Most addicts will attempt to self detox at some point. In fact it will often be a string of failed self detox attempts that leads people to enter rehab in the first place. The individual comes to the realization that they just don’t seem to be able to make it alone. Some people do manage to end their addiction without any help, but that are definite problems associated with this option. This is why the aim of this article is not to advocate for self detox – the only intention here is to just provide information. People have died as a result of self detox so the decision to follow such a path should be taken seriously.
Self detox can also be referred to as rapid detox or going cold turkey. It refers to a situation when an individual decides to quit their substance abuse without any help. This means that they will be dealing with withdrawal symptoms alone – although they may have a friend or family member to support them.
The type of withdrawal symptoms that an individual experiences will very much depend on the type of drug they are giving up and the extent of their dependence on it. Common physical withdrawal symptoms include:
* Body shakes
* Nausea and vomiting
* Loss of appetite
* A feeling of restlessness
* Muscle pains
* Feeling tired and lacking in any energy
* Changes to respiratory rate
* Changes to pulse rate
* Blood pressure changes
* Upset stomach
* Body aches
* Restless leg syndrome
* Heart palpitations
* Inability to sleep or get comfortable
Common psychological withdrawal symptoms that people experience can include:
* Cravings for the substance they are trying to give up.
* Symptoms of depression.
* Suicidal thoughts.
* Depersonalization – this is where the individual feels like they are outside their own body looking in.
* A feeling of impending doom.
* Mood swings.
* Feelings of anxiety.
* Audio or visual hallucinations
* Inability to think straight – it can feel like the brain is fuzzy
* It is common for people to feel irritable
* Negative thinking is common
There are dangers associated with self detox including:
* The willingness to get sober can wane over time so the individual might only have a limited window of opportunity. Choosing to self detox will often not be their best option, and it could mean a wasted chance at sobriety.
* Those individuals who have being abusing alcohol or drugs for many years may be at risk of severe withdrawal symptoms that could even prove life threatening. It is not always possible to be completely sure about who will have these severe symptoms.
* The cravings associated with self detox can be intense. This is why the majority of people don’t even make it past 24 hours by this method.
* It is often claimed that recovery is a process and not an event. Even if the individual does manage to make it through detox alone they will still be faced with learning to live without alcohol and drugs – this is where it gets really hard.
* Some individuals take huge risks by using certain medications during the withdrawal period. For example, they may be tempted to make use of sedatives that have not been prescribed for them or for this purpose.
* Family and friends may be put in a position of dealing with the individual going through detox. This may mean being faced with a situation where they feel well out of their depth – it could be considered unfair to lumber the m
Delirium tremens (DTs) refer to severe withdrawal symptoms that can occur when people give up alcohol. It is believed that 10% of those who enter delirium tremens will die as a result – up until recent years the figure was as high as 35%. It is only those individuals who have been drinking heavily for more than a decade who are most at risk of DTs. The symptoms usually begin within the first 72 hours and can include:
* The individual may have clonic tonic type seizures (aka grand mal seizures). They can lose consciousness and their body will shake violently.
* Those people who are going through the DTs will usually have elevated pulse, blood pressure, and temperature.
* One of the most common symptoms associated with the DTs is intense hallucinations. The individual may see insects crawling on their skin or fast moving rodents in the room.
* The individual who is experiencing these severe withdrawals will usually be highly confused.
* The individual may become agitated.
* The person who is going through delirium tremens is likely to feel highly anxious.
It is technically possible for the DTs to occur at any time during the first 10 days of giving up alcohol. The most dangerous period is the first 72 hours. If the individual makes it beyond 72 hours there are unlikely to have these severe symptoms.
It is not being recommended here that people should choose to self detox. As described above there can be dangers associated with going it alone. If the individual does decide to detox alone then there are recommendations for how to they might go about this such as:
* If the symptoms deteriorate beyond mild discomfort the individual should be prepared to seek help.
* It is highly recommended that the individual at least gets a medical opinion before beginning a self detox. A family physician will be able to assess the current health state so as to determine if a self detox will be wise.
* The individual should at least ensure that a family or friend is going to be around to monitor them. If the situation begins to deteriorate this person should have no hesitation about getting help.
* The person undergoing detox will need to remove all alcohol or drugs from their home. It can also be helpful to remove drug paraphernalia as well.
* It is important to ensure that drinking or drug using friends are not going to be dropping around to the location where the individual is going through detox. This may be difficult and the only option may be to refuse to open the door to them.
* It may be best to stay at a different location for the duration of the detox – for example, the individual could stay with a sober family member.
* Most people will lose their appetite during the addiction withdrawal process. It is best then to have plenty of easily digestible food, such as soup, in the house – another good option for easy to consume food is oatmeal.
*It is recommended that people stock up on enough food items to last the duration of the detox.
* It is important to understand the normal process of addiction withdrawals and to be able to recognize when things are deteriorating enough to require medical assistance.
* Getting fresh air can be hugely important during detox. Just spending a bit of time in the garden can be sufficient.
* Exercise can also be of great help during the detox process. The individual needs to be careful not to go too overboard if they have not exercised in a long time.
* In order to detox the individual is going to need at least a week off work. It may be best if they stay close to home until they are through detox.
* The ability of people to keep themselves distracted during the withdrawal period is hugely important. This could involve things like DVDs or books to read.
* The individual may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that can lead to dehydration. It is a good idea to have some sports drinks which will not only help replace fluids but also electrolytes – there is a limit on how many of these drinks a person can consume each day.
* It can be helpful to write a letter at the start of detox where the individual describes fully their reasons for want to quit along with their aspirations for the future. When things get tough during the withdrawals the individual can go back to this letter for motivation.
* If the individual shows any signs of delirium tremens they will need medical assistance. If these symptoms are ignored it could lead to death.
* Particular attention needs to be paid to the individual during the first 72 hours of the withdrawals. This is often when they are at most risk of severe symptoms.
It is difficult to fully assess the success rates of self detox because the fact that the individual has done it alone often means that they do not appear in any statistics. One study into self detox for opiate addiction found that the success rate was quite low at 24%. Another study that examined the ability of the people to self-detox found that only 41% of them managed to last for at least 24 hours. The majority of those who end up in rehab will report multiple failed attempts at giving up their addiction, and this is why they decided to enter rehab. People can and do successfully self detox, but it does not seem to be an option for everyone. It could also be claimed that those who go it alone may be missing out on important tools that could help them build a better life in recovery.