If you struggle with substance abuse, you may believe that all you need to do is stop using the substance to get sober. It seems reasonable to think that because the addictive substance is negatively affecting your life, cutting it out as quickly as possible will solve the problem. Unfortunately, people who try to detox from alcohol or opioids alone put themselves in real physical danger and often don’t succeed in staying sober.
There are several reasons why you should never detox alone, ranging from potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms to the high probability that without a supportive recovery community and professional addiction treatment, you are almost guaranteed to relapse. Learn why you should never detox alone and how personalized treatment can give you the best chance at long-term sobriety.
People with an addiction to opioids and alcohol can experience severe withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit alone by going cold turkey. When you stop using an addictive substance, your body goes into a kind of shock as it tries to adjust to the sudden loss of the opiate or alcohol. These substances alter your body’s chemistry, so when you stop abruptly, it tries to adjust, causing physical and emotional effects.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms usually start within 24 hours of your last use and worsen after the first day or two. Symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Excessive sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
- Blurry vision
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
While opioid withdrawal is rarely fatal by itself, several complications can occur, putting your life at risk. When undergoing opioid withdrawal alone, your risk of aspiration or choking on vomited material increases, leading to aspiration pneumonia or death. You can also experience dehydration. If you don’t replace the electrolytes in your body, you may suffer circulatory issues or a heart attack.
Alcohol withdrawal is a serious and potentially fatal process. It can take between a few hours to several days after drinking for symptoms to reach their peak. General symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Hand tremors
- Anxiety, agitation, and restlessness
People going through acute alcohol withdrawal may experience a serious side effect of alcohol cessation called Delirium Tremens (DT’s). DT’s are characterized by mental confusion, disorientation, and hallucinations. DT’s carry a 5% to 25% mortality rate among those going through serious alcohol abuse withdrawal.
Mental and Emotional Struggles
If you try to go through detox on your own, you can also expect to experience several mental and emotional struggles. Withdrawal causes anxiety and irritability, which worsens your already exhausted system. Detoxing also affects your ability to sleep, which can increase problems with your mood and mental state.
In addition, you may experience an influx of thoughts and feelings that have been contained with drug use. When you detox alone, you are left trying to deal with these overwhelming feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, loneliness, shame, and guilt by yourself. You may also experience symptoms of an undiagnosed mental health condition suppressed by the addictive substance you were using.
Those in a solitary setting and who don’t have the appropriate emotional tools to deal with these intense feelings often find themselves turning back to the addictive substance to ease their physical and emotional pain. This is why detoxing alone is rarely a successful way to begin your journey to sobriety.
Why Treatment Leads to Success
When you enter a professional treatment facility, the staff will perform a full intake that includes a health and mental assessment. They monitor your symptoms and ensure that you detox from the substance safely and with as little discomfort as possible. After the initial intake, you will begin the recommended treatment program for your addiction.
When getting sober, your best course of action is to find an addiction treatment center that uses a multi-faceted, research-based approach to recovery. With this type of treatment from a center like Right Path, you gain a supportive community, tools to cope with overwhelming emotions, and medication-treatment assistance for your withdrawal symptoms.
With Right Path’s counseling programs, you gain the tools you need to address your past traumas and unhealthy coping mechanisms that lead you to abuse drugs or alcohol. With both group and individual psychotherapy, you can identify what triggers cause you to use, what your particular addiction cycle looks like, and learn from other recovering addicts who are going through similar struggles.
Medication-assisted therapy approaches addiction treatment as the disease that it is. Right Path uses the most current medication-assisted treatment options such as Naltrexone, Vivitrol, Suboxone, and Naloxone to help you manage your physical withdrawal symptoms to reduce your likelihood of relapse.
You will be introduced to a large community of caring, compassionate staff and fellow recoverees through your treatment at Right Path. You will also be encouraged to perform acts of service and participate in recovery groups. The connections you make during the process are vital to your success in recovery because they offer you support and encouragement that are not available when you go it alone.
Don’t Detox Alone, Seek Support
Detoxing alone poses a threat to your health and, in some cases, your life. Although cessation of the addictive substance is necessary, it is best to seek professional treatment to minimize complications that can come with substance withdrawal and provide you with the necessary resources to achieve long-term sobriety.
Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.