No matter what substance you are addicted to, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly stop taking it. However, some substances are known to cause more dangerous and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms without medical support. Unfortunately, alcohol is one of those substances.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 29.5 million people aged 12 or older had an alcohol use disorder in 2021. Abruptly stopping alcohol after a period of heavy use may result in severe or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, ranging from heart palpitations and panic attacks to delusions and seizures.
There are many risks of detoxing from alcohol at home, so it’s always important to detox at a medical detox center that can monitor your symptoms, prescribe medications, and ensure your safety.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal occurs when you suddenly stop drinking the substance after a period of dependency. The removal of the alcohol from your system essentially causes your brain to panic, as it believes it needs alcohol to function properly. As your brain goes into this hyperactive state, it creates an array of physical and psychological symptoms.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include:
- Shaking or tremors
- Excessive sweating
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Agitation or irritability
- Fast heart rate and increased blood pressure
The severity and duration of symptoms you experience will vary depending on personal factors, such as the intensity of which you drank, how long you were dependent on alcohol, and more. Because you cannot predict how severe your alcohol withdrawal symptoms will be, you must seek medical detox services.
Dangers of Detoxing From Alcohol at Home
While it is possible to detox from alcohol at home, that does not mean you should. Alcohol withdrawal is usually treated under 24/7 medical monitoring to ensure that you do not experience severe or life-threatening symptoms. A few reasons why it is dangerous to detox from alcohol without medical support include:
The Risk of Relapse
First, even if your symptoms are not life-threatening they will be extremely difficult to cope with. From irritability to vomiting and disorientation, many of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can cause you to experience strong urges to have a drink. Because you do not have professional psychological support and medications to manage your symptoms, you could relapse.
Relapsing after a period of abstinence from any substance is dangerous. Even after a couple of days, your tolerance to alcohol can lower significantly. This could cause you to drink too much for your body to handle, leading to alcohol poisoning.
Delirium Tremens (DTs) Can Be Deadly
Lastly, untreated alcohol withdrawal could lead to delirium tremens (DTs), which is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal that has an anticipated mortality of up to 37% without appropriate treatment.[3,4]
The symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- Excessive sweating
- High fever
- Water and electrolyte imbalances
- Fast heart rate
- Extreme anxiety or paranoia
- Dilated pupils
- Shallow breathing
DTs can lead to life-threatening effects such as seizures, rhabdomyolysis, heart arrhythmias, and additional co-occurring illnesses. Because delirium tremens can be life-altering at best and fatal at worst, it’s important that you seek medical detox instead of attempting to recover from alcohol withdrawal at home.
Hallucinations Can Be Scary and Disorienting
Visual, tactile, and auditory hallucinations are all possible during alcohol withdrawal, but they are most likely in long-term heavy drinkers. Hallucinations can make it difficult to decipher what is real and what is not, which can be scary and disorienting. People may make poor decisions or be in major distress without medical treatment.
Dehydration Can Be Serious
A combination of lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea makes the perfect storm for dehydration. People who get severely dehydrated may need IV fluids, or else their organs can begin shutting down.
Seizures Can Be Life-Threatening
Alcohol withdrawal seizures can be serious and life-threatening, and they can occur with or without DTs. Regardless, seizures require medical treatment, and alcohol detox centers can administer benzodiazepine medications to reduce seizure risk.
Other Dangers of Detoxing From Alcohol At Home
Additional risks of self-detox include:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiac events
- Unsuccessful detox completion
- Accidental injury
- Increased severity of symptoms
Tips for Safe Alcohol Detox
The safest way to detox from alcohol is to do so at a medical facility or drug and alcohol detox center where the staff can monitor your symptoms and ensure your safety. However, if you have no choice but to detox at home, there are a few steps you can take to keep yourself safe. These include:
- Don’t detox alone. Ask a friend or family member to stay with you the whole time.
- Taper down slowly by gradually reducing your alcohol intake rather than stopping all at once.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Have an emergency plan in place so you know what to do in the event of an emergency.
Find Help for Alcohol Withdrawal Today
Alcohol withdrawal can be incredibly dangerous if you do not receive the proper care. From simple issues like dehydration to life-threatening conditions like seizures or DTs, attempting to detox at home can be fatal. With that being said, you should always seek treatment from a trusted alcohol detox program.
At Arise Treatment Center, we pride ourselves on providing our patients with highly individualized detox care. We will assess your needs and create a treatment plan that only includes the services you need to achieve sobriety. To learn more about our alcohol detox and treatment program, contact Arise Treatment Center today.