The Dangers of Detoxing Alone

Breaking physical dependence to drugs such as heroin, prescription opioids, benzodiazepines and alcohol induces withdrawal, which causes uncomfortable symptoms. In some cases, withdrawal can result in severe health effects or death.

Detox is the first step toward reaching recovery. Before people struggling with drug or alcohol addiction can begin addiction treatment, it is necessary to cleanse the body of the substances they are physically dependent on.

The withdrawal process is most dangerous for people who are dependent on alcohol or benzodiazepines. Quitting these drugs cold turkey can cause potentially fatal complications, including seizures and delirium.

Detoxification is a phase of substance abuse treatment that should always occur under the supervision of licensed and trained medical professionals. These treatment teams monitor patients throughout detox and provide medical care to make the withdrawal process more comfortable.

Inpatient detox can save lives. If grand mal seizures or other life-threatening symptoms occur, treatment staff can provide medical interventions that are not immediately available to people detoxing at home.

Alcohol Detox

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, alcohol withdrawal usually occurs six to 24 hours after an individual suffering from alcohol addiction stops drinking. Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, irritability, anxiety and insomnia.

It’s possible to go through alcohol detox at home for those who experience mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Supervised detox is especially critical for individuals with severe alcohol addictions because the complications of withdrawal are potentially fatal.

Those with severe addictions to alcohol may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Hallucinations
  • Heart palpitations
  • Arrhythmia
  • Seizures
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Delirium tremens
  • Elevated blood pressure

Medical professionals at an inpatient rehab facility can help clients manage severe withdrawal symptoms. Medication-assisted treatment with benzodiazepines such as Librium can quell anxiety and some of the most dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines have been proven to reduce symptoms such as seizures and delirium tremens.

Heroin and Prescription Opioid Withdrawal

While it is rare for withdrawal from opioids to be fatal, the symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, early opioid withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, muscle aches, sweating and insomnia. As withdrawal progresses, symptoms may include severe diarrhea and vomiting, abdominal cramping and general pain.

Detoxing under the supervision of a treatment team can make opioid withdrawal much more manageable. Rehab facilities provide medications to relieve mild symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Buprenorphine, a medication commonly used in opioid withdrawal therapy, can displace opioids such as heroin from the body’s opioid receptors, which reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings. The medication also blocks the euphoric effects that people experience when they take opioids.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Detox from benzodiazepines is often complicated because the process can last up to three months for people who take high doses of the medication for extended lengths of time. Benzodiazepine withdrawals can lead to a number of serious symptoms if not managed properly. Some symptoms can be life threatening, including seizures, catatonia, delirium tremens and coma.

A trained treatment team can assess the severity of the client’s physical dependence on benzodiazepines and develop an individualized treatment regimen.

Individuals with benzodiazepine addiction may be experiencing an overdose when they are admitted to treatment. Addiction specialists can address a benzodiazepine overdose in several ways. They may perform a stomach pump if the overdose was recent. They can also administer the medication flumazenil, which reverses the sedative and overdose side effects of benzodiazepines.

Don’t Detox Alone

Detoxing from drugs or alcohol at home may seem like an easy and affordable option, but that choice can come with severe risks. It may lead to a situation where you need medical assistance but cannot get it in time.

Substances such as alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines and other drugs can cause health complications that require medications and monitoring from trained rehab care professionals. Safety should always be your main concern when it comes to substance use disorder treatment, and the safest choice is to detox in a professional setting.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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