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Why Home Detox Fails and Rehab Centres Succeed

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

You have come to a place in your life where you realise you have a drinking problem. Perhaps you don't know how serious the problem is, but you do understand that you need to stop drinking for your own good and that of your family. Now you are thinking about undertaking a home detox programme in which you will just stop drinking and deal with it as best you can. Is this wise? Probably not.

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are two conditions with serious medical implications. Attempting to detox at home may not result in any serious consequences if your problem is a minor one, but it could quickly escalate into a medical emergency if your body is dependent on the drug. Furthermore, it is not unusual for home detox to fail people suffering from late-stage alcohol abuse or alcoholism. There is a lot more to both conditions and cannot be addressed by a simple home detox programme.

The difference between home detox and professional treatment provided by licenced rehab centres is one of success and failure. Where home detox is more likely to fail, professional treatment is more likely to succeed. We will outline the reasons for this so that you better understand what your options are.

Why Detox Is Necessary

The basis of our discussion begins with addressing why detox is necessary. The term 'detox', which is short for 'detoxification', is a medical term used to describe the process of removing toxins from the body. In the case of alcohol abuse or alcoholism, the toxins being addressed are alcohol and other chemicals related to drinking.

These toxins build up in the system over years of persistent drinking. In doing so, they impact how the brain and the rest of the body function. For example, alcohol damages the liver over extended periods of excessive exposure. The typical alcoholic who has been at it for years will almost always suffer irreparable liver damage.

Alcohol in the system also forces the body to produce chemicals to combat the toxins. The only way to restore the body to normal functioning is to remove the toxins completely. Therefore, it is impossible to recover from alcohol abuse or alcoholism without undergoing detox.

In private rehab centres, alcohol detox is a 7-to-10-day process that is medically supervised at all times. Patients are continuously monitored by trained professionals that may include doctors, nurses, and therapists. These medical professionals are specialists in the area of alcohol and drug recovery, and they are always ready to respond in the event that detox becomes a medical emergency.

Why Home Detox Fails

Detoxing at home without medical supervision is rarely as successful as professional detox at NHS or private centres. Unfortunately, home detox has some inherent weaknesses that actually work against the individual trying to recover. First among those weaknesses is the fact that the recovering alcoholic does not experience any change in circumstances.

In other words, an alcoholic gets very used to the circumstances of his or her daily routine and home life. He/she has become accustomed to using those conditions to his/her advantage, manipulating them so that he/she can keep on drinking. Those circumstances do not change simply because the alcoholic decides to detox at home. The same circumstances and routines that have enabled him/her to drink all along are still present. That means the temptation to continue drinking is also still present. Without a change in circumstances, recovery is likely to fail.

Here are several additional reasons why home detox is not as successful as professional treatment:

  • Withdrawal Symptoms – There are definite withdrawal symptoms that accompany alcohol detox. Rehab centres can use prescription medications and other means to help reduce the severity of the symptoms. At home, there's nothing anyone can do. Should withdrawal symptoms become severe enough, the individual attempting home detox may not be able to deal with them, sending him or her right back to the bottle.
  • Lack of Help – Successful detox depends a lot on the person in recovery getting help from others during the process. Despite the best intentions of family members and friends, they cannot adequately provide the kind of help the recovering alcoholic needs. That help can be found at a residential rehab clinic.
  • Psychological Issues – What most people do not understand about alcohol dependence is that it is as much a psychological issue as a physical one. Home detox only addresses the physical aspects of addiction; it does nothing for the psychological. And unless psychological aspects are addressed, even the best-intentioned home detox strategy is likely to fail.

Beyond the issues listed here, we cannot stress enough that alcohol detox can quickly escalate into a medical emergency. This is why experts recommend alcohol abusers never attempt to detox at home. Detox can result in convulsions, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, and a condition known as delirium tremens. The most severe withdrawal symptoms can result in serious injury or even death.

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Why Rehab Centres Succeed

For every reason home detox is likely to fail, there is a corresponding reason explaining why rehab centres succeed. For example, let us talk about a change in circumstances. The recovering alcoholic who enrols in a residential detox programme is instantly separated from his or her routine and daily circumstances. He/she is put in a distraction-free environment that does not enable him/her to continue drinking in the midst of detox.

Detox at residential rehab centres also succeeds for the following reasons:

  • Medical Supervision – Residential rehab treats detox as a medical condition with medical solutions. Those who enter rehab are provided with expert care at the hands of specialised clinicians who know exactly what they are doing.
  • Bespoke Treatments – A significant advantage of residential detox is that bespoke treatment plans are the norm. Each patient receives individualised care depending on his or her needs and circumstances.
  • Rehabilitative Therapy – The best rehab centres in the UK follow detox with a 3-to-12-week rehabilitation programme that addresses the psychological aspects of alcoholism. The therapies they provide go a long way toward preventing future relapse.
  • Mutual Support – Where home detox is generally conducted in an isolated environment in which the individual has little contact with others, residential detox is different. Patients interact with others going through the same things. This results in mutual support and encouragement among patients.
  • Ongoing Care – Even after residential detox and rehab are concluded, patients receive continued help through a continuing aftercare programme. Aftercare includes additional counselling, group support, and medical intervention that reduces the likelihood of relapse.

Private rehab centres clearly offer recovering alcoholics the best chances of successful detox and rehabilitation. In the absence of a local residential clinic, those in need of detox are still better off going to an NHS clinic than trying to detox at home. The truth is that home detox is terribly ineffective for a large number of people dealing with alcohol problems.

If you have an alcohol problem requiring detox and rehabilitative therapies, we invite you to contact us on our 24-hour helpline. We are an independent service providing comprehensive assessments, sound advice, and referrals to alcohol rehab centres throughout the UK. We can help you work out just exactly what is going on with you. We can walk you through an entire list of treatment options available in your local area. And should it be necessary, we can help you make arrangements to start receiving treatment as quickly as possible.

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