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How to Successfully Detox at Home: The Safe Way

Before detoxing at home, talk to a doctor to make sure you are not at risk for life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
If you are withdrawing from alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines, at-home detox is not recommended. Alcohol and benzodiazepines can result in deadly withdrawal symptoms, and opioid withdrawal comes with a high likelihood of relapse, which can lead to overdose.
For the best chances of successfully detoxing at home, identify someone who can support you throughout the process, and consult a doctor first.

Detoxing at Home

During withdrawal, your body slowly gets rid of the drug from your body and adapts to it no longer being there. This process is almost universally uncomfortable, and sometimes it’s even dangerous. 

When the option for detoxing at an inpatient facility is available, it is generally preferable. You can go through withdrawal surrounded by professionals who are trained to help. However, some people choose to instead go through withdrawal at home. This may be because of financial or personal reasons.

Consult a Doctor

If you plan on going through withdrawal at home, consult a doctor first, and discuss your intentions. Be honest with the doctor. Hiding information from a medical professional will taint their advice. They are generally ethically and legally bound to keep any information you give them confidential, drug use included. 

The doctor can help you understand your options and how best to go forward. Importantly, they can tell you if your choice might be more dangerous than you understand

  • Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous after heavy, chronic use. It is not recommended you go through withdrawal on your own for severe alcohol dependence. See a doctor as soon as possible if you experience a fever, extreme nausea, diarrhea, or DTs (delirium tremens).
  • Benzodiazepines (benzos) should be tapered off. It can be dangerous if you suddenly stop taking them instead. Immediately stopping a full course of benzos can be deadly. Always consult a medical professional about how to detox from benzos.
  • Some people are physically unhealthy. The strain of withdrawal may be a serious risk if you plan on going through it without any medical supervision.

Recruit a Friend

Getting support from a loved one you trust can be the key factor in successfully detoxing at home. Consider the following questions when deciding whose help to get:

  • Do they abuse drugs? People who also abuse drugs are not good choices for support during detox. They represent temptation and might push you, intentionally or not, to do drugs yourself. Even if these people genuinely have your best interest at heart, you should find someone who you are certain can reliably stay off drugs themselves, especially when you are with them.
  • Will they take your detox process seriously? They need to understand that this is a serious endeavor. Inform them of what it entails, and make sure they are processing the gravity of withdrawal as the first step toward recovery. They must understand it will be difficult for you, and by extension, it will probably be difficult for them.
  • Do they have the time required to help you? Depending on the drug you are addicted to, and how chronically you’ve taken it, it may take at least several days to get through the worst of withdrawal. You may need to enlist the help of multiple people, just so the schedule is less demanding.
  • Can they persevere if it gets tough? When you are going through withdrawal, you may attempt to make illogical decisions, or you may even have a lapse. It is important that the person you choose continues to push you to keep up with the process. They should continue to support you even if you falter.

Recruiting someone’s help is important because it allows you to have a rational decision-maker who does not have to deal with the pain and discomfort you do, guiding you through the process. They can help to keep you safe, away from drugs, and in good spirits.

Avoid Temptation

Ideally, with the help of a friend, as described above, you should try and purge your home of any drugs you are at risk of abusing. Hold nothing back; work on the assumption that you will succeed. If your effort is genuine, there is no reason to have a secret cache of drugs “just in case.” Alert your friend of any locations nearby where drugs are available, so they know to help you avoid those places.

Along these same lines, avoid any friends or associates who abuse drugs. This is not meant to demean these people or imply they are lesser; however, people who abuse drugs are more likely to negatively interfere with your decision to stop taking drugs. This is especially true if they bring drugs with them or try to willfully discourage your decision in some way.

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Be Active

Depending on the nature of your withdrawal, you are probably going to be uncomfortable. Your brain and body will crave the drug you are addicted to. You will probably find yourself trying to justify quitting the process so you can go back to abusing drugs.

For this reason, distract yourself. This is another place where recruiting a friend for help can be useful. They may be able to come up with interesting ideas and have a bit more mental wherewithal to do things like go on short drives with you if necessary. Any activity is better than no activity. Watching TV or playing video games may keep you distracted from drug cravings. 

Be careful doing activities out of the house. Even if you are not in any serious danger, you may feel fairly ill. Do not strain yourself and avoid operating heavy machinery unless you are certain you can do so safely.
Additionally, avoid anywhere you know might have drugs available or people you know who might abuse drugs.

The Beginning, Not the End

As long as you are watching out for signs of a medical emergency, detoxing is largely a (difficult and uncomfortable) waiting game. Eventually, your withdrawal symptoms begin to lessen and even go away completely. You should feel proud that you’ve detoxed. 

Detoxing is not the end of addiction, however. You will still find yourself craving drugs, and the situations that drove you to abuse drugs in the first place might still be there. Once you’ve gone through withdrawal, seek help from a professional who specializes in substance abuse treatment. Consider entering a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program. 

These facilities have programs at a variety of intensities to fit your needs. You will not necessarily have to stay over at the facility.

Sick woman laying on her couch blowing her nose

If you were able to go through withdrawal at home, it is likely you will only need outpatient care, where you visit the facility for therapy and then leave to go about your day.

Even if you don’t feel you needhelp, you can still benefitfrom a professional drug treatment program. If something is likely to increase your odds of a healthy recovery from addiction, you should try it.

Therapy increases the probability that you will be able to maintain your sobriety on a long-term basis. Without treatment, it is likely that you will relapse following detox.

Sources

(September 2017) Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Treatment. MedlinePlus. Retrieved April 2019 from https://medlineplus.gov/alcoholusedisorderaudtreatment.html

(December 2014) You Can Overcome Addiction With or Without Treatment. Drug Policy Alliance. Retrieved April 2019 from http://www.drugpolicy.org/blog/you-can-overcome-addiction-or-without-treatment

Home‐based Withdrawal. Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF). Retrieved April 2019 from https://adf.org.au/alcohol-drug-use/supporting-a-loved-one/withdrawal/home-based-withdrawal/

(January 2010) Alcohol, Benzos, and Opiates—Withdrawal That Might Kill You. Psychology Today. Retrieved April 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-addiction/201001/alcohol-benzos-and-opiates-withdrawal-might-kill-you

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