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Medical Detox or Home Detox? – How To Detox Your System From Drugs And Alcohol

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D

Detox is often the first step on a person’s road to recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. While there are many methods to go about detoxing from substances, it’s important to know how each method works before deciding which one is best. Medically supervised detox programs and home detox are the two most common ways to rid the body of drugs or alcohol.

How To Detox Your System From Drugs And Alcohol

Deciding to seek treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction is one of the most important decisions a person can make. However, there are several things to consider when choosing how to go about recovery from a substance use disorder. One of these things is whether detox is needed, and if so, what type of detox is the best choice.

There are many ways to go through the detox process, with the most common being home detox and medical detox programs. Each individual is different and has different needs when it comes to detoxing from drugs or alcohol. How a person detoxes should be based on his or her condition as well as the particular substances that he or she is addicted to.

Natural Home Detox: Pros And Cons

Some people may choose to detox from drugs or alcohol at home, while others may have no choice due to an inability to attend a rehab program for financial or other reasons. Regardless of why a person opts for a home detox, there are several things to consider.

Natural detox is the least expensive way to withdraw from drugs or alcohol. However, it’s also considered the least effective and most risky option as well. Detoxing at home means withdrawing from substances without medication as well as without professional support.

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Dangers Of A Home Detox

Detoxing on one’s own at home can be incredibly dangerous for a number of reasons. To begin with, some drugs cause severe or even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Chronic heavy consumption of alcohol or physical dependence on drugs like Ativan and Valium can cause the body to go into shock when these substances are stopped. Without proper medical attention, a person could die from the withdrawal symptoms of these substances.

Additionally, while not necessarily life-threatening, the withdrawal symptoms caused by other drugs can be incredibly uncomfortable. Many people who detox at home return to using again to escape the symptoms. This is especially true in the case of opiate withdrawal.

Positives Of A Home Detox

If you or a loved one is not physically dependent on drugs and/or alcohol or have only used substance intermittently, a home detox may be a viable option. For example, someone who recently relapsed and only used drugs or alcohol for a short period of time may be able to successfully detox at home and return to his or her life in recovery.

If a home detox is the only option or what the person prefers, having reliable friends or family available throughout the withdrawal period is important. Additionally, alternative therapies can make the detox process more comfortable and help rid the body of toxins faster. Types of therapies to consider include yoga, acupuncture, and massage therapy.

Medical Detox: Pros And Cons

Medical detox is when a person receives medications to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. This most often occurs in a medically supervised detox program and is ideal for individuals severely addicted to alcohol, opiates, and benzodiazepines.

Downsides Of A Medical Detox

Some people believe that relying on medication throughout the detox period is simply substituting one addictive substance for another. While this is not necessarily true, and the benefits more than often outweigh the risks, some withdrawal medications can be addictive. Additionally, some medications will need to be stopped under a doctor’s supervision, as they may also be hard or dangerous to stop on their own.

Another potential con of a medical detox program is that many are inpatient based, meaning that the person would have to stay at the detox facility for several days. Some individuals may not be able to take time off work or school to do this. Outpatient programs are also an option, but they require patients to go to the facility every day to receive medication.

Benefits Of A Medical Detox

Attending a medically supervised detox program comes with many benefits. One of these benefits is the use of medication to ease symptoms of withdrawal. Many people resume using drugs in an attempt to escape uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms; however, with medication, these symptoms can be managed. This sets up individuals for a more successful detox from drugs and alcohol.

Another benefit of medical detox is the round-the-clock support provided. Rather than having to go through the withdrawal process alone, patients receive dedicated medical assistance and care throughout the entire detox program.

Many detox programs will also help patients decide on the next step in their recovery. Detox is only the start of a successful recovery plan. Many individuals will need to continue on to an inpatient or outpatient program to learn how to cope without substances. Several medically supervised detox programs assist in this process and make it easy for people to transition from detox to treatment.

Medical Detox Programs – What To Expect

When a person first enters a medical detox program, he or she will undergo an extensive evaluation. This evaluation allows medical professionals to assess the level of addiction and determine the most appropriate course of treatment throughout the withdrawal process.

After the medical evaluation has been performed, patients will then begin the stabilization process. This process consists of administering the necessary medications and monitoring the withdrawal process. Individuals will receive round-the-clock support and care from medical personnel to ensure the most effective and comfortable period of withdrawal.

Common medications used in a medical detox program include:

  • Buprenorphine — This medication is provided for individuals withdrawing from opioids. Buprenorphine can ease symptoms of withdrawal without causing the positive effects of opioids.
  • Methadone — This drug works on the brain’s opioid receptors to decrease cravings for opioids and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Naltrexone — This medication is commonly used after detox to help prevent relapse on opioids and alcohol.
  • Disulfiram — This drug is used to help individuals resist the urge to drink alcohol by preventing the positive effects of alcohol.
  • Acamprosate — This medication helps reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

A person will spend several days in a detox program. The exact amount of time someone will need to effectively withdraw from substances will depend on his or her level of addiction and needs.

Choosing The Right Detox Method For You

If you are wondering how to detox your body from drugs or alcohol, you may be struggling with addiction. Choosing which method of detox to pursue is the first step in reclaiming your life from substances. Speaking with a doctor or addiction specialist is the best way to determine which option is best for your unique situation.

To learn more about the pros and cons of both home detox and medical detox programs, contact a treatment specialist today.

Psychology Today - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-addiction/201001/alcohol-benzos-and-opiates-withdrawal-might-kill-you

SAMSHA - https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment

SMART Recovery - https://www.smartrecovery.org/what-is-medication-assisted-treatment-mat/

Alcohol and Drug Foundation - https://adf.org.au/alcohol-drug-use/supporting-a-loved-one/withdrawal/home-based-withdrawal/

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D
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