Detoxing from alcohol is the process of eliminating alcohol from your system. There are two ways to do it, as well as two different environments to choose from. This guide will explain both methods in a home environment. Please understand that the following paragraphs are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.
Also understand that we recommend professional detox first. Detoxing from alcohol with the help of trained professionals is the safest and most effective way to overcome alcohol misuse. However, we understand that you may be in a position in which professional detox is not possible. If this is the case, we still want you to detox at home safely.
Two Ways to Detox at home
There are two generally accepted methods for alcohol detox: gradual tapering and cold turkey. We recommend the former for several reasons. First, withdrawal symptoms do not tend to be as severe when you taper. Second, gradual tapering is safer when you are doing it at home.
As the name suggests, this form of alcohol home detox is based on gradually reducing the amount of alcohol you consume. You might consume 10 drinks every day, for example. You could gradually taper by reducing that number by one or two drinks per day, over the course of a week.
Although a GP might recommend a tapering schedule, there is no correct rate at which to taper your alcohol consumption. The key is to continually reduce your consumption. The longer it takes to taper completely, the more difficult home detox may be.
The cold turkey method of alcohol detox involves complete abstinence. In other words, you completely stop drinking in one fell swoop. This is not a method we recommend for unsupervised home detox as it can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that might eventually lead to a medical emergency. Cold turkey detox is best left to a professional environment.
With both methods, it is best to have a friend or family member look in on you every day, if possible.
The Risks of Home Alcohol Detox
Detoxing at home, without the assistance of a professional, does come with certain risks. Those risks begin with your physical health. Remember that detoxing means denying your body the alcohol it has become accustomed to. As such, you will experience withdrawal symptoms that can include:
- Anxiety and headaches
- Restlessness and irritability
- Nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting
- Increased heart rate
- Tremors and muscle cramps
- Alcohol cravings.
In the most severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to a condition known as delirium tremens. Though the condition is rare, it can be fatal.
Next, there are certain risks to your mental health. Detox can induce a wide range of emotions covering everything from agitation to severe anxiety or depression. Many people suffer from insomnia, at least for a little while, which can enhance the negative emotional responses to withdrawal.
Finally, the risk of relapse is higher with unassisted home detox. Why? Because you do not get the support services you need to stay away from alcohol afterward. In a professional setting, support services are part of the alcohol rehab programme.
Addressing Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms are part and parcel with alcohol detox at home. If you choose the tapering method, your symptoms should be comparatively mild. How can you deal with them? Start by drinking plenty of water. Alcohol detox causes dehydration, which can lead to problems of its own.
Warm showers can help you relax along with meditation and breathing exercises. Be sure to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables in order to replenish the nutrients your body lacks. Electrolyte-rich beverages can help you maintain your energy.
Who Should Not Attempt Home Detox
Alcohol detox can result in a medical emergency requiring immediate attention. Due to the unpredictable nature of withdrawal symptoms, the threat of medical emergencies dictates that some people should not attempt home detox. If any of the following apply to you, do not try to detox at home:
- You have a chronic health condition (like heart disease, diabetes, etc.)
- You have experienced severe withdrawal symptoms during past detox attempts
- You have experienced aggression or violence during past detox attempts
- You have a history of depression or seizures
- You currently take opiates or benzodiazepines.
We would urge you to speak with your GP before attempting unassisted home detox. Your doctor will be aware of risks you might think do not apply to you.
Home Alcohol Detox with Assistance
Detoxing from alcohol at home does not have to be a solo project. It also doesn’t have to be done without the help of professional assistance. Here in the UK, GPs are not averse to prescribing an assisted detox programme that pairs patient with nurse.
Assisted alcohol detox begins with an evaluation by a GP. Only a GP and determine if assistant detox is the best approach. A GP’s approval results in a prescription for medication designed to reduce withdrawal symptoms. With prescription in hand, nurse-monitored withdrawal can begin.
The nurse usually visits every day for the first few days. The patient’s vital signs are checked, and prescription medication is dispensed. Once the patient makes it through peak withdrawal, visits are reduced. The goal is to eventually end the visits along with the patient’s alcohol consumption. Followed by getting professional advice, you can book a free call with one of our experts here.
Preparation Is Key
In closing this guide, we want you to know that preparation is key. Prepare for home alcohol detox by clearing out your schedule so that you can devote at least a week to it. Prepare mentally by reminding yourself that there will be withdrawal symptoms. Finally, ask a family member or friend to hold you accountable. This person can help you get through any alcohol cravings you might experience.
Once home detox is complete, hook up with a local support group. There you will find like-minded individuals all helping each other avoid relapse. The more support you can avail yourself of immediately following detox, the more likely you are to stay away from alcohol permanently.