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Is Natural Alcohol Detox Possible? (Does It Work?)

More than 80 percent of the U.S. adult population has consumed alcohol at some point in their lives, according to data from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which shows just how popular—and universal—drinking alcohol is.

For some people, drinking helps them to forget their problems or perhaps makes them feel better about facing them. It can be a temporary escape, however, that quickly turns into a prison when alcohol withdrawal enters the picture. Not everyone who partakes in drinking alcohol will become moderate or heavy drinkers, even if they do it regularly. 

But, some will, and those people may find themselves feeling sick and not like themselves when they cut back on liquor or stop drinking altogether. There will be people in this group who will need professional help to stop drinking.

Coping with alcohol withdrawal, which is when mental and physical changes happen when one stops drinking, can be challenging for those going through it. It occurs after a person consumes too much alcohol over a prolonged time and decides to quit abruptly, which is not recommended. 

When people consume alcohol regularly, the body becomes used to it. This becomes a problem when the drinker decides to stop or cut back on their consumption. This period of the readjustment ranges from mild to very serious. It can be uncomfortable, and in severe cases, it is often risky, dangerous, and life-threatening. 

The severity of alcohol withdrawal depends on several factors that are unique to each drinker, including:

  • Medical history, pre-existing health conditions
  • Age, weight, body fat percentage
  • Pre-existing mental health disorders
  • History of alcohol use, substance use
  • Alcohol tolerance
  • Metabolism rate
  • How much you drink
  • How often you drink
  • If alcohol has been used with other drugs
  • The duration of moderate-to-heavy drinking

When Does Alcohol Withdrawal Start?

If you have consumed a drink a short while ago and are sweating and feel shaky, and feel yourself growing increasingly agitated or anxious, you likely are in the initial stages of alcohol withdrawal. Some physical symptoms include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Light sensitivity
  • Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting
  • Clammy skin
  • Foggy thinking
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability

These symptoms can show up at least 12 hours or less after the last drink. However, they can start later or earlier, depending on the person. Some people may not begin to feel symptoms until two days later. Once symptoms start, a plan of action must be in place. People with severe symptoms need prompt medical attention and should call 911 or go directly to a hospital emergency room or urgent care center.

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Time to Start a Natural Detox?

Not everyone who goes through alcohol withdrawal will seek professional treatment at a rehabilitation center. The idea of doing a natural alcohol detox at home typically appeals to people who:

  • Want to deal with their recovery in private
  • Seek to spend the least amount of time to “fix” the problem.
  • Don’t have the money to pay for rehab treatment (A do-it-yourself detox cuts costs.)

While all of these make an at-home detox an attractive option, ending alcohol dependence is not easy once the problem has reached the point of addiction.

However, in milder cases of withdrawal, some people do try natural alcohol detox methods at home to ease some of the symptoms that happen when drinking is stopped. Natural alcohol detox involves using alternative methods that don’t include medical treatment in a clinical setting. Some of these include:

Drinking fluids with electrolytes. Heavy alcohol use commonly brings on dehydration and nausea. Drinks that contain electrolytes, such as Gatorade, can help the body regain its balance. You may not have much of an appetite, but it is vital that you stay hydrated. Water, juice, gelatin, and ice pops are common ways people can stay hydrated.

Vegetables and fruits can also help recovering alcohol users balance their sugar levels, which can get out of balance when the body turns alcohol into sugar. A balanced diet can give your body the fuel and nutrients it needs. Also, be sure to include lean meats and whole grains, and foods with protein. A natural alcohol detox excludes artificial foods or processed foods, sugars, and caffeine.

Healthy foods alone won’t do all of the heavy lifting to get your system working at its best again. Vitamins and mineral supplements can help remove the toxins left over from alcohol consumption. Multivitamins, B-complex vitamins (such as vitamin B1, B3, and B-5), vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and garlic are recommended. Amino acids, as well as L-glutamine, have been recommended to curb cravings.

Herbal remedies have been touted as a safer way to detox from alcohol and help repair vital organs, including the liver, which is greatly affected by alcohol use. Drinking herbal teas may help soothe some physical and psychological ailments of alcohol withdrawal. Passionflower tea is said to help people combat restlessness, insomnia, and other sleep disturbances as they abstain from alcohol.

Other natural herbs, such as lavender, hops, chamomile, and valerian, can help users relieve nervousness and anxiety and get to sleep. Melatonin is also said to help people get to sleep. Catnip and lemon balm are reportedly good for helping support the body’s nervous and digestive systems. These herbs as well as St. John’s wort are also useful for improving one’s mood, observers say.

 

The body needs a period of physical recovery as alcohol withdrawal can be hard on the body, especially because so many people experience insomnia and have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. Getting enough rest can help to repair the body.

Does Natural Alcohol Detox Work?

Detoxing from any potent substance after regular, heavy, or frequent use comes with its risks. Detoxing from alcohol without the help of professionals is risky, and frankly, it is not advised if the person is battling heavy alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction. Some people may find that natural alcohol detox works for them, so in that sense, it is possible to carry one out. But their cases may be mild in nature or nothing more than a hangover. 

If it is a hangover, serious conditions that result from alcohol abuse can start later, even up to a week, so monitor yourself closely. If your physical or mental condition changes, you may want to consider entering rehab. To be clear, alcohol detox under a physician’s supervision is the best strategy for addressing a serious alcohol problem.

For alcohol-dependent people, receiving medical detoxification in a treatment center is the safe alternative to handling the consequences of alcohol abuse at home.

When an At-Home Natural Detox Isn’t Recommended

People who are experiencing serious, severe, or extreme alcohol withdrawal are advised to skip detoxing at home and enter professional rehabilitation treatment. This treatment should take place at an accredited facility that specializes in helping people with alcohol problems. In addition to the physical symptoms, these mental symptoms indicate a more serious issue that requires prompt attention.

  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Fear
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)
  • Seizures
  • Severe confusion

Delirium tremens is a condition to watch for. Anc if you or someone you know has it, you must seek immediate medical attention. Drinkers who are most at risk of developing delirium tremens are those who ingest considerable amounts of alcohol for long periods and then suddenly end their use, which depletes their systems of it. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that heavy drinking is 15 drinks weekly for men and eight drinks weekly for women.

Withdrawal symptoms disrupt the brain’s neurotransmitters, and this can lead to seizures and tremors.

Treatment for alcohol withdrawal delirium takes place in a clinical setting where users receive intravenous fluids and anticonvulsant medications to prevent or stop seizures. They also receive sedatives to ease their agitation and anxiety. Antipsychotic medications help prevent hallucinations, and other medications are administered to address other symptoms and help curb alcohol intake.

Benefits of a Medical Detox for Alcohol Addiction

The decision to treat alcohol withdrawal, no matter the stage, should happen quickly. People with moderate-to-severe drinking habits are encouraged to enter a treatment center that starts the recovery process with a medically assisted detox is beneficial. 

First, it ensures that recovering drinkers will not face such a precarious, unpredictable alcohol withdrawal phase alone. Medical professionals will oversee the entire process, which ensures that all traces of alcohol (and other drugs if used) are removed from the body to bring about stability safely. 

During the detox process, users may be tapered off alcohol to minimize symptoms. They also may be given other medications to ease other discomforts. Stopping cold turkey or abruptly at home or in an unstable environment can result in symptoms that may cause you to relapse just to stave off the withdrawal.

The process also eases and prevent the complications that accompany withdrawal and chronic alcohol use.

Tipped over whiskey glass

Unexpected medical emergencies will be dealt with as they arise right away. Medical detox also connects alcohol-dependent users with the therapies and treatments needed to help end alcohol abuse and prevent relapse. 

Medical detox also helps users stay away from alcohol, which also helps them stay away from the possibility of a relapse. Chronic alcohol use is hard to break without intervention methods that promote sobriety.

The Risks of at Home Alcohol Detox

No matter where we are or what we’re doing, your thoughts have a tendency to drift toward being at home. That rings true for this hoping to do their detox at home as well. This approach is not recommended. There is too much uncertainty in the alcohol detox process due to withdrawals. 

Withdrawal from alcohol should never be minimized because of the potentially life-threatening consequences. Alcohol withdrawal at a treatment center is the safest choice given the circumstances. Those on the path to starting a new life should not risk death in the process.

Statistics show that even those who go through treatment have a 20 percent success rate when it comes to remaining sober from alcohol. An assumption can be made that those numbers would be significantly lower for those who do not seek alcohol treatment.

With the risk of relapse so high, your top priority should be to follow the continuum of care by entering a treatment center that can offer long-term care. Long-term care can provide you with sponsors and help coordinate 12-step programs that allow for a smoother transition back into reality. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction and thinking about detoxing at home, it is a choice that should be reconsidered.

Sources

Corleone, Jill, RDN, LD. (October 2017). “Recommended Diet for Alcohol Withdrawal.” LiveStrong.com. Retrieved August 2018, from https://www.livestrong.com/article/410113-recommended-diet-for-alcohol-withdrawal/

HealthLine. (n.dn.) “Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium.” Retrieved July 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/delirium-tremens#treatment

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (June 2017). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Retrieved August 2018, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (June 2017). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Retrieved August 2018, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

Moos, R. H., & Moos, B. S. (2006, February). Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1976118/

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