How to Safely Detox from Drugs or Alcohol at Home
Home detox from drugs or alcohol can be an appealing option for addicts who don’t want to commit the time and money to an actual rehab treatment plan.
However, detoxing from nearly any drug without professional help certainly isn’t going to be a picnic. Physical withdrawals can end up being incredibly uncomfortable, psychological ones can make it seem like you’re losing your mind, and in some cases, you might even be putting yourself in danger if you don’t take the proper steps to protect yourself along the way.
This guide will take you through some of the most important tips to help you safely detox from alcohol and drugs at home. Plus, we’ll also take a look at the withdrawal timelines for alcohol and the most commonly abused drugs. And finally, we’ll also look at some detoxification products you can use to make the process even more successful, as well as what different kinds of tests can detect.
But before we get started, there are some dangers you should know about first.
A Quick Health Disclaimer
While it can be less of a burden on your wallet, home detox can have some potentially fatal consequences depending on the substance. What’s more, not using the expertise of qualified professionals during your detoxification can also increase your chances of relapse in the future.
As such, home detox should be avoided entirely in most cases. If you do still decide to detox on your own, you should always consult with a physician or addiction specialist beforehand for expert advice. The tips below are not a substitute for the advice of a medical professional.
We’ll take a closer look at the dangerous of at-home detoxification a bit later and why partnering with a professional facility is the only way to safely detox from drugs and alcohol.
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General Tips on How to Safely Detox from Alcohol & Drugs at Home
Detoxification is all about reversing a lot of the physical changes that have happened over the course of your addiction. Many of these changes have to do with the buildup of tolerance.
Tolerance to some drugs develops by strengthening certain brain chemicals over time. Addiction to other substances may result in reducing the number of specialized cells in your body called receptors. The exact type of change that occurs varies and depends on the substance of abuse.
But in general, withdrawals can be incredibly uncomfortable. And sometimes, they can end up being so bad that recovering addicts would rather turn back to using again just for a bit of relief from the withdrawals.
That’s one of the reasons why quitting your drug or alcohol habit on your own can be so hard – you just don’t have access to the same drugs, strategies, and techniques used by professionals to help make your withdrawals more manageable.
And while at-home detox is likely going to be far more uncomfortable than a professional program, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce the severity of your withdrawals along the way.
Below are some tips you can use to help make your home detox go even more smoothly, no matter what kind of drug or substance addiction you’re trying to kick.
Get Someone to Help
Entrusting the task of keeping you from using again to a family member, or close friend can be the deciding factor in whether you get through the detox process without using. Leaving it up to willpower alone often ends in failure.
But there’s more to enlisting the help of your friends or family during your detoxification than just a physical barrier to you slipping back into using again (though this is extremely important). Getting through withdrawals also requires an enormous amount of emotional and motivational support as well.
And while the expert staff and fellow addicts you meet during professional therapy can be some of the best sources of that motivation, if you’re detoxing at home you simply must make sure that there’s someone by your side cheering you on.
Eat Well When You Can
The withdrawal symptoms of many drugs make it hard to stomach much but when you do eat, make sure you only take in healthy, nutrition-dense foods. Doing so can do wonders in supporting sobriety and giving your body the vitamins it needs to fight off the toxins.
Think leafy, green vegetables, lean proteins, whole wheat, and plenty of fruits and other veggies. Your body is expending an enormous amount of energy to cleanse itself of the buildup of toxins that weeks, months, and years of addiction have caused. And when you supply it with the vitamins and minerals it needs, it can do its job far more effectively.
One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting everything you need in your diet (and to cut down on work when you’re pushing through the worst of your withdrawals) is to start meal prepping. Planning out and preparing all of your meals beforehand can ensure that you’re keeping healthy when your willpower is running on empty.
In the same vein as the last point, it’s critical that you pay particularly close attention to how much water you’re drinking throughout your detoxification.
Most types of withdrawals involve symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and sweating. And when these are happening at a near-constant rate, your body can run out of liquids much sooner than you may think. And when that happens, it can cause serious complications to occur like kidney failure, coma, shock, and cardiac events.
Try to stick with healthy liquids like water and a bit of Gatorade thrown in every now and then. Soda should be used sparingly since it’s often loaded with sugar and can actually end up making your dehydration even worse.
Stock Up with Other Support Materials
Make sure you have everything you need at home. This point is important and is often overlooked by people trying to detox at home. When you’re in the thralls of detoxification, you won’t be able to think straight. Added to that, the absolute last thing you’ll want to do is venture out of your home into public because you forgot to pick up something at the store before you quit.
That’s why it’s vital that you stock up on supplies before you start detoxing. In this guide, you’ll find a list of OTC medications and natural supplements you should stock up on before you start your detox.
Clear Your Schedule
Detox takes time – probably more than you anticipate. As such, you’ll want to make sure you don’t have any obligations to fulfill for a good span of time. Now, many people convince themselves they’ll be able to simply “power through” the symptoms and carry out their daily lives. This is harder than you think.
Withdrawals can be absolutely overpowering. Not only will you likely show physical signs of your detox (sweating, flushing, vomiting, shaking, etc.), you probably won’t be able to think very straight during this time either.
Take the time off work. Reschedule social outings. Tell your family you’ll visit them in a few weeks. Once you start feeling the withdrawals, you’ll be happy you did.
Get Your Steps In!
Even though you’re going to be assaulted by incredibly uncomfortable physical symptoms and bombarded by overwhelming psychological ones along the way, you should try as much as you can to get some exercise during your detox.
True, getting your steps in may be the absolute last thing on your mind at the time, but it’s important to realize that exercising can actually help make your detoxification just a little bit easier to get through. Studies have shown that exercising can help boost your mood and relieve stress, and that can mean a lot when you’re dealing with symptoms like depression and anxiety.
So, don’t push it too hard but try to get your blood pumping at least a little bit while you’re kicking your habit. Have an afternoon walk around the neighborhood. Take a quick jog around the block. Go for a hike or try a few sessions of yoga. Whatever you can do to get just a little bit of exercise in is going to help – even if it is just to take your mind off the withdrawals for just a little bit.
Drug-Specific Tips on Safely Detoxing at Home
Just as not all drugs interact with the body the same way, not all withdrawal syndromes are the same for each class of drug either. Consequently, there are going to be different symptoms for each that pop up as well as different ways of dealing with them.
The list of drug-specific tips below should help you make the most out of your detox, whether it’s for alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, or stimulants.
Alcohol Home Detox Tips
- Focus on Nutrition – Alcoholism in particular often leads to severe malnutrition, due in part to drinking instead of eating or “liquid lunches” as they’re called. Particular nutrients that are often at unhealthy levels in alcoholics are folate, thiamine, magnesium, zinc, and phosphate. Work on replenishing these nutrients specifically during your detox.
- Use Natural Remedies to Control the Shakes – Some of the most maddening withdrawal symptoms when it comes to alcohol are hand and body tremors. These tremors can be exacerbated by anxiety and stress. Use natural mood boosters like St. John’s Wort, Kava Kava, exercise, and meditation to help make your tremors just a bit more manageable.
- Recognize Serious Symptoms – Alcohol is one of the only drugs that can end up creating directly life-threatening withdrawal symptoms like grand mal seizures. These seizures can develop alongside a dangerous condition known as delirium tremens. We’ll get more into the specifics of this disorder below, but it’s important to realize that if you do start seeing signs of this condition, you need to seek medical help immediately.
Opioid Home Detox Tips
- Regulate Your Temperature – One of the most recognizable symptoms of opioid withdrawal is the fact that your body will jump from being overheated and sweating to feeling freezing at a moment’s notice. Try resisting the urge to change your home’s temperature throughout your withdrawal to keep things more consistent. Also, dress in loose, comfortable clothing to keep you from sweating through multiple outfits along the way.
- Use Hot Showers for Body Aches – The physical withdrawals such as body and muscle aches associated with opioid detox can be incredibly uncomfortable. Many addicts have found that taking hot showers, baths, or Jacuzzis can help ease the pain of this symptom in particular.
- Use Medication to Control Your Diarrhea – Opioids have a tendency to cause constipation. And when you detox from them, the result is often the exact opposite. Be sure to have some Imodium or other anti-diarrheal on hand. Not only will it make detoxing more comfortable, but it can also save you from a serious case of dehydration as well.
Benzodiazepine Home Detox Tips
- Manage Your Anxiety – As anti-anxiety medications themselves, detoxing from benzodiazepines can often cause a rebound of symptoms that they were meant to treat in the first place. That means your detox will likely be plagued by anxiety, irritation, and even panic attacks. Try to find natural remedies to treat these symptoms like St. John’s Wort and passionflower. And never underestimate the power of confiding in a close friend or family member.
- Prepare for Sleep Problems – Many recovering benzo addicts report having an especially hard time getting to sleep as they go through detox. Taking natural sleep supplements like melatonin and valerian root can make sleeping much easier. Also, invest in earplugs and a sleep mask too. Benzo withdrawal often results in hypersensitivity to light and sound, so you’ll have to work a bit harder to cut off your sensory input in order to stay asleep.
- Taper to Avoid Serious Symptoms – Like alcohol, benzodiazepine withdrawal can end up causing life-threatening grand mal seizures during detox. And one of the best ways to prevent these symptoms is by tapering your dose with long-acting benzodiazepines rather than short-acting ones. You’ll need to work with a doctor or addiction professional to work out a plan here, but it’s certainly better than the alternative.
Stimulant Home Detox Tips
- Educate Yourself Beforehand – Stimulant withdrawal has been known to lead to some pretty terrifying symptoms. Some recovering addicts even experience a type of psychosis characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and even violent behavior. Knowing what to expect beforehand can help you prepare accordingly and consider asking others for help.
- Prepare for Intense Cravings – Having a plan in place to combat the intense cravings that come with stimulant withdrawal is a must. Food and exercise are some of the top healthy contenders here. But most of all, make sure you cut off all access to stimulants here. If you realize there’s even a possibility of getting more during detoxification, your cravings will likely be far too intense to stay clean.
- Get Someone to Help – Going through stimulant withdrawal can lead to severe deficiencies of the brain’s main pleasure chemical dopamine. And that can lead to some pretty drastic mental conditions. Suicidal thoughts, severe depression, and general hopelessness are all quite common during stimulant withdrawal. It’s especially important, then, that you enlist the help of someone else during your detox. Doing so can ensure that you won’t pose a danger to your own safety.
How Long Do Drugs & Alcohol Stay in Your Body?
Knowing just what to expect from your detox is half the battle. When you can see what’s coming ahead of time, you can better prepare for it. And when you’re better prepared, it’s going to be a heck of a lot easier to get through it.
That’s why it pays to know just how long it will take to get through your withdrawals, so you can plan accordingly. Added to that, it also helps to know how long a class of drug actually stays in your system, so you can anticipate when your withdrawals are going to start.
You can find that information below for the most commonly abused drugs.
Alcohol Detox Timeline – Begins around 24 to 48 hours after blood alcohol level drops which can take up to 12 hours after a binge. Symptoms of withdrawal typically last for around 5 to 7 days.
Opioids Detox Timeline – Like other drugs, opioid withdrawals begin once the opioid has left your bloodstream – typically within 24 hours after your last use. Once detox begins, these symptoms can end up lasting for 7 to 10 days.
Benzodiazepine Detox Timeline – Short-acting benzodiazepines like Xanax have a shorter half-life and can end up leaving your body quickly – within around 12 hours. Intermediate-acting benzos like Ativan can take a day or longer. Either way, the withdrawals are likely to last far longer than other drugs and may stick around for anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks.
Stimulant Detox Timeline – Stimulants tend to leave the bloodstream completely within 12 to 24 hours, depending on what kind of drug you’re abusing. Around 12 hours after the stimulant has left the body completely, withdrawals will likely begin and may persist for as long as several weeks.
How Long After Using Can Tests Detect Drugs?
Whether you’re wondering how long it will take for you to pass a drug test or you simply want to know how long it will take for you to get fully clean again, it can be pretty helpful to know what certain drug tests can detect for specific drugs.
Listed below are the general detection timelines for the four major classes of drugs for the three primary types of tests: urine, breath/saliva, and hair follicle tests.
- Urine Tests
- Alcohol – 12 to 48 hours
- Opioids – 72 hours
- Benzodiazepines – 2 to 14 days (depending on short-acting or long-acting)
- Stimulants – 24 to 96 hours
- Breath/Saliva Tests
- Alcohol – 24 hours
- Opioids – 24 to 36 hours
- Benzodiazepines – 48 hours
- Stimulants – 24 hours
- Hair Tests
- Alcohol – 90 days
- Opioids – 90 days
- Benzodiazepines – 90 days
- Stimulants – 90 days
Over the Counter Medicines & Supplements That Can Ease Withdrawal Symptoms
It’s important to remember, however, that even though you’re likely in a lot of pain, you still need to follow the dosing guidelines outlined on the bottles. Even though these drugs are sold legally in stores, they can end up being both addictive and dangerous when used incorrectly.
- Imodium – Helpful for stopping diarrhea.
- Ibuprofen – An immensely helpful pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and fever reducer. Superior to acetaminophen for detox in that acetaminophen can end up damaging the liver at high doses.
- Melatonin/Valerian Root – Natural sleep aids that aren’t habit forming and can help combat insomnia.
- Complete Multivitamin – An important addition to any at-home detox, can provide your body with many of the nutrients it needs to combat withdrawals and make recovery much easier.
- Fish Oil – Provides Omega-3s which can make the body more effective at recovering.
- L-Glutamine – Can help reduce cravings and balance blood chemical levels.
- B-Vitamins – Can become severely depleted due to alcoholism. Restoring to normal levels can boost energy and eliminate mental fog.
- L-Theanine – Reduces anxiety.
- St. John’s Wort – Improves mood and combats depression.
- Vitamin C – May be helpful in treating heroin withdrawals specifically.
- L-Tyrosine – Can help with depression, low energy levels, and mood disorders.
- Kava Kava – May reduce anxiety.
- Zinc – Can help restore your body’s immune system.
Why Is At-Home Detox So Dangerous?
Now that you know the best ways to reduce the severity of your withdrawals and get as comfortable as possible during your at-home detox, let’s take a look at what makes kicking your addiction on your own so dangerous in the first place.
We’ll take a look at the three deadliest drugs to detox from as well as some of the dangerous complications that can happen when you try to get clean from almost any drug.
Dangers of Home Alcohol Detox
Despite the legality of the substance, withdrawal from alcohol is by far one of the most dangerous processes. Alcohol acts on the brain by first enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA but, over time, it actually suppresses it. Glutamate, another neurotransmitter, is also suppressed.
If an individual who’s built up a significant tolerance suddenly removes alcohol from their life, these formerly suppressed neurotransmitters rebound and cause the brain to become hyperexcited.
The result is the occurrence of symptoms like irritability and agitation but also the potentially deadly state of delirium tremens. This state is characterized by high fever, confusion, restlessness, and hallucinations but also the onset of deadly seizures.
If you are planning on detoxing from alcohol, then, it’s critical that you do so under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.
Additional Drugs with Dangerous Withdrawals
There are two other classes of drugs in particular that can be especially dangerous to detox from without the guidance of a physician.
Benzodiazepines, also called “benzos,” are a group of sedatives that have a depressant effect on the brain. Anti-anxiety drugs like Ativan and Xanax fall under this category.
The chemical reaction of this drug on the body resembles that of alcohol in that it also enhances the effect of GABA. As such, the resulting surge in the neurotransmitter during cessation can also cause life-threatening seizures in addition to a host of other effects such as anxiety, panic attacks, and even psychosis.
Opiates, on the other hand, have a different kind of danger associated with them. While the symptoms of opioid withdrawal aren’t actually fatal, tolerance for the substance returns to normal levels much quicker than other drugs. This fact combined with the intensity of opioid cravings lead many addicts to start using again.
If they return to the same levels of potency and dosage as before (as many do), the lower tolerance of their body might not be able to handle the toxicity of the drug and could result in a fatal overdose. Opioid detox, then, can be particularly fatal especially when it isn’t combined with supplementary treatment such as counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy.
The takeaway here is that, once again, home detox is certainly not recommended.
What Other Complications Make At-Home Detoxification Dangerous?
While it’s true that alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids (to an extent) are the only drugs that have directly life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, that doesn’t mean that your life isn’t in danger with other drugs.
In fact, many cases of deaths during detoxification actually arise from the additional complications that can come from detox rather than the potentially-fatal withdrawals we’ve looked at already.
Below are the most common complications to be on the lookout for and how they may end up being the biggest threat to your life if you still decide to detox at home rather than with a professional program.
- Malnutrition – Many different drug withdrawals include vomiting in their long list of physical side effects to expect. And for some of these drugs, the vomiting can occur almost constantly. As you can imagine, this can make keeping food down a bit of a challenge.
Added to the fact that most drug users don’t get the proper nutrition they need while they’re actively addicted, this might lead to a serious state of malnutrition. As a result, they may experience a range of additional complications such as impaired immunity, poor cognition, reduced muscle strength, and many more.
- Dehydration – In addition to just how common vomiting is during withdrawal, diarrhea also occurs quite frequently along the way. And not only is this withdrawal symptom incredibly uncomfortable, but it can also lead to dehydration incredibly quickly, especially combined with vomiting.
Dehydration, as well as the electrolyte imbalance that can happen as a result, can lead to lowered blood pressure and kidney failure, among other conditions.
- Arrhythmia & Cardiac Events – Detoxes from drugs and alcohol often impact the way the body regulates autonomic functions like respiration and heart rate. And in the flurry of activity, your heart rate can actually become abnormal, a condition technically known as an arrhythmia. While not all arrhythmias lead to deadly complications, some do.
The irregular heartbeat can make it hard for certain organs to get the blood they need to function properly. And as a result, some people experiencing an arrhythmia may suffer a stroke or complete heart failure.
With proper medical help, though, you’ll have the medical expertise needed to both treat this condition and prevent any serious complications should they arise.
- Choking – The persistent vomiting associated with withdrawal can also lead to another unexpected complication: choking. While it’s a horrifying thing to think of, some addicts may actually be at risk of choking on their own vomit as they suffer through the symptoms of withdrawal during detoxification.
This risk is even higher if patients are using other drugs illicitly in order to help them get through the worst withdrawals, especially when those drugs are particularly sedating. It’s important, then, that even if you do decide to forego the medical expertise of a professional detox facility, that you still get someone to help you as you work through withdrawals at home.
- Pulmonary Aspiration – Piggybacking on the previous complication, the frequent vomiting can also cause a dangerous complication known as pulmonary aspiration. This condition comes from accidentally inhaling vomit and the infection that can result from a buildup of fluid or material in the lungs.
This buildup can then cause other complications such as aspiration pneumonia which, in some cases, can end up being quite deadly.
- Psychosis – Most common with amphetamines, some drug withdrawals might also send recovering addicts into a manic and deluded state resembling psychosis. This state is characterized by a disconnect with reality, delusions, paranoia, aggressive behavior, and sometimes even hallucinations.
During a state of psychosis, it can be difficult if not impossible to control the victim and they may pose a physical risk to others as well as themselves.
- Self-Harm – Not all dangerous complications are physical. In fact, some of the most lethal withdrawal symptoms are actually the psychological ones. Anxiety, depression, irritability, paranoia, and more can all add up to an overwhelmingly hopeless feeling that some people just can’t shake. And these psychological withdrawals can quite often lead to the development of suicidal thoughts.
Without proper interventions from a professional treatment facility, a patient going through withdrawal may not be able to see that their feelings of hopelessness are actually a symptom of withdrawal and won’t last forever.
What Else Does Home Detox Lack?
Another aspect of rehabilitation that home detox efforts tend to lack is the presence of supplementary care measures. Most programs will include four types of additional treatments: one-on-one counseling, behavioral therapies, aftercare support services, and medical detox options.
While you may have eradicated your body of the chemical through home detox, you probably haven’t truly dealt with the reasons why you started using in the first place. And many times, people end up developing an addiction as a way of self-medicating and treating past emotional trauma. With the help of one-on-one counseling sessions, you can dive deep into your addiction and start treating the cause rather than the symptoms.
In addition to getting at the root of your drug abuse behaviors and helping you put the past to rest, many rehabilitation centers also incorporate behavioral therapy like CBT into the mandatory treatment process.
These therapies will not only help you deal with intense cravings when they arise, but they’ll also teach you healthy life skills, show you how to modify behaviors before they lead to old habits, and guide you through how to maintain necessary additional treatment requirements like continuing to take certain medications.
What’s more, home detox doesn’t bring with it the continued support that many treatment center aftercare services provide. Regular group meetings, recurring counseling sessions, and additional behavioral training can all play a major role in keeping you clean for good rather than temporarily.
Added to that, many facilities offer medical detox options that help reduce the symptoms of withdrawal which can be instrumental in keeping you from using again.
Safe and Responsible: Home Detox Done Right
If you’ve decided to detox from drugs or alcohol on your own, there are a number of things you can do to make the process much easier. Beyond that, specific drugs have their own unique withdrawals. And the more you know about what to expect, the better prepared you can be.
Plus, there are a number of over-the-counter medications and supplements you can take to make at-home detox just a bit safer.
Still, it’s important to realize that while home detox might be the only option that’s financially viable for some individuals, weathering the effects of withdrawal without medical supervision can be incredibly uncomfortable and potentially fatal.
What’s more, the lack of supplementary and aftercare treatments makes subsequent relapses all the more likely down the line.
That’s why checking yourself into a rehabilitation center staffed by qualified medical professionals is one of the best ways to ensure you get clean and stay clean. So don’t risk it and find a high-quality treatment center today.
Do you have any other tips for safely detoxing at home from alcohol or drugs? Want to share what your home detox was like? Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below!