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:
- Delirium tremens
- Heart failure
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.
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
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.