Alcohol is one of the most widely-used addictive substances in the world, because of its legality and ease of access. Since it is so ubiquitous, it’s no surprise that over 26 percent of people age 18 and older reported binge drinking in a 2015 survey. Despite its legal use, alcohol can be very addictive when abused. Millions of Americans suffer from alcohol use disorder, and 88,000 people die because of alcohol-related causes every year.
So, since alcohol abuse is so dangerous, the best thing to do would be to quit cold turkey, right? Wrong. Detoxing from alcohol can be even more dangerous than the addiction itself. Here are six reasons why detoxing on your own isn’t a good idea.
1. Tonic-Clonic Seizures
A tonic-clonic seizure is a symptom that is common in epilepsy and can be potentially dangerous in some circumstances. Central nervous system depressants like alcohol can sometimes cause seizures as a result of your brain’s struggle to return to a balanced chemistry.
The two-part name comes from the two phases of the seizure. In the tonic phase, muscles stiffen suddenly, air is forced out of the body, and their clenching jaw may cause them to bite their cheek or tongue—the person can also lose consciousness and fall down. In this phase, the victim is at risk for injury if they are standing up or operating a vehicle or machinery.
The clonic phase follows the first phase, with rapid and sporadic arm and leg movements as the muscles relax and contract repeatedly. This will typically last up to three minutes before gradually stopping as the muscles relax. Throughout the seizure, it may be difficult for the person to breathe normally. In some cases, seizures that last longer than five minutes can be life-threatening due to a lack of oxygen.
If you are attempting to withdrawal from alcohol addiction on your own, tonic-clonic seizures can lead to life-threatening medical complications. Medical treatment during detox should be able to help you avoid or safely deal with seizures.
2. Delirium tremens
While tonic-clonic seizures aren’t typically dangerous on their own, alcohol withdrawal can also come with another, more deadly symptoms. Delirium tremens (DTs) is the hazardous onset of confusion, hallucinations, shaking, irregular heartbeat, and fever. Hyperthermia, as a result of Delirium tremens, can cause heavy sweating, fast breathing, as well as a weak and rapid pulse. If the body fails to cool down over an extensive period of time, excessive heat can lead to organ failure.
Delirium can also cause seizures on its own, furthering the victim’s state of confusion. If this symptom occurs while you are by yourself, out of the house, or operating a vehicle, it can lead to a dangerous accident. The state of confusion caused by withdrawal delirium can last for days, making it difficult for you to take care of yourself.
Hospitals and doctors identify Delirium tremens differently, so it is difficult to tell how often this symptom occurs in withdrawal. However, the current estimate is that around four percent of withdrawal hospitalizations are due to DTs. Without treatment, 25 percent of Delirium tremens cases are fatal. With treatment, that number drops to around two percent.
3. Complications Can Happen at Any Time
As symptoms come and go throughout your withdrawal timeline, you will be at the mercy of every ache, pain, and craving that your body produces while fighting to return to normal. If you try to detox by yourself, you will have very little support in alleviating the effects of withdrawal. Serious complications can occur at any time, day or night—you want to be prepared.
Through professional medical detox, you will have dedicated staff looking out for your needs 24 hours a day. If symptoms become too intense, they can treat it with medication. You will also be removed from the temptation to relapse as a way of staving off withdrawal symptoms.
Constant monitoring from medical professionals that specialize in addiction might save your life if life-threatening complications occur, but they will also provide comfort and alleviate your symptoms. Medical detox can mean the difference between an excruciating withdrawal experience and mild discomfort.
4. No Psychological Support
In addition to the physical symptoms, alcohol withdrawal syndrome may come with some psychological and cognitive effects. Anxiety, sleep disturbances, and depression commonly occur during an alcohol detox. In extreme cases, confusion and hallucinations can also occur. In medical detox, professionals will not only monitor and alleviate physical symptoms, but they can also help with psychological problems.
Feelings of deep depression that lead to thoughts of suicide can be dangerous to go through alone. No one should have to go through withdrawal without help from people who are experienced in dealing with addiction and dedicated to your recovery.
5. Lack of Accountability
One of the most common symptoms of withdrawal is an intense craving for the abused substance. In addition to nausea, anxiety, tremors, and insomnia, you will also have frequent urges to drink again. Attempting to detox on your own will mean having to withstand cravings and discomfort on the strength of your own will, which has already been compromised by addiction.
In medical detox, the goal is to ensure your safety and comfort, but it is also a top priority to keep you from using again. Relapse means starting from the beginning when it comes to detox. Accountability, beyond yourself, is the best way to make it through withdrawal without drinking again.
6. Continued Treatment
Once the chemical is out of your system, you will no longer have to deal with your body’s physical dependence on alcohol. However, you will still experience the lingering effects of addiction. It is, after all, a chronic disease with a high relapse rate. Still, relapse is not inevitable. Through continued treatment, you can learn to avoid triggers and deal with cravings.
If you feel the walls of alcoholism caving in on you, the worst feeling is to think you’re alone. You’re not. Call the specialists at Maryland House Detox at 855-969-8748, one of the most effective detox centers, with clinicians on staff to help you determine the best course of action following detox. Since no single treatment works for everyone, a clinician that can help you find a program tailored to you is ideal.