Many individuals who abuse or are addicted to alcohol want to know the best (and safest) method for how to stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal usually occurs in heavy or chronic drinkers who have suddenly stopped their consumption of alcohol. These individuals can suffer from multiple symptoms such as anxiety, vomiting, increased heart rate, depression, sleep disturbances, and many more. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms such as seizures and delirium tremens (a state of confusion, disorientation, and agitation) can be fatal. Although the symptoms of withdrawal are dangerous, there are some patients who can opt for natural, at home alcohol detox.

Alcohol Self Detox – Are You a Candidate for it?

Not everyone is suited for alcohol detoxification at home [1]. It is only suitable for patients with mild or moderate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and the availability of a good support network at home to assist and keep an eye on the patient. Detoxification at home is contraindicated in individuals who have any underlying illness such as epilepsy, diabetes, high blood pressure, psychiatric condition or heart conditions. Those at a heightened risk for delirium tremens (state of agitation, confusion and disorientation) seizure, positive history of recreational drug use, and long-term intake of large amounts of alcohol should also be treated as an inpatient. Most programs have found that less than 10% of individuals needed to be treated as an inpatient [2],.

Benefits of At Home Alcohol Detox

One of the benefits of the at home alcohol detox regimen is the significant reduction of treatment cost compared to the inpatient setting [3]. Studies have found that inpatient treatment can be much more expensive costing an average of $3,319 – $3,665 compared to $175 – $388 for outpatient treatment [3]. Other benefits include less interruption from daily routines such as work and family life, and the availability of emotional support from family and friends.

Goals of the Detoxification Process

The aim of detoxification is to ensure that the patient is safe and is able to detoxify without suffering too much from the symptoms of withdrawal [4] . Although rare, the symptoms of withdrawal can progress rapidly and be dangerous for the patient. The availability of a support network is therefore crucial for those who opt for the home setting. The ultimate goal is for the patient to maintain long-term abstinence from alcohol with the help of their surrounding friends and family.

 Best Ways to Detox and How to Stop Drinking Alcohol

There are two options for alcohol detoxification at home:

  1. Outpatient Treatment:  The outpatient treatment program includes the support and guidance of a doctor who can prescribe additional medication if it is needed. These patients are seen every day, receiving daily physical assessments of their well-being. It also includes any studies  such as blood tests if they are required. The prescription of benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants can help with the reduction of agitation and progression of withdrawal symptoms [5]. Examples of medications include Diazepam, Lorazepam, and Carbamazepine. There are also some medications available that can reduce alcohol cravings and ensure long-term abstinence. Withdrawal symptoms usually resolve seven days after beginning abstinence [4]. Once the symptoms are minimal, medication is no longer required and patients are referred to a long-term program that will provide follow-up care [4].
  2. Self-Detox:  Although this is not recommended as it can be risky, there are many out there who cannot afford the inpatient or outpatient option for detoxification. To them, it is the only viable option. There are two methods for self-detoxification: going cold turkey (completely cut off from alcohol) or tapering off (reducing the amount of alcohol consumption gradually to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms). While many have claimed to be successful, it can be a painful and exhausting journey for those involved. Again, the availability of a support network is crucial to ensure the safety of the individual. When therapy and follow-up care is not available, relapse rates can be high.

Abstinence and Aftercare

Once the withdrawal symptoms are over, it is best to enroll in a long-term treatment program to decrease the chance of relapse [6]. These programs include counseling, long-term medications, local support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or even any support group for general substance abuse [4]. Those who are motivated to stay sober and have a support group or network have a much higher chance of success.

Tips and Advice for the Best Detox Results

Some important tips for those undergoing alcohol detoxification include:

  1. Remove all alcohol from your home to prevent temptation.
  2. Take a few days off of work to focus on detoxification.
  3. Always have someone around throughout the process to ensure safety.
  4. Although there may be loss of appetite, try to eat to keep energy levels up. It is also an important part of the recovery process to increase the body’s nutrition status.
  5. Stay well hydrated with water (or sports drinks if necessary) .
  6. Take vitamin and mineral supplements, especially Thiamine.
  7. Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables (leafy greens and berries are essential) in order to provide your body with adequate nutrition and antioxidants to help cleanse the liver

Conclusion

Just the fact that you are researching how to stop drinking is a very important first step in the recovery process – congratulations!  Keep in mind, however, that the detoxification journey can be grueling. If you choose to detox at home, please ensure your safety by always having someone with you for support. Be prepared to seek medical care immediately if symptoms become too severe or too painful to bear.

References:
  • Myrick H, Anton RF. Treatment of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol Health Res World.1998;22(1):40.
  • Abbott PJ, Quinn D, Knox L. Ambulatory medical detoxification for alcohol.Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 1995; 21:549-563.
  • Hayashida M, Alterman AI, McLellan AT, et al. Comparative effectiveness and costs of inpatient and outpatient detoxification of patients with mild-to-moderate alcohol withdrawal syndrome.N Engl J Med1989; 320:358-365.
  • Muncie HL, Yasinian Y, Oge’ L. Outpatient management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Am Fam Physician. 2013; 88(9):589-595.
  • Mayo-Smith MF. Pharmacological management of alcohol withdrawal. A meta-analysis and evidence-based practice guideline. American Society of Addiction Medicine Working Group on Pharmacological Management of Alcohol Withdrawal. JAMA. 1997;278(2):144–151.
  • Blondell RD. Ambulatory detoxification of patients with alcohol dependence.Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(3):495–502.
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