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4 Health Risks of Detoxing from Drugs and Alcohol Alone

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Addiction treatment happens in multiple steps designed to address substance abuse’s physical, behavioral, emotional, and environmental aspects. For many, the first step of addiction treatment is detox.

Some may feel tempted to try detoxing at home to jumpstart the process or because they believe it may save time or money. However, detoxing alone can cause serious, sometimes life-threatening problems. Because of the health risks of detoxing from drugs and alcohol alone, it’s always best to detox in a medically-supervised facility.

For more information about starting treatment or detox, reach out to the Charlotte North Carolina Detox specialists today.

What Happens to Your Body During Detox?

When you stop using drugs or alcohol after a period of prolonged use, your body begins to rid itself of the toxins in your systems. Detoxification is a natural process, but you may experience withdrawal symptoms while your body goes through this change.

Is Detoxing at Home Possible?

Some people may attempt to detox at home, but addiction specialists often warn people against trying to stop “cold turkey.” While detoxification is a natural process, it can test your body and cause significant physical and mental health complications.

Most people find withdrawal to be a very uncomfortable process. Symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal can include nausea, sweating, anxiety, fatigue, body aches, and other physical discomforts.[1] Many people also experience intense cravings for drugs and alcohol. Without treatment and support, the cravings and discomfort of withdrawal lead to relapse.

What are the Dangers of Detoxing Alone?

Detoxing at home carries some significant risks. Without support, treatment, and supervision, many people will fail to have a safe, complete detox from drugs and alcohol.

Understanding the risks of detoxing at home is essential before starting your recovery journey. Here are four of the most significant dangers of detoxing alone.

1. Relapse

Quitting abusing substances can feel nearly impossible once your body has developed a dependence on drugs or alcohol. For many, drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be excruciating. Fever, fast heart rate, nausea, sweating, tremors, and insomnia feel awful. Intense cravings can test your will. Without support and supervision, many people in withdrawal relapse before completing the detox process.

2. Mental health complications

Withdrawal can take its toll on your body, but it can also test your mental health. Fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and depression can occur during detox. Recent information given to the FDA reported that some people in opioid withdrawal had died by suicide.[2]

Detoxing alone can result in various mental health complications and emotional distress. People living with mental illness may experience a worsening of their symptoms or may develop new symptoms that can interfere with their ability to cope.

3. Dangerous withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal can be uncomfortable but can also become a life-threatening medical event. Some people experience severe symptoms that require immediate medical intervention, including:[1]

  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Excessive nausea and vomiting
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion

A small number of people in withdrawal may develop a serious condition called Delirium Tremens (DTs). People with DTs may become agitated and confused. They often experience fever, rapid heart rate, and seizures. While some factors make it more likely for someone to develop Delirium Tremens, anyone can experience it regardless of risk factors.[3]

4. Overdose

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 40% and 60% of people with substance abuse experience at least one relapse during recovery.[4] In 2020, over 90,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose.[5]

People are more vulnerable to overdose after a period of abstinence because their tolerance gets reduced. Detoxing alone increases the risk of relapse, and if someone relapses before finishing the detox, they are at increased risk of dying from an overdose.[6] It is essential to have supervision and treatment during detox to help you complete the process and reduce your chance of dying by overdose.

Medically-Supervised Detox vs. Detoxing at Home

In a medically-supervised detox program, you will be monitored and treated for your withdrawal symptoms. Medical and support staff will provide medications and therapies to keep you safe and comfortable during withdrawal. You will have round-the-clock access to the mental health and medical help you need to complete detox and prepare to start your treatment program.

During a supervised detox program, you will go through withdrawal in a controlled environment free of drugs and alcohol. You will have physical distance from your triggers when your sobriety is fragile. Instead of attempting to manage your daily life–chores, work, taking care of family members, preparing meals, etc.–you will be able to focus primarily on your own needs.

Detoxing from drugs and alcohol alone can leave you vulnerable to relapse and harm your physical and mental health. Research shows that people who seek treatment at a supervised detox facility are more likely to have a safe, complete detox and achieve their goal of lifelong sobriety.

Get Help Now

Charlotte Detox Center is a peaceful and beautiful place for individuals to comfortably and safely eliminate physical dependence on substances; our high-end and state-of-the-art facility prepares clients for the next level of appropriate care.

Dedicated addiction-medicine trained Nursing and Psychiatric staff monitor each client around the clock to ensure their comfort and safety while detoxing with us. Our compassionate and skilled clinical staff blend clinically dynamic, evidence-based therapies and complementary modalities with AA’s Twelve Step Program to build a solid foundation of recovery and lasting change.

If you or someone you love require detox or substance abuse treatment, reach out to the Charlotte North Carolina Detox specialists today.