Detox is short for detoxification. It refers to activities that aim to manage acute alcohol intoxication and withdrawal. True to its name, it helps clear toxins from a patient who is intoxicated or alcohol-dependent. It is considered an important aspect of treatment. After all, it can help prevent the physical harm caused by alcohol abuse.
Detox is a form of palliative care. As such, it can help reduce the intensity of alcohol addiction. With that being said, SAMHSA refers to detox as the first step to recovery. Similarly, it is the first part of the treatment process.
Elements of Detox
According to SAMHSA, Detox is a broad process that includes three essential components. They are:
This involves determining the presence and concentration of alcohol in the system. Screening of any co-existing physical and mental conditions will be done during this stage as well.
Evaluation can help determine the type of treatment necessary after detox. As such, the evaluator will need to assess the patient’s medical, psychological, and social backgrounds.
This involves the medical and psychological assistance given. The stabilization process can help the patient achieve an alcohol-free state. Depending on the person’s situation, stabilization may or may not involve the use of medication.
This stage helps the patient recognize his or her role in treatment and recovery. The counselor may also seek the assistance of family, friends, and co-workers as needed.
3. Prep for Treatment
This helps prepare the patient for entry to treatment. In some cases, a contract may be presented to the patient. This can help him/her commit to participating in a rehab care plan.
Detoxing at Home
Detox can be done in a variety of settings. For one, you can do it in the comfort of your own home. This can help a drinker withdraw safely, sans the need for admission in an inpatient facility.
SAMHSA classifies this as ambulatory detoxification without extended onsite monitoring. Here, you will be supervised by trained professionals. Like other types of detox, you need to participate in services scheduled through regular sessions.
While most would want to detox in their own homes, only a few are qualified to do so. This is only recommended for patients with positive social support systems.
Despite the lack of 24/7 monitoring, home detox is deemed by many experts as a good way to curb withdrawal. According to Allan et al., as much as 79% of home detox patients were able to cleanse their systems in as short as 10 days. After 60 days of home detox, 45% of these home detox participants demonstrated significant improvement in terms of alcohol-related difficulties.
What Happens in Home Detox
Like inpatient detox, home detox follows specific medical guidelines for successful withdrawal.
According to Davis, this starts with tests and screenings, or what SAMHSA defines as the evaluation phase.
What follows is the stabilization phase. If medication is needed for the process, the therapist will give you thiamine at least two weeks before the planned detox. The dosage will depend on your condition. Low-risk drinkers will benefit from 100 milligrams thiamine. On the other hand, more heavy drinkers will be given a 200-milligram shot.
Diazepam may also be given to ease cravings. It can help lower the risk of seizures that usually come with the withdrawal phase. In patients with liver conditions, a safer alternative, Oxazepam, may be given.
In some cases, a natural detox program may be done. This ‘cold turkey’ option is best for alcoholics with no sign of physical dependence. Those without withdrawal symptoms may opt for this method as well. But before you try this out, you should consult with a healthcare professional first.
A no-drug detox emphasizes the following interventions:
- Consumption of small, frequent meals featuring protein, dairy, and vegetables
- Intake of vitamins, especially thiamine
- High fluid intake, which includes water and sweet drinks such as tea or decaffeinated coffee
- Intake of Melatonin for sleep problems
Contraindications to Home Detox
While most would like to detox at home, the harsh reality is that not a lot of people can do so effectively. As such, Davis discourages home detox in people suffering from any of the following:
- History of withdrawal symptoms or delirium
- Presence of serious illness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Co-occurring drug addiction
- Lack of a support network or safe housing
Pros and Cons of Detoxing at Home
While detoxing at home is preferred by many, it has its own sets of pros and cons. So before you decide to go with this, you need to consider the following:
Nothing beats being at the comfort of your own home.
2. Lesser expenses
Home detox is not as expensive as inpatient detox as you don’t have to pay for the place. It’s considerably cheaper. All you need to pay for are your visiting therapist or caregiver, medications (if needed), etc.
You don’t have to worry about your anonymity. Only you and your healthcare professional know about your detoxification.
4. Helps decongest facilities
Some facilities are not able to take patients because of their high census. While their residents need their services, some could detox on an outpatient basis. Completing home detox can help decongest these centers. As a result, they can take in the patients that need their services more.
1. Higher risk of adverse outcomes
Alcohol withdrawal comes with a bevy of symptoms. Some of these need immediate attention. While a healthcare professional may visit you from time to time, he/she is not there 24/7. This is particularly scary if you develop a life-threatening withdrawal symptom in the middle of the night. As such, you may not be able to get the medical intervention that you need right away.
Friends and families are free to visit you. They may tempt you to drink without you knowing it. They may be the triggers that prod you to drink again.
Home detox is a comfortable way to address alcohol withdrawal. However, it is only recommended for people with strong social support networks. Detox can be done with or without medication. The need for such is best decided by a healthcare professional. As with most detox programs, home detox comes with pros and cons. You should consider these well before starting.
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