Detox can be an essential step on the path to a drug-free future. Unfortunately, it can also be a difficult and painful step. In some cases, it can even be dangerous – especially if you try to detox at home, without professional supervision.
What Is Detox?
When you develop a substance use disorder (addiction), your body will adapt to the presence of the drug that you have been abusing.
If you continue to abuse the drug, you will have to use greater amounts in order to achieve the effect you are seeking. This is known as developing tolerance.
If you try to stop using the drug, or if you are prevented from using it for a certain amount of time, your body may respond with a variety of distressing physical and psychological symptoms. This is known as withdrawal.
Detoxification is another word for withdrawal. During detox, you are eliminating toxins (in this case, alcohol or other addictive substances) from your body. This process usually takes about a week, but in some cases, symptoms can persist for several months.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
The types of symptoms you experience, how severe they become, and how long they last can vary depending on which substance you have become addicted to. In the subsections below, we have listed potential withdrawal symptoms for four of the most commonly abused addictive substances.
If you are trying to detox at home after becoming addicted to heroin, prescription painkillers, fentanyl, or another opioid, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Abdominal cramping
- Pain in muscles and bones
- Racing heart rate
- Agitation and irritability
People who attempt alcohol detox at home may have to deal with the following types of symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Tics and tremors
- Confusion and disorientation
The category of stimulants includes prescription medications such as Adderall and Ritalin as well as illicit drugs such as cocaine. Detoxing at home from either legal or illegal stimulants may involve symptoms such as:
- Inability to focus
- Drastic mood swings
- Memory problems
- Disrupted sleep patterns
Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. You may develop the following types of symptoms when you try to detox from benzos at home:
- Blurred vision
- Fever and chills
- Ringing in the ears
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Racing heart rate
Dangers of Detoxing at Home
If you have been thinking about trying to detox at home, please be aware that this may be a dangerous idea for several reasons, including:
- Risk of relapse: The distress of withdrawal can quickly become overwhelming. When you detox at home, you will have easy access to the drug that you have been abusing. No matter how much you want to end your substance abuse, knowing that you can relieve your pain by drinking or using another drug can push you back into this self-defeating behavior.
- Health risks: The disorienting psychological withdrawal symptoms that some drugs cause can put you at risk for accidentally or intentionally hurting yourself. Also, some types of withdrawal – such as trying to detox from severe alcoholism – can have fatal consequences if you don’t have appropriate medical care.
- Lack of support: When you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, or hallucinations, being under the care of experienced professionals who understand exactly what you are going through can be essential. If you are detoxing at home on your own, you won’t have access to this vital support.
- Sense of failure: A failed attempt to detox at home can further undermine your self-confidence, exacerbate the symptoms of co-occurring mental health disorders, and push you deeper into the downward spiral of active addiction.
Benefits of Professionally Supervised Detox
Here are a few of the many benefits of choosing a professionally supervised detox program instead of trying to detox at home:
- Safe environment: When you are in a reputable detox program, you will be in a safe place where you won’t have access to addictive substances. This eliminates the risk that you will use alcohol or another drug to alleviate your withdrawal symptoms.
- Medical support: Depending on which drug you have been abusing, certain prescription medications may ease some of the symptoms you are experiencing. In a medically supervised detox program, the professionals who provide your care can select and prescribe the medications that may be most beneficial for you.
- Therapy: While you are in a professional detox program, you may also be able to participate in therapy. Therapy sessions can help you learn how to manage the discomfort of withdrawal. Therapy can also prepare you to make the lifestyle changes that will support your continued recovery.
- Continuum of care: Completing detox is clearly important. But detox only addresses one aspect of addiction. To build a healthy future in recovery, you need to address the psychological, behavioral, and social impact that addiction has had on your life. Therapy can help you accomplish these goals.
Begin Addiction Treatment in Atlanta, GA
If you have become addicted to alcohol, opioids, or any other substance, Peachtree Recovery Solutions is here for you. At our addiction treatment center in Georgia, you can receive personalized care and compassionate support from a team of dedicated professionals. With our help, you can end your substance abuse and build a foundation for successful recovery. Contact us today to learn more.