The Dangers of Detoxing at Home
- December 4, 2020
By the time someone is in the thick of an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, they have already gone through a physical and psychological process that has aided in developing that addiction. Detox is often the first step of recovery, and detoxing at home can be dangerous. Oftentimes, professional and medical attention is required to detox safely.
Abusing mind-altering substances can quickly become habitual, especially if someone is abusing highly addictive substances like opioids or meth. The body begins to get accustomed to the presence of drugs or alcohol to the point where drinking or drugging at the same rate is no longer effective. This is known as developing a tolerance. Once tolerant, the individual needs to increase how much they use in order to feel the effects of the substance. While this cycle continues, the body is adjusting itself based on the impacts of the abused substance or substances. For instance, someone who is abusing cocaine can experience anhedonia, which is a condition where apathy takes over. This is because receptors in the brain that used to produce a sense of contentment and happiness (such as dopamine) have stopped fully functioning in response to the presence of cocaine. When this occurs, it is clear that a dependence has developed. Being dependent on a drug or alcohol means that if a person does not continue to take it, their body will start to go into a state of withdrawal.
When experiencing withdrawal, a person can go through a rollercoaster of symptoms that compromise their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. If a person wants to stop using for good, allowing themselves to begin the process of detox is critical.
What is Detox?
Detox is simply the term used to describe clearing the body of any and all mind-altering substances. There is no magic pill that a person can take to flush drugs and alcohol from the system, rather it takes time and perseverance. In some cases, detoxing results in mild symptoms that can easily be managed independently. However, in many other cases, detox can become overwhelming, painful, and possibly deadly.
If someone is dependent on drugs and alcohol, detoxing at a professional treatment facility is often the recommended first step in getting help. But, despite this recommendation, many people choose to detox at home, which can be dangerous.
The Dangers of Detoxing at Home
Detoxing at Home Poses A Threat For Dehydration
While it might not seem like a big concern, dehydration while detoxing can become serious. The vast majority of withdrawal symptoms people experience when getting clean off drugs and alcohol produce effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and loss of appetite. Struggling to keep food and drink down because of these symptoms can quickly cause dehydration, which can become complicated if not properly addressed. Dehydration while attempting to detox can lead to low blood pressure, lightheadedness, irritability, and possible organ damage.
No psychological supervision
More than half of all individuals with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental health condition. When detoxing, those conditions can become worsened, making symptoms more prominent and powerful. In a detox center, patients can get immediate mental health attention if they start to experience effects such as panic attacks or hopelessness. At home, however, that resource is not as readily available. And, the chance that the individual who is detoxing to make the call and ask for help when in a compromised state is very low. The continuation of untreated mental health symptoms can lead to relapse, polysubstance abuse, and even suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and/or actions.
Detoxing at Home Creates an Increased risk for relapse
Detoxing at home means that when withdrawal symptoms begin developing, the individual is going to have to manage them independently. This is arguably the most challenging part of detoxing at home, as symptoms can come on quickly, can become painful, and can continue for days straight. The resolve that it takes to power through withdrawal symptoms can be outside of a person’s capacity during their detox, making it much easier for them to relapse by starting to use again. Once their use begins, the symptoms of withdrawal disappear.
Increased risk for overdose
Pulling from the increased risk for relapse comes an increased risk for overdose. If someone is detoxing at home and finds themselves using once again after they have detoxed for a few days, they may suffer an overdose if they go back to using the same amount they did prior to their detox. That is because the body is no longer accustomed to large amounts of drugs or alcohol in the system. So, when a high dose of drugs or a large amount of alcohol is consumed mid-detox, it can cause a non-fatal or fatal overdose.
In some instances, detoxing at home (or even in a treatment facility) can result in death. Benzodiazepines like Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin and alcohol can produce deadly effects while a person is detoxing from them. Seizures are closely linked to benzodiazepine detox just as high blood pressure and fever are connected to alcohol detox. The physical complications that can develop when detoxing from either of these substances can result in death if not properly treated in a timely manner.
Benefits of Professional Detox
Detoxing at home can be effective for those who do not have a severe substance use disorder or possess any risk of serious injury or death by doing so. However, in most cases, it is recommended to detox in a professional treatment center because of the following benefits:
- In-house access to medical and mental health professionals
- Management of medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms
- Consistent support and encouragement to push through the challenges of detox
- Quiet and secure environment that is conducive to recovery
- Easy transitional options for further treatment post-detox
Anytime your health or wellness may possibly be jeopardized, seeking the appropriate care is vital. By attending professional detox, your physical, mental, and emotional health can benefit greatly.
Detox Center in Orange County, California
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder and want to get started on your recovery, detox is an ideal first step. Call Asana Recovery right now to learn more about how we can help support you in your journey to sobriety.