Alcohol Withdrawal Complications: Why You Should Never Detox From Alcohol at Home

complications from alcohol withdrawal

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly 15 million people aged 12 or older suffer from alcoholism. When you are addicted to alcohol, your brain and body begin to depend on the substance to function properly. If you suddenly stop consuming alcohol, you will experience symptoms of withdrawal.

The withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol use disorder can be painful, intense, and life-threatening in some cases. For example, alcohol withdrawal can include symptoms like seizures, hallucinations, and a condition known as delirium tremens (DTs). Because these symptoms can become fatal without professional treatment, attending medical detox is of the utmost importance.

Detoxing at home without medical supervision can be dangerous, but detoxing under careful supervision at an alcohol detox center can help you avoid potential alcohol withdrawal complications and potentially life-threatening symptoms in a safe, supportive environment.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when you suddenly stop drinking the substance after a period of dependency. Withdrawal from any substance can be extremely uncomfortable, however, alcohol is one of the few instances where withdrawal symptoms can become deadly. As a result, you should never attempt to detox from alcohol by yourself.

The common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors or shakiness
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Hyperthermia
  • Rapid breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

If you suddenly stop or decrease your alcohol intake, it disrupts your brain activity and causes a hyperaroused state, leading to the above-mentioned withdrawal symptoms. Without medical treatment, these withdrawal symptoms can quickly lead to complications and life-threatening emergencies.

Potential Alcohol Withdrawal Complications and the Dangers of At-Home Detox

There are several complications you could face if you attempt to detox at home without medical assistance. First, you could experience painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that could be otherwise managed and avoided under the care of a professional alcohol detox center. Oftentimes, when people attempt to detox from alcohol at home, the withdrawal symptoms are too difficult to deal with, causing them to relapse to soothe their symptoms.

Other complications associated with alcohol withdrawal include:

Withdrawal Seizures

While seizures do not affect everyone who experiences alcohol withdrawal, they are more common among people without access to medical treatment. Typically, seizures will begin about two days after your last alcoholic beverage and are of the grand mal variety.[2] This means seizures will include jerking motions, muscle stiffness, difficulty breathing, and unconsciousness.

Alcohol withdrawal seizures can be life-threatening, which makes attempting to detox at home without medical care a life-threatening decision.

Todd’s Paralysis

Todd’s paralysis, also known as postictal paresis, is a neurological condition that sometimes occurs after a seizure. The condition can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and the paralysis you experience can be partial or complete. Oftentimes, the symptoms of this condition mimic that of a stroke, however, it only occurs after a seizure.

The symptoms of Todd’s paralysis include:

  • Numbness
  • Disorientation
  • Weakness of a limb
  • Slurred speech

Alcoholic Hallucinosis

Alcoholic hallucinosis is an alcohol-induced psychotic disorder characterized by visual hallucinations. While alcoholic hallucinosis is not common, some people develop this complication during alcohol withdrawal. Typically, alcoholic hallucinosis occurs between 12 to 24 hours after your last drink and only affects people who consumed alcohol very heavily.

Common symptoms of alcoholic hallucinosis include:

  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations

Delirium Tremens (DTs)

Lastly, the most concerning complication associated with untreated alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens (DTs). DTs can begin to affect you about 2 days after alcohol withdrawal begins, often lasting for 2 to 3 more days.

The symptoms of DTs can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. These symptoms include:

  • Agitation, aggression, or irritability
  • Confusion
  • Trembling, sweating, tachycardia, nausea, and vomiting
  • Impaired consciousness
  • Visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations
  • Tremors or seizures

Approximately 5% of alcoholics experience DTs when they stop drinking. Without medical intervention, up to a quarter of people with DTs die from the condition.

How an Alcohol Detox Center Can Help

Alcohol detox centers in California provide an array of treatments and medications to help patients overcome alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Before you begin treatment, you will undergo an initial intake assessment to determine your medical needs. This assessment will gather information about your family, medical, psychiatric, and alcohol abuse history.

Once a treatment plan is created, you will begin receiving detox services to help soothe your withdrawal symptoms, prevent cravings from occurring, regulate your sleeping patterns, and stabilize your eating habits. At Sheer Recovery, this often involves using medication for specific symptoms like nausea, muscle spasms, anxiety, seizure prevention, abdominal cramping, and insomnia, as well as various tapering medications, anti-craving, and any mental health medication needed.

Long-acting benzodiazepines like Valium are typically used to manage alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines can reduce the risk of seizures and other alcohol withdrawal complications. Over the course of several days or weeks, your doctor may slowly reduce your dose until you are medically stable.

Safe and Effective Alcohol Detox at Sheer Recovery

Attempting to detox at home can put your life at risk due to the varied complications associated with untreated alcohol withdrawal. Attending a reputable alcohol detox center like Sheer Recovery will guarantee your safety and help you avoid the dangerous aspects of alcohol withdrawal.

Detox is the first step toward sobriety, and it is a step that you should not take alone. At Sheer Recovery, we are here to support you during detoxification and the rest of your recovery journey. Call now to find out if our California alcohol detox center is right for you.


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