Can You Detox From Alcohol While Living at Home 

If you are dependent on alcohol, you must go through some kind of detox to recover your sobriety. This term refers to something called alcohol detoxification. The detox process allows you to clear alcohol from your system.

In this way, it forms an essential building block in your effort to become alcohol-free.

Alcohol detox often takes place in a residential rehab under the watchful eye of treatment experts.

However, with the right kinds of professional support, many people can detox at home. Knowing when at-home detox is appropriate and inappropriate will help keep you safe throughout your recovery. It will also support the hard work required to reach your sobriety goals.

What Is Alcohol Detox

What Is Alcohol Detox

What exactly do addiction specialists mean when they talk about detoxing from alcohol? First and foremost, the detox process requires you to stop consuming alcohol. As long as you have alcohol in your system, you cannot reach an initial sober state.

In turn, you cannot take the next steps needed to establish a routine that does not include drinking.

You can try to quit drinking on your own. However, experts universally recommend that you seek help instead. Both addiction specialists and trained doctors can provide this help. Such professional guidance is known as medically supervised detox.

Supervised detox has other goals besides helping you get alcohol out of your system. One crucial goal is keeping you stable and generally well throughout the detox process.

In addition, a supervised program will help you make preparations to further your recovery in active alcohol rehab. 

Reasons for Alcohol Detox

Benefits of a Medically Supervised Detox

What are the reasons for alcohol detox? In other words, why should you go through a guided process to stop drinking? A key factor in this need is the impact that alcohol dependence has on your brain and body. If you are dependent on alcohol, you do not drink voluntarily.

Instead, you have an involuntary mental and physical need to keep consuming alcohol. 

This need is related to the effects that repeated, excessive drinking has on your brain. If you only drink small amounts, your brain will likely have no problem maintaining its normal function.

The same tends to be true if you occasionally drink in moderate amounts.

However, circumstances change when you form a pattern of excessive drinking.

If you drink heavily often enough, your brain must alter its function to deal with the frequent presence of alcohol. Much of this alteration occurs in your levels of key brain chemicals. At a certain point, your brain will no longer treat it’s altered chemical levels as an exception.

Instead, it will come to treat its new environment as an everyday fact. At this point, you have become alcohol-dependent. 

Once you become dependent on drinking, your brain will object to any major decreases in your alcohol use. This can happen if you make significant, rapid cuts in your consumption.

It is also highly likely if you stop drinking altogether. Experts use the term withdrawal to refer to your brain’s negative responses to decreased or halted alcohol use. 

The nature of alcohol withdrawal is the next reason for seeking help. Withdrawal produces symptoms that range from unpleasant to dangerous. The most common symptoms include such things as:

  • Trembling muscles
  • Headaches
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Stomach distress
  • Heart palpitations
  • Heavy sweating

On the surface, these symptoms may not seem like much. However, they can make you profoundly uncomfortable. That is especially true because you may also feel a compelling urge to keep drinking.

Together, these factors create the very real possibility of relapsing back into excessive drinking. They also point to another key benefit of a medically supervised detox program.

Namely, supervision helps you stay comfortable enough to complete withdrawal without relapsing. 

There are also other reasons for detoxing under professional guidance. A small percentage of people withdrawing from alcohol experience serious complications.

Examples of these complications include hallucinations and full-body or grand mal seizures. They also include a syndrome called delirium tremens, the DTs or alcohol withdrawal delirium. This syndrome combines hallucinations with things such as: 

  • Extreme confusion
  • An agitated mental state
  • High blood pressure
  • An accelerated heartbeat

Left untreated, both seizures and delirium tremens can have fatal consequences. By detoxing in a supervised setting, you can avoid such extreme outcomes. 

Detox and the Levels Of Alcohol Dependence

There are multiple possible levels of alcohol dependence. Together, these levels form a continuum of potential withdrawal symptoms and detox complications. Where you fall on this continuum has a major effect on the right kinds of detox for your situation. 

Alcohol dependence, i.e., alcoholism, is a form of a larger illness called alcohol use disorder, or AUD. The same illness also includes cases of serious, non-addicted abuse of alcohol. There are a total of 11 acknowledged symptoms of AUD.

Most of these symptoms are related to alcohol dependence, including such things as:

  • Losing control over how much or how often you drink
  • Developing rising tolerance to alcohol’s intoxicating effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal if you quit or quickly cut back
  • Having a routine based around drinking or recovering from alcohol’s effects
  • Turning to drinking as a preferred recreational activity
  • Continuing to drink when you notice obvious mental or physical consequences
  • Trying to stop drinking on more than one occasion without succeeding

If you have two or three of the 11 symptoms, you qualify for a mild AUD diagnosis. Four or five symptoms will put you in the category of moderate AUD. Six or more symptoms indicate that you have severe AUD. 

A mild case of the disorder may be treated on an outpatient basis. This means that you can detox at home while checking in periodically with your treatment program.

However, there is a good chance that you will need residential care for moderate AUD. Residential detox is the norm for severe alcohol use disorder.

Process for Home Alcohol Detox

Process for Home Alcohol Detox

How does the process for home alcohol detox work? The beginning step is making sure that this is an appropriate option for you. Doctors use a couple of methods to make this determination.

First, they rely on questionnaires designed to uncover the symptoms of AUD.

In addition, they perform thorough examinations that include such things as:

  • Blood analysis 
  • Urinalysis
  • Testing of your liver function
  • Determining your blood levels of key substances called electrolytes
  • General physical observation

If you are a good candidate for supervised at-home detox, you can take the next steps in the process. 

Typically, you will have to agree to a set of terms outlined by your outpatient program. The specific terms may vary from facility to facility. However, most programs will ask you to agree to:

  • Have your urine tested for alcohol before detox begins
  • Show up at scheduled times for detox check-ins
  • Completely avoid all alcohol use
  • Undergo testing to ensure that are not drinking
  • Abstain from driving if you are taking detox medication 

Alcohol and a Benzodiazepine Taper 

Whether you go through detox on an inpatient or outpatient basis, relief of withdrawal symptoms is a main goal. When your symptoms are less intense, you have greater odds of sticking with detox. You therefore also have greater odds of getting sober.

Benzodiazepine medications are frequently used as part of alcohol detox. These medications are actually classified as sedatives or tranquilizers. However, they can also ease some of the most uncomfortable symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. You may receive benzodiazepines as an inpatient or an outpatient. 

To start with, doctors prescribe a loading dose of an oral or IV benzodiazepine. This is the term for a dose high enough to achieve the desired effects of easing your withdrawal symptoms. After that, you may continue to receive your medication at scheduled times of the day.

Alternatively, you may only take medication when your withdrawal symptoms grow worse. 

As detox progresses and your symptoms ease, your doctor can start lowering your medication dose. This is known as a benzodiazepine taper. Not everyone detoxes from alcohol with a benzodiazepine taper in exactly the same way.

Your treatment team will determine when tapering can begin. They will also determine how slowly or quickly tapering will proceed. The desired outcome is to leave you both benzodiazepine- and alcohol-free. 

Other Methods of Supporting You During Detox

Additional methods are also used to support you during supervised at-home detox. These methods include regular monitoring of your vital signs. They also includes looking for indications of any kind of withdrawal complications.

In addition, your program may ask you to stick to a healthy diet while going through the detox process. Such a diet will help make detox easier to tolerate. It will also help address some of the nutritional deficiencies common in people with serious alcohol problems. Your doctor may recommend nutritional supplements for this same reason. 

Dangers of At-Home Alcohol Detox

Detoxing at home comes with some potential risks. The biggest risk of all is attempting to do this without supervision from trained professionals. Any attempt to detox on your own leaves you vulnerable in multiple ways.

First, even if you only have mild AUD, trying quit without help increases your chances of relapsing. Why? Mild withdrawal is still unpleasant enough to make you feel quite uncomfortable.

Without getting help for your symptoms, you may find it all too easy to end your withdrawal by drinking again. And generally speaking, your chances of relapsing only get higher if you have moderate or severe AUD.

Unsupervised detox also exposes you to the dangers of withdrawal complications. These complications do not happen in most people. However, when they do, they can put both your recovery and your life in jeopardy.

Heavy drinkers with long-term alcohol dependence have the highest risks for major complications in detox. 

There are also potential dangers of at-home detox for people who seek supervised care. Perhaps the biggest of these dangers is failing to honor the terms of your detox program.

These terms are designed to help you stay sober and safe. If you do not follow them, the potential results range all the way from a relapse to serious accidents. 

Choosing the Right Method for Lasting Recovery

Choosing the Right Method for Lasting Recovery

Choosing the right method for lasting recovery in alcohol detox is critical. If you choose an option that provides more treatment than necessary, you can waste time and money.

On the other hand, if you do not get enough treatment, you may put your recovery and safety at risk. 

How do you know which option will work best for you? Much of the perspective needed to make this decision comes from an initial health assessment.

This assessment will uncover the extent of your AUD symptoms. Your treatment team can then use this information to determine if you need inpatient or outpatient care. 

Your assessment will also help determine what specific kinds of detox treatment fit your needs. In collaboration with your team, you will pick suitable options for your level of AUD.

Together, these options form your detox treatment plan. 

Covering the Cost of a Treatment Facility

How can you pay for your enrollment in alcohol detox? Today, many health insurance plans provide coverage for substance treatment. This coverage may take care of some or all of your expenses.

Covering the cost of a treatment facility is also possible if you do not have insurance. That is true because some facilities allow you to pay for treatment in installments instead of all at once. 

Seek Alcohol Detox From the Experts at Emerald Isle

At Emerald Isle, we provide a full range of services for people affected by alcohol problems. From alcohol detox through rehab and aftercare, we support your journey toward stable sobriety.

Your options include outpatient programs that allow you to live at home during treatment. They also include inpatient treatment that gives you round-the-clock care. All Emerald Isle detox and rehab plans are fully customized for your specific situation.

No matter the nature of your AUD symptoms, we can help you meet your goals.

For more information on our many options, call us today.