Are There Advantages of At-Home Detox?An at-home detox focuses on the elimination of toxic substances from the body with little or no assistance from medication or professional supervision. Although doing a drug detox at home can save money, it’s also widely considered to be the least effective way to detox. Many people begin with a definite desire to change their life, only to find that they underestimated the discomfort of enduring withdrawal symptoms and are compelled to relapse. People who detox at home often do so because they don’t have health insurance or cannot afford medical treatment. They may also be wary of involving anyone “untrusted” in their addiction or recovery, which, unfortunately, prevents them from benefitting from professional medical and mental health care and support.
Dangers of At-Home DetoxDetoxing at home without professional help can be risky, as some substances, including alcohol and benzodiazepines, can induce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Moreover, if you are a heavy drinker or dependent on drugs such as Xanax or Valium, you should not attempt to quit abruptly or “cold-turkey,” since this action could result in seizures and other severe complications. Opioids such as heroin do not usually produce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, but there is still a risk for extreme reactions. There have also been cases of fatalities occurring during opioid withdrawal related to malnourishment and dehydration. If you must detox at home, it is critical to plan ahead. Make sure to have over-the-counter medications that may be helpful available, have a loved one nearby, drink lots of water, and eat as healthy as possible.
Medical Detox—The Best Way to Detox Your Body from DrugsA medically-monitored detox can be completed without medication but still be performed in a clinical environment. In this situation, patients are under doctor supervision and have access to medical intervention if needed. Medical detox can be conducted in either an inpatient or outpatient setting and is a much safer method of detox than attempting to do it alone.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Medical DetoxThe main difference between an at-home and medical detox is that the latter can benefit from the administration of withdrawal symptom-relieving medications. But understandably, some people fear that medical detox is essentially the same thing as substituting one drug for another. However, when the proper precautions are taken, and medication is appropriately administered, a new addiction should not develop. In fact, these medications can help the person manage their cravings, so they are better able to concentrate on their recovery. Moreover, medication-assisted detox is an effective way to ease the withdrawal symptoms related to dangerous substances such as alcohol and benzos. As a possible disadvantage, medical detox that is performed on an outpatient basis does require daily trips to the addiction treatment facility. This may be more challenging for those without reliable transportation. Also, some of the medications themselves may have the potential for abuse when used outside of a clinical environment. Furthermore, the ideal candidate for medical detox is someone who is genuinely motivated to recover. Those who detox at home may be throwing caution to the wind and less committed to avoiding relapse.
Medications for DetoxFor opioid use disorders, there are a few FDA-approved medications that can be administered, including the following: Buprenorphine Buprenorphine is a drug that mitigates withdrawal symptoms without inducing euphoric feelings. It’s often prescribed in combination with naloxone (e.g., Suboxone) which is a drug that produces a withdrawal respond if the patient tries to misuse buprenorphine. Naltrexone Naltrexone is a medication commonly prescribed after detox to assist with relapse prevention. Naltrexone is designed to reduce cravings for opioids. It achieves this by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain, thereby competing with and blocking other opioid drugs from binding to these receptors, and, as a result, suppresses cravings. For alcohol addictions, patients may receive the following FDA-approved medications:
- Acamprosate, which reduces withdrawal symptoms.
- Disulfiram, a medication that deactivates an enzyme that the body requires to metabolize alcohol, making alcohol use uncomfortable.
- Naltrexone, which works similarly for alcoholism as it does for opioid addiction.