HOME DRUG DETOX
Home detox means stopping ‘cold-turkey’, or tapering off the dosage, of a dependent substance. Many people attempt this with no prearranged medical supervision to help manage the pain, discomfort and illness of withdrawal and to help guard against the health dangers of withdrawal.
Unfortunately, tapering too quickly or suddenly stopping drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines and barbiturates can be extremely dangerous. Potentially fatal seizures and heart failure can occur, and alcoholics trying to withdraw cold-turkey can suffer life-threatening delirium tremens – called ‘the DTs’.
Alcohol and drugs can cause such terrible withdrawal symptoms that few people manage to complete their withdrawal, and return to the drugs or alcohol just to survive.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF HOME DRUG DETOX
Anyone who suffers uncomfortable, possibly dangerous side effects when they stop taking addictive drugs or alcohol is said to be physically dependent. To become free of dependence and recover a substance-free life, a person must withdraw from the dependent substance and somehow get through the side effects of doing so, which can be too tortuous to endure alone, and which can even be life-threatening.
The only advantage of a Do-It-Yourself home detox is the fact of being at home, hopefully with helpful and understanding family members or friends standing by to help. And of course, on the surface at least, it doesn’t cost anything.
But these advantages are not sufficient to outweigh the disadvantages:
- Home detox is actually dangerous, and potentially life threatening, because of unexpected medical complications that too often arise during withdrawal
- Withdrawal symptoms can include adverse psychological events, triggering uncontrollable behavior that can be dangerous to oneself or others
- Home detox has no provision for a timely emergency medical response to unexpected and life-threatening physical or psychological emergencies
- A person undergoing severe withdrawal who is in trouble and alone is helpless, in no condition to drive to a hospital or clinic, often unable even to walk to a telephone to call for help
- Hidden or unknown health problems, coupled with the stress of drug or alcohol withdrawal, can bring on unexpected and deadly events that result in unconscious, heart attack, respiratory failure, and death.
Especially when there has been a heavy, long-term dependence, medical assistance is not just a pretty good idea, it is absolutely necessary.
Finally, drug and alcohol dependence and addiction experts with decades of experience all say the same thing: Apart from the extreme danger, home detox has an abysmal record of success. The vast majority of drug-dependent people — well in the high 90’s percentage — cannot and do not get through the withdrawal side effects, quit their home detox, and return to drugs.
DRUG DETOX CHOICES
There are three main types of detox settings from which to choose:
- Inpatient detox in a clinic with round-the-clock medical supervision alert to any emergency
- Outpatient detox with remote medical supervision available by telephone
- Home detox with no formal medical supervision or assistance in emergencies, as described above.
Another choice, called rapid drug detox or ‘anesthesia-assisted’ detox, carries significant added risk and expense. Also this method is only a choice for dependence on opiates, such as narcotic painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone, or street drugs such as heroin and morphine.
THE BEST DRUG DETOX CHOICE
Obviously, the best and safest approach to becoming substance-free is in a medical drug detox clinic staffed with experienced withdrawal experts 24 hours a day.
Good medical drug detox is not ‘one-size-fits-all’. A properly designed medical detox protocol should be personalized for every patient, embracing each patient’s unique metabolism, DNA, and condition of health.
Good medical drug detox provides medications to ease and facilitate the withdrawal, and adjusts hydration, so critical during withdrawal. Good medical drug detox also provides additional alternative medical procedures, along with nutritious foods and dietary supplements, to help ensure that each patient’s health needs are up to the task of becoming free of drugs or alcohol.