Alcohol withdrawal can be highly dangerous and unpredictable, especially if you are severely addicted or try to quit cold turkey. As a result, alcohol detox at home is never encouraged and it is unlikely to be successful. However, there are alternative options that are safer and more effective.
About Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is not uncommon. More than 16 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder and less than 10 percent of them receive treatment for it.1 Alcohol is one of the most widely abused substances and one of the most accepted in American culture. It is almost always present at celebratory occasions, formal gatherings, cafes, restaurants, and more.
Often referred to by street names like “booze,” “liquid courage,” “hard stuff,” or “sauce,” alcohol is commonplace in America and its ability to cause physical dependence and addiction is often downplayed or joked about.
In low doses, it can act as a stimulant and make you feel more confident, sociable, and outgoing. In high doses, however, it acts as a central nervous system depressant, causing breathing problems, slowing reflexes, impairing coordination, reducing judgment, and causing memory lapses or blackouts.2
Having a single drink is unlikely to cause addiction or dependence, but unhealthy drinking habits like binge drinking or consistent heavy drinking can quickly lead to more serious problems.
Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Heavy, chronic alcohol abuse can cause serious physical health problems over time. Some of the side effects of chronic alcohol abuse include:
- Memory problems
- Severe cravings for alcohol
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Liver damage
- Increased risk of various types of cancer
- Weakened immune system
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome3
Other serious consequences of chronic heavy drinking or binge drinking may include:
- Car crashes
- Accidents/personal injuries
- Financial problems
- Relationship problems
- Violent behavior
- Excessive risk-taking
- Suicide and/or homicide3
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
If you have developed a dependence or addiction to alcohol, you will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:
- Shaky hands
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Strong alcohol cravings
- Delirium tremens (DTs)4
The severity and duration of your alcohol withdrawal symptoms largely depend on your drinking habits, the severity of your addiction, and whether you quit cold turkey or gradually weaned yourself off the alcohol.
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
Alcohol withdrawal is different for everyone and there is no way to determine exactly how long it will take or how severe it will be before it occurs. However, certain factors may influence this, such as:
- How often you drink alcohol
- How much you drink each time
- Other medical/mental health problems you have
- The method you use to quit drinking (taper vs. cold turkey)
Although the alcohol withdrawal timeline varies from person to person, here’s an example of what you may experience when you detox from alcohol.
|Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline|
|8 hours after the last drink||Early symptoms of withdrawal may include nausea, abdominal pain, anxiety, and insomnia.|
|1 to 3 days after the last drink||Symptoms persist and may include high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, increased body temperature, and confusion.|
|4+ days after the last drink||Symptoms may worsen and can include hallucinations, agitation, seizures, and fever.|
|5 to 7 days after the last drink||Symptoms begin to taper off gradually and decrease in intensity. Some symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, depression, or insomnia may persist for several weeks if they are left untreated.|
How to Detox from Alcohol at Home: Risks and Dangers
It’s tempting to detox from alcohol at home because it’s cheaper and it doesn’t require that you ask anyone else for help. Additionally, many at-home detox kits that are sold online make it seem like alcohol detox is an easily managed process that requires little effort, when in fact, the opposite is true. At-home alcohol detox is very risky and unpredictable. Ultimately, it could cost you your life.
Here are some of the primary risks of attempting to detox from alcohol at home:
- Severe physical complications: If you’re addicted to alcohol, simply just quitting is not an effective or safe way to get sober. You could experience severe medical complications during withdrawal, such as heart problems, seizures, or hallucinations, especially if you do not have access to professional medical treatment.
- Delirium tremens (DTs): Delirium tremens is arguably the riskiest and most dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptom. Without professional treatment, it could be life-threatening.
- Severe psychological complications: Experiencing psychological symptoms of alcohol detox like psychosis, panic attacks, and severe depression can be difficult to manage without professional help. Additionally, many of these symptoms can persist for weeks without medical management and treatment at a detox center, which can make it very difficult to stay sober.
- Relapse: At-home alcohol detox does not provide therapy or aftercare, which can help you maintain long-term sobriety. Consequently, you are much more likely to relapse, especially if there is alcohol in your home or your friends and family are unsupportive of your decision to get sober. Research studies provide further evidence that professional alcohol detox is more likely to result in long-term sobriety than at-home detox.5
Alternative Alcohol Detox Options in Houston
If you want to get sober, at-home alcohol detox is not an ideal option, but there are alternative treatments for safe and effective alcohol detox in Houston. A medical detox program can provide 24/7 care and medication-assisted treatment to reduce the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Clinical therapy during detox can also help to prevent relapse and encourage ongoing treatment for sustained sobriety.
Briarwood Detox Center is a trusted medical detox center offering personalized alcohol detox programs in Houston. We provide comprehensive, multidisciplinary treatment for the best chance at a full and lasting recovery. Call (832) 648-4412 to learn more about alcohol detox in Houston.