Whether you, or someone you love is struggling with addiction, the urge to try to detox at home can be powerful. Shame, fear or concerns about missing work or school may motivate the decision. We may try to convince ourselves and others we can control a crisis that’s already out of our hands. The choice to consider outside help for alcohol or drug addiction doesn’t always come easily. No matter the circumstances though — it is critical to recognize addiction as a serious medical situation.
Dangers of Withdrawal
Drugs of abuse, including alcohol, create complex chemical changes in the body which affect everything from neurotransmitters to hormones. Withdrawal symptoms are not only uncomfortable, they can be dangerous and even deadly. Withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Klonopin can be especially dangerous. Symptoms can include tremors, extreme anxiety and seizures.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) more than 2 million Americans are struggling with opioid abuse. (1) Opiate withdrawal often induces cold sweats, spasms, cramps, diarrhea and insomnia. The effects of withdrawal often last far beyond the initial week or so of the most intense physical symptoms. Compound effects like insomnia, lethargy, anxiety and depression can persist for weeks and even months. Research into the phenomenon known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is in its infancy, but we are learning more about how to mitigate the long-term effects of prolonged drug abuse every year.
Medical science is beginning to unravel the complex relationship between addiction and neurochemistry. We know drug abuse can cause long-lasting changes to the brain. Studies at the National Institutes of Health have found these changes can include suppression of endorphin production and interference with the action of dopamine and serotonin. (2)
Should You Detox at Home?
What is certain is that a drug detox is a delicate process. Attempting to detox at home introduces unnecessary elements of medical risk and increases the likelihood of relapse. A supervised medical detox is designed to effectively alleviate withdrawal symptoms. More importantly, a patient is under observation so that any dangerous reactions can be immediately addressed. Following a medical detox, patients can be given a comprehensive plan that includes treatments which target the most common pitfalls that lead to relapse. Getting the detox process right is a key component of success in early recovery.
Building a life in recovery begins much like building anything else, with the foundation. Stable footing makes the work of recovery much more manageable. Many of the common causes of relapse can be avoided by diagnosing co-occurring psychological problems early on so treatment can address them. If you or someone you love is ready to take the first step, it’s worth having as many advantages in your corner as possible. Recovering from addiction can be a tremendous challenge. A safe, comfortable detox under medical supervision followed by a thorough treatment plan is the most solid foundation for a successful life in recovery.