The danger of an at home alcohol detox is caused by the mental component of alcohol addiction. Erroneous information about detox in general and alcohol withdrawals in particular has turned out to be detrimental for some people trying to overcome a dependence on alcohol. After a period of regular heavy drinking, neurological changes and high toxicity levels can cause a range of symptoms when alcohol is abruptly withheld. Although these symptoms may appear mild at first, their potential to escalate into a medical crisis as the alcohol detox progresses frequently put the individual's life at risk especially if they are alone.
The problem with an at home alcohol detox is the inability to appropriately address the cluster of acute symptoms of withdrawal that directly associated with chronic use of alcohol. Delirium Tremens (DTs) are a set of symptoms with a high mortality rate that some patients experience during an alcohol detox. The onset of these symptoms can occur randomly and escalate rapidly. They are typically very difficult to alleviate or control once they have begun. Hallucination, severe convulsions and heart seizures are common to this condition. In most cases, patients experiencing these symptoms will require immediate medical attention to prevent more serious complications or death. Failure to get appropriate medical attention in a timely manner is often the reason people die when going through alcohol withdrawals alone at home.
At least 5% of with long term alcoholism experience delirium tremens when they attempt an alcohol detox. While this percentage may seem small, there are no accurate predictors of who will experience these deadly symptoms and who will not. While not all alcohol withdrawal symptoms are as dangerous as DTs, many can be unbearable enough to drive people to resume drinking just to alleviate the discomfort.
Some typical alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
More severe symptoms may include
People with an existing disease and long term alcohol use disorder may also suffer acute alcohol withdrawals. Coupled with the disease processes, these patients have a higher risk of suffering significant illness and death. A period of physical alteration and psychological impairment can also ensue after the acute withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Patients without proper medical supervision such as is offered in a rehab setting typically resume heavy drinking to help them to cope with these unpleasant symptoms.
Because of the spectrum of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the danger associated with them, most physicians do not recommend the "cold turkey" method of withdrawal or an at home detox without access to emergency medical care. The safest alternative to an at home alcohol detox is entering a treatment facility that specialize in medical detox services. In these facilities, professional addiction clinicians are qualified and experienced in the alcohol withdrawal treatment process.
An effective alcohol detox process will entail:
Alcohol withdrawals can be complicated and risky. Seeking professional medical attention in a facility that is equipped to handle major medical crisis and protracted withdrawal symptoms can be a life-saving decision.