur will be quickly addressed and managed. The second, longer phase of alcohol detox takes months. This is the time when the brain begins to slowly regulate and normal functioning resumes. Some symptoms may linger during this stage, but they generally aren’t life-threatening.

Alcohol detox symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
  • Delirium tremens
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart failure
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Shakiness

The extent of severity and occurrence of symptoms will vary depending on the individual’s history of abuse, physical condition, any exacerbating co-existing medical and/or psychological conditions. During assisted medical detox, medications may be prescribed that help reduce or eliminate cravings, decrease anxiety and promote a gentle transition from drinking cessation. Long-term alcohol withdrawal3 symptoms such as anxiety, cravings and insomnia will gradually reduce in intensity.

Alcohol detox is just the first step in overcoming a dependence on alcohol. Without professional therapy to begin learning how to live in sobriety, relapse is not only likely, but predictable. Such therapy often takes place in residential alcohol treatment centers and includes individual counseling, group therapy, educational lectures, and other treatment modalities tailored to meet the individual’s specific needs.

Heroin Self-Detox

Detoxing from heroin4, one of the world’s most deadly and addictive drugs, should never be attempted alone. Not only could abrupt heroin cessation cause extremely dangerous, excruciating withdrawal symptoms, it could also prove fatal.

Heroin self-detox, therefore, increases the risk of serious harm. Heroin withdrawal symptoms usually begin within 12 hours of stopping use, peak between two and four days, and include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Sneezing
  • Sniffling
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Assisted medical detox is the only way to ensure the well-being and safety of anyone who’s made the life-affirming decision to quit heroin use.

Alcohol and Drug Detox

What about those who are dependent on both alcohol and drugs? It might be a combination of alcohol abuse and dependence on prescription painkillers. Many who’ve abused prescription painkillers graduated to hard drugs like heroin when their supply ran out. The detox process from combination alcohol and drugs is complex and much too dangerous to attempt alone. Going cold turkey endangers life and results in a much more painful and uncomfortable detox process than necessary.

With assisted medical detox, medications can be prescribed to ease unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and combat intense cravings. Without medical support, it’s too easy to head right back to using, rationalizing that detox is too painful, too tough, and maybe detox should be put off until later.

Most people underestimate the difficulty and complexity of detox. Even with some family assistance or the help of friends, detoxing alone is a bad idea. They’re not trained or equipped to deal with potentially life-threatening consequences of detoxing alone. Instead, seek professional help with assisted medical detox followed by a treatment program to overcome addiction.



  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction
  2. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/38-43.pdf
  3. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments#1
  4. https://www.report.nih.gov/NIHfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=123

Location Matters: Why Our Peaceful Environment Helps with Detox and Recovery

Getting clean and sober is not a quick process. While many people would much rather go into a detox facility and come out ready to face the world, the truth is that detox is just the first step on a path to long-term recovery. It helps to choose the right location and environment1 in which to begin this incredible journey.

Here’s where location matters. To properly heal, to gradually wean off drugs and alcohol, you need detox. And you need it done right. This requires medical supervision and care in a drug detox (or alcohol detox) facility. There are many choices for detoxing, some spartan and cold, others warm and inviting, part of a peaceful, welcoming environment. Considering how difficult detox may be and to maximize the likelihood of a comfortable and successful detox, selecting the best possible rehab center environment for detox and subsequent recovery makes a lot of sense.

At Nova Recovery Center, clients benefit from our peaceful environment the moment they enter the rehab center. The property, located on 25 acres in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, is quiet, exquisitely maintained and furnished, with a high staff-to-client ratio, personalized attention and care, the latest evidence-based treatment modalities, and an overall ambience that is conducive to and promotes healing.

Cutting-Edge Care

What distinguishes one long-term residential treatment center from another often comes down to three essential elements: the type of treatment, the credentials and caliber of the treatment professionals and staff involved, and the personalized, one-on-one attention clients receive.

Given the proliferation of rehab centers, each touting specific aspects that set them apart, the ultimate choice of a long-term drug rehab or alcohol treatment center can be a difficult one. It requires thorough investigation to find the right rehab center for detox and recovery2.

Treatment modalities at Nova Recovery Center include:

  • Individual drug counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Educational lectures
  • Family therapy
  • 12 Step program

Specialized therapies include:

  • Experiential therapy
  • Dialectic behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Rational emotive behavioral therapy
  • Meditation therapy
  • Creative arts therapy
  • Music therapy
  • 12 Step facilitation therapy
  • Contingency management

A Long-Term Process

Treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, dependence and addiction is not a one-and-done event. It is a long-term process that requires dedication and commitment on the part of the client and the treatment professionals involved.

Overcoming the ravages of drug and alcohol abuse, particularly for those who’ve repeatedly relapsed and those with dual-diagnosis, is best accomplished in an environment that is healing and restorative. This means a drug rehab center that is safe, secure and nurturing in every aspect of care.

It also is not enough to simply get clean by detoxing from drugs and alcohol. Without attending to the underlying disease of addiction through counseling, education, participation in 12 step and self-help groups, relapse prevention, recovery efforts can quickly derail.

The environment in which treatment occurs has a lot to do with how well the client approaches and accepts his or her healing journey. When the focus is on healing the body, mind and spirit instead of just treating the addiction, the likelihood of effective recovery increases. Nova Recovery Center’s four pillars of care include attention to the emotional, behavioral, physical and recovery understanding.

Qualities Essential to Healing

There is no substitute for high-quality, compassionate, professional care that’s dispensed with great attention to detail, a sincere desire to help clients heal and begin their recovery journey. Warmth at Nova Recovery Center goes beyond a simple smile and kind words. It’s in everything we say and do and includes genuine interaction with the client’s best interests in mind.

While it’s possible to begin a healing journey at almost any accredited rehab center, Nova Recovery Center offers the kind of serenity and peacefulness that both enhances the treatment experience and facilitates healing, from detox to recovery.[i]



  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/recovery

What Happens After Detox?

In the battle against addiction, detox is your first weapon. To break the hold of drugs or alcohol on your life, you need to purge them from your system, but what comes after you complete detox? Is detox all you need to reach sobriety, or is there more for you to do?

The Importance of Detox

Because of the way addictive substances affect your body, detox is a necessary part of recovery. Drugs and alcohol affect your brain chemistry by altering the balance of chemicals in your brain. The changes made to the brain’s chemistry as a result of drug or alcohol abuse lead to the cravings you experience.

Detox helps you rid the addictive substances from your body and allows your body’s chemistry to begin returning to the state it was in before you began using. The changes in your body’s chemistry create the withdrawal symptoms you endure as part of your detox. Those symptoms are your body’s way of telling you it is starting to recover.

Is Detox All You Need?

Detox is an important beginning for recovery, but it isn’t the complete process. Cravings can and most likely will return after you complete detox. Cravings can be triggered by situations and emotions, or even smells and sounds. Anything that your brain associates with drug or alcohol use can potentially be a trigger.

Because these triggers can manifest long after the initial detox, further treatment is important to prevent a relapse. Your body may no longer show the immediate symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction, but the physical, mental and emotional effects are still present. Those need to be dealt with in order for you to complete your recovery and lead a sober lifestyle.

What Do You Do After Detox?

After you have completed your detox, further therapy can help you continue on the path to sobriety. Remaining in treatment for longer periods of time can reduce your chance for relapse. You can learn how to manage cravings and build a support system to help you avoid your triggers.

No single treatment is effective for everyone, but some common approaches include maintenance medication to help suppress cravings, behavioral therapy to identify and eliminate negative behavior patterns, treatment for other mental health issues and participating in a support group.

For opioid or alcohol addiction, medications exist that can help restore your brain chemistry and manage cravings, helping you stave off relapse. If you struggle with another mental health issue, your doctor might prescribe a medication to treat both simultaneously.

Behavioral therapy is also important to relapse prevention by helping you learn to recognize and cope with emotional triggers. By learning to deal with your cravings and the emotional triggers that can initiate them, you are better equipped to deal with those temptations when they arise.

Support groups are another effective post-detox treatment option. Support groups can help reduce the stigma associated with drug or alcohol addiction and recovery, and they can provide you with encouragement if you feel the urge to relapse.

Detox is vital to your recovery, but it’s not the only stop on your journey. Seeking further treatment after detox will help you continue your recovery and maintain your sobriety.

Detox Facilities: What to Expect

For those struggling with addiction, detox is an important first step on the road to sobriety. Breaking the hold drugs and alcohol have over you can be a difficult and painful process, and trying to do so alone is rarely successful. Detox facilities help you manage the symptoms and successfully complete your detox.

Why Detox?

Your body requires a delicate balance of chemicals to function properly. Repeated drug or alcohol abuse interferes with that balance, physically changing the structure of the brain and the way the brain regulates important hormones.

Many substances affect the neurotransmitters in your brain, sending faulty signals that impact the reward and pleasure centers of your brain. Continued use can lead to addiction as your body craves those substances and begins to function more normally in the presence of the drug than without it.

When you try to go without drugs or alcohol, you begin to feel sick and irritable. This is your body telling you it needs more in order to operate properly. Detox forces your body to go without drugs and alcohol, allowing your brain chemistry to return to healthy levels. Feelings of sickness, anger, panic and other emotions are common during withdrawal, but they are temporary sensations that will pass once your body’s chemistry is restored.

What Happens at Detox Facilities?

Detox centers are designed to house and treat those suffering from addiction while their bodies purge the drugs and alcohol from their systems. Often these facilities are independent of addiction treatment centers, though they may work together to provide care.

Your time at a detox facility begins with an orientation and assessment as the center’s staff determines the physical and mental severity of your addiction. Therapists work with you to form a plan for detox and recovery. During this orientation period, you’ll also be examined by doctors to determine the physical toll addiction has taken on your body.

Once this assessment is complete, you will begin your detox. For those with intense withdrawal symptoms, doctors may prescribe medication to counteract some of the effects. These medications interact with your brain chemistry, sometimes satisfying the same need the drugs do without the negative side effects.

During these first few days, you might not be permitted to speak with family or friends, allowing you to remain focused on your recovery. Once the initial detox is completed, those restrictions should relax.

During that time of focused healing, you may wish to participate in therapy or other treatment as a means of occupying your mind and body. These activities will help you while you begin long-term treatment.

What Comes After Detox?

Detox only lasts a short time, typically five to seven days. Once you have completed the detox program, you may leave the detox facility and transfer to a treatment center to continue your recovery. Though your stay may be short, a detox facility can help you begin your recovery and set you on a path to sobriety. 

Why Detox is Important for Recovery

When you make the choice to stop using drugs or alcohol, a complete detox is the first step toward recovery. The extensive physical and mental effects of addiction require time and care to overcome, and without an initial detox, you won’t be able to move beyond your drug or alcohol use.

What Is Detox?

Every time you use drugs or alcohol, your body grows more accustomed to the presence of that substance. The chemistry of your brain adapts to the repeated influx of chemicals, creating an addiction. Many addictive substances interact with the brain in different ways by altering brain chemistry or causing the machinery of the brain to misfire.

Heroin is structurally similar to neurotransmitters, the chemical signals sent by the brain, and repeated use allows the drug to interfere with the neurotransmitters’ job of sending messages throughout the body. Cocaine and methamphetamine increase the production and release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, creating a euphoric sensation often associated with a drug high. Similarly, alcohol can affect the exchange of neurotransmitters in your brain.

In order to stop using drugs or alcohol and begin recovery, you need to purge the drug from your system and deal with the physical symptoms resulting from that sudden absence. When the body is deprived of those substances for more than a few hours, a variety of withdrawal symptoms begin.

Common symptoms include:

  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps

Common mental symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 

Detox involves enduring the physical and mental effects of the body going through withdrawal and adjusting to a lack of drugs or alcohol in your system. Because it can be painful, there are options that may help ease your symptoms. 

Options for Detox

Once you’ve made the decision to detox, there are two options available to you: inpatient or outpatient treatment. There are pros and cons to both types of treatment, so it is important for you to weigh the options.

Outpatient detox involves visiting a hospital or other facility on a regular schedule to receive treatment. The treatment sessions may be as short as 15 to 30 minutes, and may be required for 3 to 14 days.

This type of treatment doesn’t place as many restrictions on the client. Access to drugs and alcohol is not strictly monitored or restricted, so much of the responsibility for remaining clean depends on you. Despite this, outpatient treatment also affords you with opportunities for support from your friends, family or even a support group.

Severe addiction may require inpatient treatment at a specialized facility that offers medically supervised detoxification, which is a more highly structured environment where you are monitored closely to ensure you don’t relapse. After detox, residential treatment centers transition you into education and therapy to understand the effects of your addiction. Residential treatment may be more costly than outpatient treatment, but your insurance may cover the increased cost.

Taking the Next Steps

Accepting your addiction and choosing to make a change is an important start. A complete detox is part of that decision and is the first step of the journey to sobriety. Once you have completed your detox, you can begin learning to live without drugs or alcohol.

Nova Recovery Center