How to Decide Between At-Home Detox vs. Medical Detox

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

When it comes to treating substance abuse, many people find it hard to figure out what to do about the problem in their lives. Where do you start? Who do you talk to? And will anyone even be able to help?

These questions often plague the minds of those who are struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. It’s not always easy to find the answers. So, many individuals become so overwhelmed that they simply decide not to get treatment at all.

In lieu of getting professional treatment, some people choose to detox at home. They opt for the “cold turkey” approach, which involves suddenly and immediately ending substance use in order to treat their addiction. Or, they work to wean themselves from the use of alcohol or drugs by gradually lowering the amount they use.

But, the truth is that detoxing at home is one of the most dangerous approaches to ending substance abuse. People who choose to quit cold turkey or detox at home are often placing themselves in harm’s way.

So, when trying to decide between at-home detox vs. medical detox, it’s best to choose the latter. Let’s talk about why this is the case.

The Truth About Detoxing at Home

Some individuals choose to detox from drug or alcohol use at home because they’re simply not sure how to find professional help. It seems as though there are countless rehab centers out there, each offering people a reason to choose them over the others. It can become very overwhelming for those who are searching for hope.

All people really want is freedom from addiction. But, instead, they feel bombarded by an addiction information overload. So, in order to end addiction without having to sort through the tidal wave of recovery center options, people may opt for the hassle-free option of detoxing at home.

Others may be discouraged by the price of addiction treatment. It can sometimes be challenging to come up with the money to get professional treatment for alcohol or drug abuse. So, some individuals just feel stuck. They’re unsure about whether or not they can afford treatment. As a result, they choose the at-home detox route, which, in a sense, is free.

In the long run, however, many individuals find that detoxing at home is far from free. It may not cost as much as professional detox programs. But, it’s definitely physically and emotionally costly.

While it’s certainly an understandable choice, it’s not the best choice. Those who choose to detox at home may suffer severely as a result of the withdrawal symptoms people experience when ending substance abuse.

Of course, the severity of withdrawal often depends on the type of substance and the length of use. Still, in any case, detoxing without professional and medical supervision can lead to some major problems as most individuals experience very serious physical and psychological effects.

Withdrawal: The Challenges of Ending Substance Use

Again, the withdrawal symptoms people experience when ending substance abuse will depend heavily on the type of substance they were using and how long they were using it. But, generally speaking, the symptoms of withdrawal can be very difficult to deal with.

Some of the common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Nightmares
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscular pain and stiffness
  • Changes in appetite (increase or decrease)

Sometimes, people may suffer from seizures, heart palpitations, and have problems with digestion. Withdrawal also leads to cognitive problems, including concentration difficulties.

In some cases, people may even experience symptoms of psychosis. Some may deal with hallucinations, paranoia, and delusional thinking. Individuals who are in withdrawal may also struggle with suicidal thoughts.

These symptoms are not just uncomfortable. They can cause people to become overwhelmed and exhausted. Unfortunately, these emotions often lead to self-harm and even suicide in severe cases of withdrawal. So, it only seems best to make sure that individuals who want to end substance abuse do so under the supervision of medical professionals who can help guide them through the withdrawal process.

Why Medical Detoxification is Best

As we mentioned earlier, withdrawal can be very intense and difficult to deal with. Many people have a hard time working through this phase of their recovery. As a result of the challenges that come up during withdrawal, some individuals feel that they have no choice but to relapse and use their drug of choice again in order to feel “normal” again.

But, they do have another choice. And this choice provides hope to even the hardest cases of addiction. Medical detox programs are designed to help people get through the detoxification process with comfort and safety.

A medical detox program is a type of detox that involves professionally administered medications that can help to improve the withdrawal process and make the journey to recovery much more comfortable.

Some medications in medical detox programs help to block cravings for drugs and alcohol. Some help to block the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. As a result of these effects, people who are working to end substance abuse in their lives can focus on getting better without the distractions of pain and discomfort.

Medically Detoxing at 1st Step Behavioral Health

There is no “one size fits all” type of treatment for addiction. Each person is different and has specific needs while in recovery. So there are various steps in a medical detox program. This allows professionals to find out exactly what individuals need.

First, individuals go through an evaluation process during which the medical team will determine how much medication is needed. Then, there’s the stabilization process, which introduces therapies and medication prescriptions to help those in treatment. The professional medical team then helps to prepare the client for detox. Next, the individual is on his or her way to total recovery from addiction!

After the detox process is over, therapy and counseling can help to equip them with the strategies they need in order to maintain the freedom they’ve worked so hard to gain!

If you or someone you know needs help overcoming a drug or alcohol use problem, please reach out to us here at 1st Step Behavioral Health. Let us help to bring addiction to an end for good! Call us at (866) 319-6126.

References:

https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/alcohol-benzos-at-home

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification https://www.addictioncenter.com/treatment/drug-and-alcohol-detox/

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.

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