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Home-based Alcohol Detox

Undergoing an alcohol detox from home is an affordable alternative to residential rehab. Learn about the pros and cons of home detox.

Home-based Alcohol Detox

Alcohol is the most popular and socially accepted substance in the UK, with 29.2 million people aged 16 years and over reporting that they consume alcohol. [1]

As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to spot the signs of an alcohol dependency or addiction. When a substance is so widely used and available, particularly when used as a recreational and social lubricant, it can often take some time to realise that the detoxification process is necessary.

While an inpatient rehabilitation programme is the safest and most effective method of recovery, many people successfully undergo alcohol detoxification from the comfort of their own home. [2]

Do I need to detox from alcohol?

For some people, the need to detox from alcohol is very apparent. They may have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, suffer from alcohol-related illnesses such as cirrhosis or have recently discovered that they are pregnant.

However, in some cases, the line between recreational use and dependency can become blurred. If you can relate to any of the following statements, it may be time to rethink your alcohol consumption and seek advice regarding an at-home alcohol detox.

  • I have experienced legal troubles related to my alcohol use, such as a drink-driving charge
  • I have attempted to reduce or completely stop my alcohol intake but have been unable to do so
  • When I attempt to reduce or completely stop my alcohol intake, I experience withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and nausea
  • I have experienced negative consequences related to my alcohol use but I still continue to consume it
  • I spend most of my spare money on alcohol and have borrowed or stolen money in order to fund it
  • My relationships with family, friends and/or colleagues have been damaged due to my alcohol use
  • I am experiencing problems at work or school due to my alcohol use
  • I find it difficult to imagine my life without alcohol

If alcohol has taken control of your life, it is possible to safely recover and detox at home under specific circumstances.

Is it safe for me to detox from alcohol at home?

In many cases, detoxing from alcohol at home can be a safe and less disruptive form of substance abuse treatment.

However, specific criteria must be met when considering this treatment option to ensure the safety and effectiveness of this method.

  • No history of seizures or severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Able to commit to the treatment for a maximum of 10 days
  • 24/7 monitoring and support from a friend, family member or another person throughout the entirety of the detoxification process
  • Regular consumption of fewer than 30 units of alcohol per day

Each one of the above criteria must be met before an at-home alcohol detox can be approved. If you do not meet these requirements you are advised to seek assistance from your GP or another medical professional.

Who should not detox from alcohol at home?

There are certain circumstances that increase the risks of alcohol detoxification. If you can relate to any of the following statements, at-home alcohol detox may not be safe and it is recommended that you seek treatment within a professional rehabilitation centre.

  • Regular consumption of large quantities of alcohol spanning a decade or more
  • Regular consumption of over 30 units of alcohol per day
  • A history of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms including delirium tremens and seizures
  • Are prone to violence and/or self-harm when using drugs or attempting to detox
  • Are currently prescribed or abusing other substances including opiates and benzodiazepines
  • Any co-occurring physical or mental health disorders including heart disease, liver disease, hepatitis C or depression

How to safely detox from alcohol at home

The safest and most effective method of at-home alcohol detoxification is to ensure that you have a medically approved treatment plan in place. It is not recommended to detox at home without the guidance and support of trained medical professionals.

You will usually be advised to slowly reduce your alcohol intake over a period of time, with a medical professional carefully monitoring the amount of alcohol that you consume each day. This can be achieved by switching to an alcoholic beverage that you do not like, consuming water as a substitution for every other drink or limiting yourself to a certain number of units each day with that number slowly tapering off.

Do not attempt to abruptly stop drinking, as this can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms including seizures and hallucinations.

There are also a number of strategies that can be prepared in advance to ensure a more comfortable and successful alcohol detoxification process. [2]

  • Ensure that your home is a safe and relaxing environment, free from children and pets if possible
  • Dispose of all alcoholic beverages to limit temptation
  • Appoint a friend or family member to monitor your symptoms 24/7 if this is not provided as part of your treatment plan
  • Inform friends and family members of your plan to detox at home, as they will be able to support you through the process
  • Ensure you have the necessary supplies to keep you comfortable and healthy – lots of water, nutritious and easy to prepare food, vitamins and any prescribed medications

What are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?

While gradually reducing the dosage of alcohol over time can help to prevent some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms, it is likely that you will experience some form of discomfort in the form of various side effects throughout the process of at-home detoxification.

The most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia and nightmares
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Frequent headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Agitation and irritability

When undertaking an at-home detox it is vital that a friend, family member or other person is available 24/7 in order to monitor any potential symptoms. The more severe side effects of alcohol withdrawal known as delirium tremens can appear without warning and may get worse very quickly, in which case immediate medical assistance must be sought. [3]

Symptoms of delirium tremens include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Feverish and/or flu-like symptoms
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dehydration
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Body tremors
  • Hypothermia

Sample schedules for detoxing from alcohol at home

If you choose to follow the recommended advice and consult a medical professional to assist in your at-home alcohol detox, they will work with you to create a personalised schedule. This will take into account many factors including age, gender, addiction history and any pre-existing health conditions.

Below are two sample schedules for individuals who regularly consume either 20+ beer bottles per day or 12 beer bottles per day. These are estimates and should not be solely used as guidance.

If the individual regularly consumes over 20 beer bottles per day:

  • Day 1: 16 bottles in total over the course of the day, one per hour
  • Day 2: 10 bottles in total over the course of the day, one every 90 minutes
  • Day 3: 8 bottles in total over the course of the day
  • Day 4: 6 bottles in total over the course of the day
  • Day 5: 4 bottles in total over the course of the day
  • Day 6: 2 bottles in total over the course of the day
  • Day 7: 0 bottles in total

If the individual regularly consumes 12 beer bottles per day:

  • Day 1: 10 bottles in total over the course of the day
  • Day 2: 8 bottles in total over the course of the day
  • Day 3: 6 bottles in total over the course of the day
  • Day 4: 4 bottles in total over the course of the day
  • Day 5: 2 bottles in total over the course of the day
  • Day 6: 0 bottles in total

As seen above, the safest and most effective way to detox from home is to slowly reduce the amount of alcohol consumed over a period of time. This can help to prevent more intense withdrawal symptoms and decrease the chances of relapse.

What are the benefits of detoxing from alcohol at home?

1. More affordable

While an inpatient rehabilitation programme can cost between £4,000-£10,000, a professionally managed at-home detox treatment may range from £1,000-£2,000. This makes it a more affordable option for people who may not necessarily be able to afford the more expensive treatment.

2. Less disruption

Detoxing at home allows the individual to continue with their responsibilities including childcare and even work throughout the process If they are able to. This causes less disruption to their daily life and removes many of the barriers that may prevent someone from seeking help.

3. Familiar environment

Many people choose to detox from alcohol at home as they feel more comfortable in safe, familiar surroundings. Undergoing a detoxification programme can seem intimidating, particularly if feelings of anxiety surface as part of the withdrawal process.

References

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/bulletins/opinionsandlifestylesurveyadultdrinkinghabitsingreatbritain/2017

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6299173/

[3] https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/alcohol-withdrawal-a-to-z

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