Risks of Drug Detox at Home

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Going through drug detox at home isn’t just uncomfortable. It can also be dangerous. Here’s why you should choose medical detox instead.

Making the choice to quit using drugs or alcohol isn’t easy, and if you’ve developed a dependence on your substance of choice, it can be downright miserable. If you’ve ever experienced withdrawal symptoms after quitting a substance, you understand how it can be very difficult to go through drug detox at home. 

Medical detox from opiates and other drugs, including alcohol, is essential for safely and comfortably withdrawing from drugs. But how does medical detox work? To understand that, you have to understand withdrawal.

Why Withdrawal Occurs

Dependence isn’t the same as addiction, which has highly complex underlying causes and is characterized by compulsive drug use despite negative consequences. Dependence is a purely physical reliance on drugs and alcohol.

Drugs and alcohol change the chemical function of your brain by increasing the activity of some brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, or reducing the activity of others. When you heavily abuse drugs or alcohol, your brain changes the way it functions in order to compensate for these effects. This produces tolerance, which means that you need to take larger doses in order to get the same effects you once got with smaller doses.

Over time, with continued abuse, your brain function will continue to change, and at some point, it may begin to function more comfortably when drugs are present. Then, when you quit using, normal chemical function in the brain rebounds, and this causes the onset of withdrawal symptoms.

Why You Shouldn’t Go Through Drug Detox at Home

Withdrawal symptoms vary, depending on the substance of abuse. Different drugs cause different withdrawal symptoms, and these can range from mild to severe, depending on a number of factors, including:

  • Your age.
  • The state of your physical and mental health.
  • The amount of the drug in your body at the time of detox.
  • The type of drug.
  • The severity of your dependence.

One reason why you shouldn’t go through drug detox at home is that some withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous or even deadly.

For example, alcohol withdrawal can produce a condition known as delirium tremens, or DTs, which can cause seizures, hallucinations, and a marked increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Five percent of people who experience this condition die from it, according to an article published in the journal American Family Physician.

Additionally, withdrawal from benzodiazepines, which include prescription medications like Xanax and Valium, can cause dangerous shifts in blood pressure, respiratory, heart rate and body temperature.

Having medical personnel on hand in the event of these and other dangerous symptoms is essential for your safety during detox.

But safety isn’t the only reason to choose medical detox over drug detox at home. In many cases, withdrawal symptoms are excruciating. Opiate withdrawal causes flulike symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea, and these can be severe. Withdrawal from stimulants like cocaine, meth, and the prescripton drug Adderall can produce extreme depression, anxiety, agitation, and psychosis. No matter what drug you’re withdrawing from, intense cravings for the drug will likely make matters much worse.

These symptoms–especially cravings–can be intense enough to send you right back to using if you go through drug detox at home. Detoxing in a comfortable environment with a high level of emotional and medical support is essential for successful detox.

How Does Medical Detox Work?

During medical detox, medical and mental health professional are on hand to evaluate your symptoms and prescribe a variety of medications to reduce the severity of your symptoms and shorten the time it takes to detox. High quality programs will offer complementary therapies like meditation, restorative yoga, acupuncture, and massage therapy to reduce symptoms, relieve stress, and improve your sense of wellbeing.

In the case of heroin or painkillers, medical detox from opiates isn’t the only option. Rather than going through withdrawal, you can choose medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, which involves taking a less-active opioid medication that prevents withdrawal altogether. Because opiate cravings don’t go away after detox is complete, and they can be intense for months or even years, MAT can help you stay sober as you work to repair and restore your life without the interference of cravings.

Better Addiction Care can help you find a high quality, holistic medical detox and addiction treatment program to help you safely withdraw from drugs or alcohol. Contact us today at 1-800-429-7690 to get on the road to recovery once and for all.