The first step to treating alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, is usually detox. Detoxing allows the body to adjust to no longer having alcohol in your system. You or your loved one may be considering attempting alcohol detox at home, but that can be risky. Alcohol detox is usually done in a hospital, detox facility or an alcohol rehab center.
What Is Alcohol Detox Like?
Withdrawal symptoms during alcohol detox can include:
- Tremors, especially in hands
- Blood pressure changes
- Heart rate changes
In more difficult cases, alcohol detox can cause delirium tremens (DT), a life-threatening condition that includes:
Untreated DT can lead to stroke, heart attack and death. But when treated at a facility under the supervision of medical professionals, DT can be treated with symptoms subsiding in about one week. Treatment for DT primarily includes benzodiazepines, andcan include antipsychotic drugs and drugs to manage pain and potentially dangerous blood pressure changes.
Can You Successfully Detox At Home?
At-home detox is usually not advised, experts say.
“Alcohol is one of the few drugs where withdrawal can cause death, so detoxing from alcohol should managed by a doctor,” David Yusko, PsyD, of the Center for Anxiety and Behavior Therapy in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “This being said, there are some people who should never detox at home, even under the care of a physician.”
How severe a person’s detox will be depends on several factors, including the length of time you or your loved one has been drinking and how much, Meghan Marcum, PsyD, Chief Clinical Officer at A Better Life Recovery in Southern California, says. These considerations include the physical health of the person, especially since alcoholism is known to cause several health problems, such as diabetes or liver issues.
There might be some people who could detox at home. However, it’s advised that you meet with a medical professional before making such an important decision for your health.
“While someone with a long history of excessive alcohol consumption would not be a candidate for an at-home detox due to the serious health risks, those with mild or moderate alcohol use disorder can safely consider the home option with medical supervision,” Gregory Booth, MD, Medical Director of LifeSync Malibu in California, says.
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