Detoxing From Alcohol at Home
By The Recovery Village
Medical Reviewer Jenni Jacobsen, LSW | Editor Abby Doty
Last Updated: May 16, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Detoxing from alcohol at home can be safe in cases of mild withdrawal, but people with moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms should seek inpatient detox.
Stopping alcohol use can improve your health, weight, sleep, skin quality and more, especially if you drink alcohol every day. While stopping alcohol use is a healthy decision, it can lead to unpleasant alcohol withdrawal symptoms3, making it more difficult to quit using alcohol. Some people may want to attempt alcohol detox at home, so they can recover in comfort and privacy. Learn about how to detox your body from alcohol and when it’s time to seek medical intervention.
What To Expect During Alcohol Withdrawal
If you have become dependent upon alcohol, you can expect to experience some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms as your body weans off of alcohol. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms include3 tremor, headache, sweating, upset stomach and elevated heart rate or blood pressure. In severe alcohol withdrawal, some people may experience1 hallucinations and seizures.
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
The length of alcohol withdrawal depends upon the severity of symptoms. The following alcohol withdrawal timeline spells out what you can expect:
- Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms like tremor and headache usually begin 6 to 12 hours1 after the last drink. Mild withdrawal symptoms typically subside within two days5.
- Hallucinations may appear 12 to 24 hours after the last drink and subside within two days.
- If symptoms progress and become more severe, a person may develop seizures 24 to 48 hours after they stop drinking.
- If alcohol withdrawal progresses to the most severe level, a person can develop a condition called delirium tremens. Symptoms of this condition5 develop 48 to 72 hours after the last drink and can last for as long as two weeks.
Symptoms of Severe Alcohol Withdrawal
Seizures are often considered a severe form of alcohol withdrawal, but the most severe symptoms are associated with delirium tremens. A person suffering from delirium tremens experiences the following symptoms2:
- Extreme confusion
- Visual hallucinations
- Elevated heart rate
- High blood pressure
- High body temperature
- Excessive sweating
Can You Die From Alcohol Withdrawal?
Most cases of alcohol withdrawal are mild or moderate and are not fatal. However, people who develop delirium tremens are at risk of death, especially if they do not seek treatment. Research suggests that one to five percent5 of delirium tremens cases are fatal. Being older, having a coexisting medical condition and heavy daily drinking can increase the risk of delirium tremens.
Safely Detoxing From Alcohol at Home
Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms can often be treated on an outpatient basis, but detoxing from alcohol at home may be dangerous if your symptoms are more severe. If symptoms are mild and you’d like to detox from alcohol at home, the following tips can be helpful.
Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking water is important for everyone but especially during detox. You will likely sweat more during detox, making water replacement important. Staying hydrated will also help keep your kidneys healthy, allowing them to properly filter out toxins, and will keep you in optimal health as your body undergoes the tension that detox creates.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Your diet can provide you with the nutrients you need to be in optimal health. Detox will create strain on your body, and eating healthy, nutritious meals will help you cope with the strain that withdrawal may place on your body. Be sure to avoid sugary foods during withdrawal and eat full, balanced meals.
Take Vitamins and Supplements
Alcohol use depletes your body of important vitamins, many of which are necessary for your health. Taking recommended vitamins and supplements during withdrawal will help restore the deficiencies that alcohol use has caused, improving your ability to go through withdrawal.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Withdrawal often causes insomnia. When you are tired, you typically have less ability to control impulses, making it more difficult to continue through an alcohol detox. By getting as much rest as possible, you will be best equipped to tolerate potential insomnia and avoid the negative effects that lack of sleep has on your impulses.
During the middle of detox, it is easy to give up, and being alone can make it more difficult to resist these impulses. Having the support of someone who has recovered from alcohol use disorder or is trained to support you during withdrawal will improve your chances of successfully completing your detox.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to decrease alcohol craving symptoms4 and help both during the process of withdrawal and when pursuing long-term sobriety. By practicing meditation or mindfulness, you may be better equipped to overcome alcohol cravings and succeed during your home alcohol detox.
Monitor Symptoms Closely
Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most dangerous types of withdrawal. While many people prefer detoxing at home to seeking professional help, you should be very careful to monitor your symptoms closely and seek medical help if necessary. Some treatment centers may even help you with detox on an outpatient basis. A doctor may prescribe medications you can take at home, or they may monitor your symptoms to ensure that you do not progress to severe alcohol withdrawal.
Alcohol Detox Drinks – Do They Work?
Several alcohol detox drinks on the market claim to reduce detox symptoms and help the liver filter out toxins. The specific ingredients in alcohol detox drinks can vary by brand, but many detox products contain some combination of electrolytes as well as herbal material like milk thistle.
Research has shown6 that milk thistle can reduce inflammation in the liver and reduce liver enzyme levels, but detox drinks containing this ingredient should not take the place of medication or advice given by a doctor. Electrolytes in detox beverages may be helpful, but keep in mind that alcohol detox drinks are not FDA-approved for treating alcohol withdrawal and are not a substitute for medical care.
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When Medical Supervision Is Recommended
Ultimately, medical supervision is recommended when severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms are possible. The criteria for required medical supervision are very individual-specific, and anyone considering alcohol detox should consult with their doctor or rehab facility on what is best for them.
Medical supervision will usually be recommended if any of these apply to you:
- You’ve used heavy amounts of alcohol.
- You’ve used alcohol for a long time.
- You’ve previously experienced delirium tremens.
- You’ve relapsed after detox before.
While you may be able to do an alcohol detox at home, you should always check with your doctor beforehand. Ultimately, inpatient detox is the safest way to stop drinking, as withdrawal symptoms may become severe with little warning, placing you at risk of complications or even death.
If you are at risk for moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms or just want the added safety measure of medical detox, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper is here to help. Our medical experts can provide you with the support and care you need to cope with alcohol withdrawal and ultimately achieve sobriety. We also offer a range of inpatient and outpatient services, so you can transition into a long-term treatment program after completing detox.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
- Bayard, Max, et al. “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome”>.” American Family Physician, March 2004. Accessed October 7, 2022.
- Rahman, Abdul & Paul, Manju. “Delirium Tremens”>.” StatPearls, January 2022. Accessed October 7, 2022.
- O’Mally, Gerald & O’Mally, Rita. “Alcohol Toxicity and Withdrawal”><[…]pa[…]nd Withdrawal.” Merck Manuals, May 2020. Accessed October 7, 2022.
- Silpakit, Orawan. “Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention Pro[…]Control Study.” Siriraj Medical Journal, February 24, 2015. Accessed October 7, 2022.
- Jesse, S., et al. “Alcohol withdrawal syndrome: mechanisms,[…]d management.” Acta Neurologica, January 2017. Accessed October 7, 2022.
- Post-White, Janice; Ladas, Elena J.; & Kelly, Kara M. “Advances in the Use of Milk Thistle (Sil[…]marianum).” Integrative Cancer Therapies, June 2007. Accessed October 7, 2022.