The Dangers of Self Detoxification
in Substance Abuse
Whether personally experiencing withdrawal from drugs or alcohol or witnessing a loved one attempts to detox, the excruciating nature of the process is apparent. The heart wants to quit for good and live a fulfilling, sober life. The mind and body, however, have grown accustomed to regulating their most basic functions on a diet of chemicals and will fight very hard to maintain the status quo. That is not to say one cannot be successful detoxing on their own, but up to 25% of people who attempt detox on their own, will die trying.
Most people who consider rehab have come to terms with their addiction. Those still on the fence may think they can just tone it down or drink “every other day.” While drug/alcohol usage, tolerance, and treatment vary from person to person, it’s important to make a distinction between quitting cold turkey and getting help safely.
As defined by Merriam-Webster:
- Addiction is the compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.
- Detoxify means to remove a poisonous or harmful substance from something.
- Cold-turkey refers to the abrupt complete cessation of the use of an addictive drug.
Alcohol and drugs
Repeated exposure to alcohol and/or drugs alters the brain’s neurotransmitter functions which are responsible for transmitting messages and regulating calm feelings of relaxation.
When an addict quits cold turkey, the neurotransmitters in their brain are no longer reliant upon or responsive to the alcohol. The result is a sudden upswing of hyper-excitability that can lead to anxiety, irritability – even hallucinations, disorientation and confusion, seizures, tremors, and delirium tremens (DTs).
Risks Associated with Self Detoxification
Because sudden drug and alcohol cessation can lead to intense mental and physical withdrawal symptoms that increase the chances of relapse, severe sickness, and death, self detoxification is not recommended. Alcohol, methamphetamine, heroin, benzodiazepine , cocaine, etc. can have overlapping symptoms and are not considered to be safe to withdraw from without the intervention of a trained medical professional.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Increased heart rate
- Diarrhea/Abdominal cramps
Not all drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities are the same. We, at the CLARE Foundation, believe in offering accessible treatment plans under the guidance of specially trained professionals.
The most important things to look for when choosing a detox program are:
- Program that offers a continuum of care including residential, outpatient, sober living, and alumni support
- Affordability and accessibility
- On-site professionals who can assist with psychological symptoms, therapy, and medication to facilitate a safe detox.
- Tenure and history of consistent detox methods with high success rates
While quitting drugs and/or alcohol is a brave and commendable act, the method by which the people with addiction detoxes will make all the difference to their ongoing success and overall health.
A person with addiction may feel empowered by choosing to quit cold-turkey, but doing so without the help of medical professionals can cost them their life.
Please contact CLARE Foundation today for more information about our programs. Let us help you or a loved one overcome addiction. Call (866) 452-5273 today.