If you or someone you love is currently using substances and wants to stop, detox is the first step. Detoxing from alcohol or illicit drugs is typically completed in a supervised setting, but some individuals may wonder if it’s okay to detox, or go “cold turkey,” at home. Truthfully, there are dangers associated with detoxing from alcohol or most illicit substances at home, which can include death. Before choosing home detox, learn the risks associated with detoxing at home before making a decision.
Without supervision, detoxing from alcohol at home can be extremely dangerous. People who use alcohol heavily and choose to stop abruptly can expect to begin experiencing withdrawal symptomswithin 8 hours. Between 1 and 3 days after quitting alcohol use, withdrawal symptoms typically peak. Overall, the withdrawal period from alcohol can last 7 or more days.
In the initial stages of withdrawal, the following common symptoms may occur:
- Mood swings
- Clouded thoughts
- Anxiety and depression
- Mood swings
In addition, withdrawal symptoms can also include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
In its most severe state, withdrawal from alcohol can lead to delirium tremens. The symptoms of delirium tremens include fever, hallucinations, agitation, confusion and seizures. Death can occur in up to 5% of people who experience delirium tremens.
A highly addictive substance, cocaine is difficult to stop and even more difficult to resist in the months following detox. It is possible to detox at home and without the help of a professional, but supervised detox and immediate aftercare is recommended to increase your chances of lasting sobriety. Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal typically begin immediately after the drug’s euphoric “high” goes away and can include:
- Appetite changes
- Slowed movements
- Unpleasant dreams
When the brain becomes accustomed to cocaine use, there is an increase in dopamine, which is responsible for controlling feelings of pleasure. Once the brain is deprived of cocaine, dopamine levels fall. The result is severe depression that can last for months or longer.
Heroin and Opioid Detox
Like alcohol, detoxing from heroin or opioids can be very dangerous due to the risk of seizures and respiratory suppression requiring medical intervention. Opioids also include methadone, morphine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and other prescription drugs used to treat pain. Withdrawal from these substances begin shortly after use as these drugs lead to a physical dependence, which makes detoxing at home a very dangerous and unpleasant experience.
Withdrawal symptoms from opioids can occur anywhere between 12 and 30 hours since the last use. Early symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
Some withdrawal symptoms are more severe, such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
- Goose bumps
- Dilated pupils
It’s important to note that withdrawal from heroin is not deadly by itself. However, people who choose to use these substances after successfully withdrawing are at greater risk for death from an overdose. Deaths from heroin overdose alone increased by more than 20% from 2014 to 2015, with a percentage of these deaths occurring in people who had previously quit using.
If you’re being prescribed opioid pain killers by a physician, it’s best to discuss your wishes to cut down or quit taking them before choosing to detox at home. Your physician can provide a medically safe method of slowly tapering off of the medication that may not be as unpleasant as quitting cold turkey.
Prescription benziodiazepines, such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium and Ativan, are often prescribed for anxiety or pain. Withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines range from moderate to severe depending on the amount taken and frequency. As with all prescribed medications, it’s best to talk to your physician if you want to decrease or discontinue use as there may be a gradual, more comfortable way to quit.
If you choose to detox at home from benzodiazepines, withdrawal symptoms typically occur 1-4 days after discontinuation and benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome can last up to two weeks. Because these medications lead to physical dependence, the following withdrawal symptoms are common:
- Panic attacks and severe anxiety
- Disturbed sleep or insomnia
- Hand tremors
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle pain or stiffness
Individuals who are accustomed to high doses of benzodiazepines and choose to quit abruptly may also experience seizures and hallucinations.
Unless marijuana purchased on the street is laced with a synthetic substance, the plant itself does not contain man-made chemicals. Although marijuana can lead to psychological dependence, people who use marijuana by itself are not subject to withdrawal symptoms due to physical dependence. Detoxing at home from marijuana is fairly safe when compared to other substances provided it is the only substance you use.
Common withdrawal symptoms of marijuana include:
- Appetite changes
- Urges to use
There have not been any reports of death related to marijuana use or withdrawal, but it can take 30 days or more for a heavy user to rid the body of marijuana’s psychoactive component, THC. It’s important to note that there are many products available that claim to be marijuana “detoxes.” Marketed to people with the promise of eliminating THC from the body, these products are not evaluated by the FDA and therefore may pose additional risks. Additionally, these products are not designed to cure a substance abuse problem or prevent relapse.
Things to Consider before Home Detox
As you may know, substance use is not one-sided. Often, people use more than one substance on a regular basis and may have additional physical or mental disorders that co-occur with substance use. When an individual has complex medical, psychological, or substance-related issues, detoxing at home is more complicated and dangerous. Withdrawal from substances can negatively affect both the body and mind, leading to an increased need for medical intervention. Furthermore, detoxing at home alone is far more dangerous as you may not be able to contact 911 if help is needed. If in doubt whether home detox is right for you, discuss your options and personal situation with a trained professional.
What Comes After Detox?
Detoxing from substances is only the first step in achieving sobriety. Whether you choose to detox at home or seek the help of a professional, it’s important to secure follow up services to help maintain sobriety in the long term. Who around you can serve as a sober, stable support system? What will you do when urges to use return? How will you cope with stressors? Seek help from a professional to determine which outpatient services, 12-step meetings, or other treatment options would benefit you on your recovery journey.
Begin Recovery Today
For many people, recovery starts with safe, supervised detox, but detox alone won’t keep you sober. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact outpatient services today at (844) 211-7944 for a free, confidential consultation.