7 Dangers of Detoxing Alone

woman detoxing

By Mandy Parsons

Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is defined by Mayo Clinic as “a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose deaths exceeded 70,000 in 2019 alone. Similarly, alcohol-induced deaths continue to climb, reaching 52,000 in 2021, up 34% in two years.

Even more troubling, however, is the comparably small number of people who seek treatment for their addiction. The 2016 Surgeon General’s report on alcohol, drugs and health stated that, of the 20.8 million people who met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder, only 2.2 million received any type of treatment.

It stands to reason that treatment for drug and alcohol addiction can quite literally be a matter of life and death. Every effective treatment plan includes a process called detoxification. Drug detox and alcohol detox rid the body of the toxic substances in which it has become dependent. Detox is among the first steps toward recovery. If you’ve asked yourself, Can I detox alone? The short answer is no. Drug detox and alcohol detox should be attempted only under the direct supervision of a trained medical professional. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Physical Complications of Withdrawal

A litany of physical complications can arise when withdrawing from alcohol or drugs. The severity of those symptoms is specific to the individual and range from mild to deadly. According to research published in Alcohol Health & Research World by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), seizures, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, delirium tremens (DT), and cardiovascular issues are among the most concerning complications.

2. Mental Complications of Withdrawal

Similarly, alcohol withdrawal can cause increased anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, and, in some cases, delusions and hallucinations. Additionally, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced having received reports of suicide from opioid-dependent people whose intake was suddenly discontinued or rapidly decreased.

3. Increased Risk of Relapse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) affirms that the chronic nature of addiction can sometimes include relapse: a return to drug use after an attempt to stop. Relapse is more likely to occur when a medical treatment plan, devised and supervised by a professional, is not in place. 

4. Increased Risk of Overdose

The most severe relapses may lead to drug overdose, according to NIDA. If a person attempts to use the same substance amount as they did prior to quitting, an overdose can easily occur because their body is no longer used to such a high intake amount. In some instances, this event can be fatal.

5. Lack of Access to Medication-Assisted Therapy

Safe detox often requires the assistance of prescribed medication. Research shows that medication should be the first line of treatment when dealing with addiction to alcohol or opioids to minimize withdrawal symptoms and make the process more bearable.

6. Lack of Access to Emotional Support

Addiction extends beyond physical and mental health. Emotions also play a key role in the life of someone who is struggling with substance abuse. Drug and alcohol addictions are almost always symptoms of deep emotional wounds and can be triggered by such. Those hurts are best addressed in a supportive environment with people who are equipped to help navigate them.

7. Detox is Not a Cure for Addiction

Detoxification is not a cure for addiction. The most successful approaches are holistic and involve a combination of therapies, which can only be achieved in a professional setting. NIDA suggests finding a program that can address the needs of the “whole person,” where you can have access to services specifically designed to help you in these areas: medical, mental, social, occupational, family, and legal.

How to Detox Safely

If you are battling drug or alcohol addiction and would like to know how to detox safely, we can help. At The Meadows Malibu, or The Meadows, we offer medical detox supervised 24/7 by our experienced and caring team of nurses and technicians to help lessen your withdrawal symptoms and free you from your addiction. Using a variety of therapies, we will also address the underlying mental health conditions that fed into your addiction so you can have the best chance at long-term success. Reach out today to learn more and start your journey to healing.