Why Self-Detox at Home Is a Bad Idea

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on January 21, 2022.

Why Self-Detox at Home Is a Bad Idea

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it may be tempting to try to go it alone on the road to recovery. There are many reasons someone may want to hide their addiction, but getting help from a qualified treatment center is truly the best way to help someone overcome addiction.

Self-detox is a practice of enduring the detoxification from alcohol or drugs on one's own, but it comes with many dangers. Discover why you shouldn't try to self-detox at home.
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Why Someone Might Try to Self-Detox

Everyone has a unique story, so the reasons someone might try to beat addiction on their own are numerous. These are the three most common reasons someone might try to self-detox from alcohol or drugs:

1. They Believe They Can Overcome Addiction on Their Own

Too often, recovering from addiction is posed as an issue of willpower alone. With this perspective, people may feel as if they are strong enough to beat addiction through their own sheer force of will. People may view addiction as a result of a lack of willpower — those who struggle with addiction, then, are seen as not strong enough to resist their temptations.

However, willing yourself out of addiction is not likely, just as you cannot overcome any other disease by your own willpower. If you struggle with substance use and addiction, detoxing at home is not a good idea. Proper detox requires professional treatment, as the issues that come with addictions progress far beyond physically resisting your "temptations."

2. They Want to Keep Their Struggles With Addiction a Secret

Many people put off seeking treatment because it may mean admitting to friends and family that they've been struggling with addiction. You may want to hide your struggles with addiction from loved ones due to feelings of embarrassment or shame. Or, you might be afraid that your use of illicit drugs could lead to trouble with the law.

The truth is, seeking treatment for addiction is an essential step, and the support of friends and loved ones plays a huge role. You should never avoid treatment for fear others will judge you. Similarly, doctors cannot report you to the police for illicit drug use unless you pose direct harm to yourself or others. They will often recommend a treatment program that can help you manage your addiction and overcome your withdrawal symptoms.
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3. They Experience Co-Occurring Disorders That Prevent Them From Seeking Treatment

co-occurring disorder is when someone struggles with both addiction and another mental health disorder. Most commonly, anxiety, schizophrenia and depression have high rates of co-occurrence with substance use disorders. Dealing with mental health struggles can make overcoming addiction that much more difficult, making professional treatment even more necessary.

People with intense anxiety may feel fear of medical settings or have past negative experiences with medical professionals that prevent them from seeking treatment again. Or, someone with depression may not feel they deserve to get better or simply may not have the ability to exert themselves to find and seek treatment. But professional treatment designed for co-occurring disorders can help address addiction and mental health concerns.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

When you stop substance use, your body and mind will go through a process known as withdrawal. When you experience withdrawal, your body is demonstrating physiological symptoms of being without the addictive substance it has grown reliant upon. In treatment, this process is called detoxification, or detox, and it must happen before other aspects of recovery can begin.

No one should ever go through withdrawal alone, and treatment facilities often provide extra support and even medications to manage and lessen the symptoms of withdrawal.

During withdrawal, you might feel symptoms such as:

  • Mood changes
  • Heightened or lessened appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Congestion
  • Irritability

Some people may also experience more severe symptoms of withdrawal, like hallucinations and seizures. The substance you used, the length of time you were using it and how much you used at each time all influence how your withdrawal symptoms will play out.

While withdrawal is serious, many people experience withdrawal from legal substances like caffeine. If you're accustomed to two cups of coffee in the morning and cut back to one — or none — you might have headaches, fatigue and mood swings for a week or two after you change your habits. This, too, is withdrawal.

So why can't you self-detox at home and handle your own symptoms of withdrawal?

The Dangers of Self-Detoxing

While you can probably suffer through a week or two of headaches to curb your reliance on caffeine, detoxing from substances like drugs and alcohol is a completely different story. Because the symptoms can be varied, you might first want to pursue a medical diagnosis to be sure there's no other medical condition responsible for your symptoms. Once you're sure it's withdrawal, you shouldn't go it alone because:

  • Withdrawal symptoms can be severe: Unlike caffeine, more serious withdrawal symptoms may require medical interventions. Medically monitored detoxification is essential in the case of substance use withdrawal, particularly due to the possibility of seizures, delirium and psychiatric issues.
  • You can increase your likelihood of relapse: Relapse rates are higher for those who try to self-detox. While relapse statistics are not an accurate indicator of your experience of addiction treatment, trying to self-detox without the support of a dedicated treatment center can make relapse much more likely — and leave you without help if you do experience relapse.
  • You might develop a reliance on another substance: When managing your symptoms of withdrawal alone, you may develop a dependency on another substance. For example, muscle pain and insomnia are common symptoms of withdrawal — it can be very easy to develop a reliance on pain medication and sleeping pills while trying to manage your withdrawal symptoms for your original substance use disorder.

Why Seeking Treatment Is Important

To avoid the negative complications of going through withdrawal and detox alone, and to give yourself the highest chance of success, seek treatment with a medically supported treatment program. The medical model of treatment for substance use disorders is effective because it uses evidence-based practices to manage both the causes and effects of addiction.

Seeking treatment is also important because it can help you prepare for one of the scariest parts of recovery — relapse. With the help of a treatment program, you can develop a plan for preventing relapse. Visualizing this will help you know what to do in the event you do experience setbacks in your recovery, and a treatment center can provide you with continuing support during this time.

Learn More About How to Safely Detox in a Supervised Medical Setting

If you're struggling with a substance use disorder, getting treatment from a qualified treatment center can make a huge difference in your process of recovery. While everyone has a different experience with addiction, those who seek treatment in a supervised medical setting demonstrate better luck in their journey to recovery.

Having someone by your side can be integral to your success, which is why Diamond House Detox focuses our attention on giving clients individualized care and treatment. With in-house medical providers, we can provide medically assisted detox (MAD) and real-time client treatment and medication evaluations.

Diamond House Detox also provides a small, intimate setting with private rooms so you can have the best opportunity for success. Contact us today about how we can help you or a loved one safely detox and begin addiction recovery.
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  1. https://diamondhousedetox.com/why-taking-time-for-yourself-with-an-inpatient-rehab-program-is-key-to-recovery/
  2. https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/should-you-tell-your-doctor-about-your-drug-use
  3. https://diamondhousedetox.com/addiction-therapy/dual-diagnosis-treatment-center-of-northern-california/
  4. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/co-occurring-disorders
  5. https://diamondhousedetox.com/what-happens-during-drug-detox/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/
  7. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm
  8. https://diamondhousedetox.com/what-is-a-relapse-prevention-plan/
  9. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-effective-drug-addiction-treatment
  10. https://diamondhousedetox.com/why-choose-diamond-house/medical-detox-assistance/
  11. https://diamondhousedetox.com/contact-us/
  12. https://diamondhousedetox.com/admission/
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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