Detoxing From Alcohol At Home: Is It Safe?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on October 4, 2021

Detoxing from alcohol should be done under the supervision of medical professionals. Trying to detox from alcohol at home can be dangerous, particularly for people who are at risk for severe alcohol withdrawal or relapse.

Is It Safe To Detox From Alcohol At Home?

Alcohol detox is the process of fully removing alcohol from your system. This requires quitting alcohol. And for people with alcohol dependence, this isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Alcohol dependence can cause symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, which is the body’s reaction to a lack of alcohol in your system. In severe cases, withdrawal syndrome can be deadly.

For this reason, beginning detox in a detox facility or rehab center under medical supervision is strongly recommended. Detoxing from home is not generally advised.

Is It Safe To Detox From Alcohol At Home?

Detoxing from home is possible. But this isn’t recommended. Particularly for people who drink very often, in heavy amounts, and begin to feel physically sick if they go more than a few hours without alcohol.

Signs it may not be safe to detox from home:

  • you drink excessive amounts of alcohol frequently
  • you have been drinking heavily for a long time
  • you have been unable to cut down on drinking in the past
  • you have other medical or mental health problems
  • you have an unsupportive home environment
  • you feel physically sick if you go hours without drinking alcohol

If detoxing in a treatment facility isn’t an option, talk to a doctor for further guidance. An outpatient detox program may be more accessible and can offer medical treatment.

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Risks Of Detoxing From Alcohol At Home

Detoxing from alcohol outside of a clinical setting can come with some important risks. First, there’s a greater likelihood of relapse, or a return to alcohol.

What can cause relapse:

  • strong urges to drink alcohol
  • moderate to severe withdrawal
  • inability to cope without alcohol
  • psychological addiction to alcohol

Alcohol withdrawal can also have serious side effects. Detox symptoms generally begin within 12 hours after your last drink and can reach their peak intensity one to three days in.

Moderate and severe symptoms include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • nausea and vomiting
  • tremors (shaking)
  • confusion
  • pounding heart
  • anxiety

Moderate and severe symptoms may require hospitalization. While mild withdrawal symptoms may be managed at home, side effects that are more intense will generally require medical care.

What Are The Dangers Of Detoxing From Alcohol At Home?

Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most dangerous forms of withdrawal, out of all types of drug dependence and addiction. Severe symptoms can’t be properly managed in a home environment.

The primary danger associated with alcohol detox is delirium tremens (DTs). This is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that can cause life-threatening seizures.

Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens, also known as alcohol withdrawal delirium, is a severe form of acute alcohol withdrawal that can develop within the first 48 hours after your last drink.

Signs of this include:

  • severe confusion
  • fast heart rate
  • high body temperature
  • high blood pressure
  • hallucinations
  • seizures

Within a detox facility, these symptoms can be prevented or treated with supportive care, which may involve the use of medicine, IV therapy, and nutritional support during the detox process.

Who’s At Risk For Severe Alcohol Withdrawal?

Severe alcohol withdrawal is most likely to develop in people who have been drinking very heavy amounts of alcohol for a long time—years or decades.

Other risk factors include:

  • older age
  • poor liver function
  • liver disease
  • polysubstance abuse (abuse of multiple drugs)
  • frequent binge-drinking
  • co-occurring health conditions
  • past complications during detox

Anyone with an alcohol use disorder, or a drinking problem, is generally encouraged to seek professional help through a detox program, in part because it can help prevent relapse.

Many detox centers partner with nearby rehab centers and can offer referrals for additional addiction treatment, such as counseling or a full rehab program, after detoxification.

Learn more about the signs of alcohol withdrawal

Safety Tips For Detoxing At Home

Detoxing from alcohol at home isn’t recommended by experts. But if it is unavoidable, you still shouldn’t attempt it alone.

Consider consulting your doctor for medical advice. If you’re set on detoxing from home, or need help for how to do so with the support of a healthcare provider, here are some safety tips:

Find Support

Ask for help from one or more trusted family members or friends. If severe withdrawal occurs within the first few days, they can call for help in an emergency.

Clear Your Schedule

Even mild alcohol withdrawal can make a person feel fatigued and cause poor concentration. Don’t expect to be able to get much done in the first few days.

Check In With A Doctor

Your doctor may recommend that you check in with them regularly to see how you’re doing and to monitor your symptoms.

Take Care Of Yourself

Eating nutrient-dense foods, drinking plenty of water, and getting rest can be key to promoting good health and preventing negative health outcomes.

The worst of acute alcohol withdrawal generally lasts five to seven days at most. If going to an inpatient program to stop drinking isn’t an option, an alternative option is outpatient detox.

Outpatient Detox For Alcohol Dependence

Outpatient detox centers may also be able to offer support for people who are unable to detox from alcohol in an inpatient or medical detox facility.

Who may benefit from outpatient detox:

  • people with mild alcohol dependence
  • people without an alcohol use disorder
  • people who have a very strong support system in place
  • people who are not at risk for severe alcohol withdrawal
  • people who are not at risk for relapsing to alcohol

Outpatient detox isn’t ideal for people physically dependent on alcohol. This is due to potential dangers such as withdrawal seizures, which at their worst can be life-threatening.

Medical Detox Programs For Alcoholism

Finding a medical detox program for detoxing from alcohol is the safest way to stop drinking alcohol and to connect with an alcohol abuse treatment program for a continuum of care.

Benefits Of Medical Detox For Alcohol Addiction

Entering a detox facility for an alcohol problem can be intimidating. But it’s also the safest and most surefire way to stop drinking alcohol and to begin the road to recovery.

What medical detox for alcohol can offer:

  • 24-hour medical supervision
  • a quiet and safe place to detox
  • medicine for withdrawal symptoms
  • an alcohol-free environment
  • nutritional support
  • referral for substance abuse treatment

Medical detox programs generally last three to seven days. After this is when the real work of overcoming your addiction to alcohol can begin. One day at a time.

Alcohol Detox At Home FAQs

Find answers to frequently asked questions about detoxing from alcohol at home and the alcohol detox process.

❓ How Can I Naturally Remove Alcohol From My System?

✔️ Removing alcohol from your system occurs through detox, which requires stopping all alcohol use. This may cause symptoms of withdrawal, which can last up to one week.

❓ What Medications Are Used For Alcohol Detox?

✔️ Alcohol detox programs may offer medicine for withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines, for instance, are preferred for preventing seizures and treating delirium.

In addition, medications like clonidine, anticonvulsants, or other nutritional supplements may be helpful to address more specific symptoms or health issues associated with the detox process.

Read more about medications used for alcohol detox

❓ Is It Dangerous To Stop Drinking Cold Turkey?

✔️ Quitting alcohol very suddenly and all at once can be dangerous for some. Namely, those with severe alcohol dependence, as well as people who are older or have poor health.

Stopping your alcohol use very suddenly could cause serious symptoms of withdrawal, such as palpitations, hypertension, hallucinations, and seizures—which can be deadly.

Begin Your Recovery Journey With Alcohol Detox

If you or a loved one is struggling with a drinking problem, one of our specialists may be able to help. By calling us now, we can help you find an alcohol treatment program that’s right for you.

Call our free helpline now to find a treatment center that offers alcohol addiction treatment near you.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on October 4, 2021
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