At-home detox is on the rise.
For many, there’s an enormous appeal to suffering through the difficult and protracted phases of detoxification alone. Convenience is usually the most cited reason but there’s also a degree of secrecy to it – a symptom of the underlying shame that’s so common among substance abusers today.
However, this growing trend of bearing the withdrawals of a substance use disorder at home is a lot more dangerous than most people may think. Besides the risk of potentially fatal symptoms, at-home detox carries with it a greater risk of eventual relapse as well. As a result, many people end up going through the agony of detoxification only to fall right back into substance abuse soon after.
That’s why we’re taking a look at some of the deadliest drugs to detox from, as well as why at-home detox simply doesn’t stand up to the much smarter alternative of going to an actual treatment center.
In the end, partnering with an addiction specialist may end up being the smartest long-term decision you could make.
The 3 Deadliest Drugs to Detox from
One of the most serious dangers when it comes to detoxing at home is the fact that several drugs pose a potentially fatal risk to an individual’s health when going through withdrawals. When certain complex and delicate procedures aren’t followed during the detoxification processes for these drugs, the final result could end up costing you your life.
It may come as a surprise to most people that one of the most legal and widely available substances carries with it some of the deadliest withdrawals of any substance.
A condition called delirium tremens may result in a number of symptoms including:
- Deep sleep
During long-term alcohol addiction, the body tends to increase the potency of excitatory neurotransmitters to counteract the inhibitory chemicals that alcohol strengthens. When alcohol is quickly taken away though, the inhibitory chemicals return back to normal while the excitatory ones remain ultra-potent.
The result is an overexcited neural network that becomes so overcharged it can result in potentially fatal seizures and convulsions.
Particularly severe alcohol addiction sufferers are much more likely to experience delirium tremens than individuals with a more moderate history. But given what’s at stake, the absolute best bet is to seek professional help before you attempt to detox from alcohol.
This is not an at-home detox that’s worth the risk.
Drugs like Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin are some of the most notable names in this drug category.
These prescription medications are similar to alcohol in that they also directly affect the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitters to slow down its electrical activity and create feelings of sedation and tranquility.
Just as the risk of death comes from over stimulated excitatory chemicals in alcohol, so too do benzodiazepines carry that same risk. An overactive brain can potentially lead to a flurry of electrical activity and launch the body into seizures that may end up being deadly.
Beyond that though, benzodiazepines are especially notorious for having the most unbearable withdrawal symptoms of any other drug, even topping such hardcore substances like heroin. This fact is all the more surprising because of the legality and widespread use of the drugs in the medical community.
The takeaway here is that detoxing from benzodiazepines should not be taken lightly. Doing so just may end up being fatal.
The potential lethality of opiate withdrawals is a little bit different from the other two. While alcohol and benzodiazepines may directly cause life-threatening seizures when the drug is removed from the body too quickly during detox, opiate withdrawals themselves aren’t technically fatal.
They can, however, be especially uncomfortable. Symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal cramping
The fatal aspect of it all comes from the severity of these withdrawal symptoms leading to relapse. You see, opiate tolerance builds up pretty quickly but it returns to normal even quicker.
If an opioid addict spends a week trying to get clean, can’t handle the withdrawals, and falls back into old habits, he or she is likely to start using the same amount of the drug they took before trying to get clean.
But since their tolerance has dropped significantly during that time, their body won’t be able to handle that same amount of the drug and consequently is likely to overdose. An opiate overdose is very commonly fatal.
Ultimately, it isn’t exactly the withdrawals that end up being the killer, it’s actually the accidental overdose due to a rapid drop in tolerance.
At-Home Detox: Unregulated Standards
Unproven treatment strategies are another problem when it comes to at-home detox. While there is certainly something that can be said for treatment methods that have yet to be verified by modern science, relying on such unregulated and unsupported methods may end up being dangerous.
For instance, many at-home detox programs may call for certain herbal supplements to help reduce the severity of withdrawals. However, the effectiveness of many of these supplements in treating addiction withdrawals hasn’t been verified by actual, hard data.
And it isn’t just an issue of being ineffective either. Some of these products may end up causing you harm. One study found that the majority of herbal supplements aren’t exactly what they claim to be. They found a number of surprising statistics including that 60% have unlisted ingredients, almost a third don’t even contain the active ingredient they claim, and over one-fifth are chock full of fillers like soy, wheat, and rice.
And when you don’t truly know what’s in a product, it can be especially tough to prepare for and prevent any adverse reactions between medications as well as other supplements.
Using unregulated standards and methodologies during at-home detox then isn’t just about effectiveness. It’s about being safe by using products that are part of a system of checks and balances.
The Proven Treatments of a Rehab Facility
One particularly notable benefit of using an actual addiction treatment center is the access you have to professional and qualified medical staff. Many treatment centers employ actual licensed physicians to help craft an individually tailored treatment plan that accounts for your unique needs.
What’s more, this staff will also be much more able to monitor your health and well-being throughout your recovery. Their experience in treating addiction helps them know if what you’re going through during recovery is unusual or just a part of the natural process. Beyond that, these facilities will also typically have direct access to life-saving technologies in case of an adverse event.
And finally, going through an addiction treatment program rather than at-home detox allows you access to medication-assisted treatments (MATs). These therapies are revolutionizing addiction treatment by reducing the intensity of withdrawals, eliminating cravings, and taking away the incentive of using again, making relapse all the less likely.
These truly are real game-changers, and they can only be prescribed by a licensed physician.
Additional Benefits of a Treatment Center
Contrary to what many people believe, successfully treating a substance use disorder isn’t just about withstanding the unbearable symptoms of withdrawals. In fact, detoxification is only the first step in the process. Once the drug is out of the system, then the real work begins.
A successful addiction treatment program will employ a number of supplementary therapies to help you get at the heart of your addiction and give you the life strategies you need to overcome cravings, manage your stress, and keep sobriety at the front of your mind.
One-on-one counseling, group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational therapy, and community reinforcement treatment are just a few of the additional therapies that are part of a comprehensive and, most importantly, evidence-based treatment plan.
These therapies will not only tackle the underlying causes of your addiction and give you the tools you need to stay sober long-term, they’re also backed up by actual science. And when the rest of your life depends on getting sober, knowing that your treatment program actually works can be invaluable.
At-Home Detox: Not Worth the Risk
The growing trend of at-home detox brings with it a level of convenience and cost-effectiveness. But the benefits of this particular approach to dealing with a substance use disorder don’t necessarily outweigh the costs. In fact, there are a number of different substances that can carry some deadly consequences when not detoxed from properly.
It’s absolutely crucial, then, that anyone suffering from a substance use disorder employs the expertise and experience of a certified addiction treatment facility. The trained staff can help you get through painful withdrawals, give you the strategies you need to cope with future cravings, and ultimately provide guidance while you find out why you started using in the first place.
Put simply, using a treatment facility is the smarter alternative to at-home detox.