Detoxing at home may seem like a comfortable and safe choice for starting your life in recovery, but at-home detox can be dangerous and unpredictable. Addiction is a physical dependence on substances, and quitting cold turkey can have intense, sometimes deadly physical and mental health consequences.
A medical facility like the All Points North Detox & Assessment Center in Denver, Colorado, can alleviate detox symptoms, provide support, and give you a better chance of achieving recovery.
The Danger of Withdrawal
People struggling with addiction face extreme withdrawal symptoms when they quit substances, making home detox unsafe. After sustained substance misuse, the body and mind adapt to compensate for the drug’s effects. Quitting can cause the body’s adaptations to overcompensate, creating uncomfortable and dangerous physiological conditions.
Because different substances affect people in different ways, we’ve broken down the withdrawal effects of the most common classes of drugs.
Detoxing From Alcohol and Benzodiazepines
Alcohol and benzodiazepines are the two drugs with the most dangerous withdrawal profiles. Both act on the body as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, slowing respiration, decreasing the heart rate, and causing drowsiness. They can also have a relaxing effect and can lower inhibitions.
Sustained alcohol or benzodiazepines misuse trains the CNS to become more naturally excitable. It achieves a sort of homeostasis with these substances to maintain essential life-preserving functions while under the influence. This excitability can have serious consequences when someone quits substance misuse.
Sudden withdrawal of alcohol or benzodiazepines can cause the CNS to become dangerously overstimulated. This can result in effects such as¹:
- Life-threatening seizures
- Hallucinations or nightmares
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety and increased agitation
Proper medical attention reduces these high-risk side effects and ensures a more comfortable early recovery phase.
Detoxing From Opiates and Opioids
Like alcohol and benzodiazepines, opiates such as heroin, fentanyl, or oxycodone are CNS depressants. Although opiate withdrawal is, in general, slightly less dangerous than withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines, some of the symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal are potentially fatal. Withdrawal from opiates is often compared to the worst flu possible, accompanied by intense cravings for continued substance misuse.
The effects of opiate withdrawal include²:
- Watering eyes and runny nose
- Muscle aches and pain
- Stomach cramps
- Diarrhea and vomiting, dehydration
- Light sensitivity
- Anxiety and agitation
- Fever and chills
These symptoms often occur less than 24 hours after using opiates. They get progressively worse over three days, then start to subside, though they can last for up to two weeks.
The most significant danger of opiate withdrawal at home is the potential for relapse. Cravings during detoxification are significantly more powerful, making relapse likely. It can be incredibly challenging to resist a return to substance misuse in the face of painful and intense withdrawal symptoms, especially if they last for an extended period.
Detoxing From Stimulants
The withdrawal effects from stimulants vary significantly from those of CNS depressants. Drugs like cocaine or amphetamines stimulate the mind and body rather than depress them. Accordingly, the withdrawal effects are usually related to feelings of fatigue and despair.
Some of the common effects of stimulant withdrawal are³:
- Depressed mood, low energy, and irritability
- Exhaustion and insomnia
- Agitation and irritability
- Increased appetite
- Muscle aches
- Stimulant cravings
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
These effects can last for up to two weeks and can often lead to relapse if left untreated.
Social and Environmental Pressures
Another challenging factor in detoxing at home comes from social and environmental pressures. People often misuse substances at home, and choosing that same environment for healing can quickly sabotage your efforts.
Specific people, places, and things all have the potential to trigger someone who is struggling to distance themselves from substance use disorder. Detox is an especially vulnerable time, and removing potential triggers can ensure a higher likelihood of success.
The Benefits of a Medical Detox Center
A medical detoxification center can ensure your safety through withdrawals, help with managing uncomfortable symptoms, and give you the best chance of recovery.
With 24/7 medical monitoring, medically assisted treatment, and personalized care, a detoxification team can respond rapidly to changes in your condition and provide support when it’s needed most. In addition, a detox facility offers a safe space away from the social and environmental pressures that can cause relapse.
24/7 Medical Support
Detoxification centers offer 24/7 medical teams to ensure that withdrawal symptoms don’t become deadly. A specialized detoxification team can determine when withdrawal symptoms are progressing dangerously and know when to intervene.
In addition, around-the-clock care means you can address new and developing symptoms as they arise.
Medication can make detox more comfortable and manageable. For alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal, controlled medical tapering is often the only way to detox safely with less severe side effects.
Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are dispensed at decreasing doses over several days to prevent seizures. This can help bring ease and comfort to an otherwise difficult process.
People who detox from opiates or opioids can benefit from specific medications to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms. Medications like Suboxone are partial opioid antagonists, can quickly reverse withdrawal, and can be used in controlled medical tapering. Interventions like Suboxone are often used with other supportive medications to alleviate any remaining symptoms.
Those detoxing from stimulants can also benefit from medical interventions to manage anxiety, promote sleep, and maintain healthy energy levels.
At All Points North Detox & Assessment Center, we make sure to personalize everyone’s detoxification program to fit their needs. We consider your use history and medical conditions, any regular medications you take that may affect your treatment, and any deficiencies that can lead to worsening withdrawal effects or long-term damage.
Our specialized treatment team can make your detoxification safe, more comfortable, and effective.
Better Detox Outcomes with Support
Detoxing at home may seem like the most convenient and comfortable way to start your recovery, but there are severe hazards in attempting detox without adequate support. Many facilities offer specialized medical detoxification, making it easier to avoid high-risk side effects.
If you are considering alcohol detox or drug detox, please reach out to our treatment experts at 855-510-4585 or via to learn more about our new detoxification and assessment center in Denver, Colorado. All Points North offers a full continuum of care from detox to treatment and recovery, and we’re happy to help you find your way forward.
- Sachdeva, Ankur et al.” “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Benzodiazepines and Beyond” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR vol. 9,9 (2015): VE01-VE07. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/13407.6538″
- “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal” Edited by Fred K. Berger et al., MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 10 May 2020, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm.”
- “Stimulant Use Disorder Treatment Guidance” Bureau of Substance Abuse Services.