What Are the Risks of Detoxing from Alcohol at Home?

what are the risks of detoxing from alcohol at homeAn alcoholic can become so desperate to end their addiction that they may consider attempting to detox at home – with no medical supervision nor caring, informative treatment support workers.

However, going through the detoxification process without suitable medical and appropriate emotional help has many pitfalls. Trying to detox without medical help could lead to results ranging from mere failure to complete the detoxification to dangerous physical and mental health outcomes.


Many alcoholics believe that cutting down their alcohol consumption, bit by bit, will eventually give them total sobriety. The problem, which most addicts who have tried tapering down will recognize, is that one drink leads to the next. It is extremely hard for an alcoholic not to have another drink once they have had the first few sips. Their neural pathways, which have grown accustomed to constant drinking, find it nearly impossible to refuse another drink. This is why tapering alcohol consumption on your own rarely works.

Why Does Withdrawal Happen?

Chronic drinking confuses and alters your neurotransmitters. The good feelings produced by the calming brain chemicals (GABA) and the neurotransmitter which produces feelings of excitability (glutamate) eventually become suppressed. Then, if you stop drinking, the suppression also stops, leading to a rebound effect – your brain becomes hyper-excitable, leading to the heart-racing and anxiolytic effects of alcohol withdrawal.

Withdrawal Symptomsman drinking shot of vodka and is really sad

Unmedicated withdrawal is not only highly dangerous, but also extremely unpleasant. Alcohol-dependent people who choose to go this route can expect symptoms such as sweating, tremors, insomnia, night sweats and anxiety.

In severe cases some experience audio or physical hallucinations. It is not uncommon to have desultory voices in one’s ears, nor is it rare to experience horrendous images when you are not even sure if you are awake or dreaming. Many partners of detoxing alcoholics report their loved one screaming or kicking in their sleep, as if they were having a horrid nightmare that feels very real.

The DTs

Delirium tremens, also called the “DTs,” could be the most serious withdrawal symptom of all. This can produce uncontrollable shaking in the patient, plus hallucinations, seizures and even death. Delirium tremens is marked by confusion, tachycardia and fever and can kill as many as 5 percent of cases. Suffering from the DTs is much more likely in long-term daily drinkers but could happen to anyone. Unfortunately, although alcohol consumption has reduced among the general population in recent years, drinking has still risen among people who are considered alcohol-dependent.


Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (“PAWS”) can be an emotional roller-coaster. After an alcoholic has detoxed, he or she may feel emotionally raw. Emotions may range from sadness to guilt to elation. Without any professional support, this may be too much for an alcoholic to bear without returning to drinking. Many alcoholics have cut their off emotions for so long that they no longer understand how to deal with their feelings. Sympathetic treatment professionals can help recovering addicts understand and work through “PAWS.”

A Safer Way

No one has to suffer alcohol withdrawal on their own. Comprehensive treatment centers are designed to make sure a patient has a safe and comfortable detox process. When needed, experienced doctors can carefully and appropriately dispense medication to ease withdrawal with medications that are typically only used for a few days until the patient is stable and settled. So there is no risk of harm or further addiction, only healing.

Recovery is a much more encouraging and healthier experience when you have supportive professionals around to support you every step of the way.

A Better Way

Integrated treatment programs have experienced staff members who can supervise all patients throughout their detox process to ensure they feel comfortable and receive anything they need — from medication to addiction education to good nutrition. Not only can patients avoid unpleasant symptoms and safely withdraw from alcohol dependence, but they also receive the chance to be emotionally supported through their recovery process. Recovery is a much more encouraging and healthier experience when you have supportive professionals around to support you every step of the way.

Written by Beth Burgess