Alcohol Detox At Home: How to Detox from Alcohol on Your Own?

Last Updated: April 2, 2021

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Alcoholism affects millions of people each year in the US. The first step towards a healthier lifestyle away from addiction involves detoxing the body from alcohol. Some individuals prefer at-home alcohol detoxification even though its safety and efficacy cannot be compared with professional rehabilitation services.

At AddictionResource, we think that medically-supervised alcohol recovery programs are much less risky and have FAR greater chances of succeeding. Unfortunately, many alcoholics won’t ever take the step of talking to a professional and will instead try to “do it themselves,” this Alcohol Detox At Home Guide will help them do it safely. Read along further about the pros and cons of alcohol detox at home, the risks associated with it, how to detox from alcohol at home, and what are the benefits of choosing a professional service for this purpose.

A man reads tips on how to detox from alcohol at home.

What is Alcohol Self-Detox, also called Alcohol Detox At Home?

Simply put, alcohol detox at home is an approach to giving up drinking that involves either stopping drinking “cold turkey” or tapering off gradually, with minimal to no outside help.

Here’s how the process typically works: the person sets a “quit date” and then either stops drinking instantly or gradually reduces their intake over time. People who think they know how to detox from alcohol and attempt it at home try to avoid the triggers that force them to grab a drink. They often keep themselves busy in their favorite activities to keep the cravings at bay, use vitamin supplements, start doing exercise, and eat a healthier diet, all to hopefully facilitate a successful detox from alcohol at home.

How Successful Is At-Home Alcohol Self-Detox?

According to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the success rate for alcohol self-detox is only 30%, and continued sobriety for over 4 years after self-detox is less than 90%. It is rarely successful, and many people give up within the first 24 hours. Although studies have shown that self-detox from alcohol at home can be 10.6 to 22.7 times cheaper than treatment at an inpatient facility, it requires continuous ongoing support from a medical practitioner and psychosocial support to ensure better success rates.

According to this study, various dangerous withdrawal symptoms need to be monitored and treated effectively; otherwise, the complications can worsen. The study also showed that the early stages of sobriety after detox represent a maximum risk of relapse, which must be dealt with appropriately.

If the person has severe AUD, he would have become dependent on liquor which means he would experience extreme withdrawal symptoms if he stops drinking suddenly. Depending on how severe the AUD is, the person can experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, and delirium within just a few hours of his/her last drink. Such people need continuous medical and psychological support during detox, which cannot be possible at home.

Alcohol Detoxification At Home Pros And Cons

There are several pros and cons to detoxing at home for alcohol dependence. These are discussed below.

Pros

  • It saves one the thousands of dollars that would otherwise have to be spent at a professional rehab facility.
  • Home detox allows one to stay at their homes and continue with life obligations since not everyone can tear themselves away from their home and obligations for months of rehab.
  • It allows one to detox in the comfort of their homes with their loved ones near them.
  • Alcoholism can be considered a stigma for some people who would not want other people to know about their condition. Detoxing at home allows them to keep their alcoholism and treatment confidential.
  • Sometimes, people cannot share their experience of detoxing with others (as is the case in a rehab facility). So detoxing at home allows them to remain anonymous.

Cons

  • Even if someone thinks he knows how to detox from alcohol at home, it will eventually lead to unpleasant and sometimes serious withdrawal symptoms which might not be manageable at home.
  • Detoxing at home also has a greater chance of falling back into this habit and relapsing.
  • There is a greater risk of unwanted mental health effects associated with detoxing at home.
  • Since there is no doctor to monitor one’s situation when at home, there could be no medications to ease the symptoms and make them more manageable.
  • Withdrawal symptoms can make one mentally stressed, anxious, or depressed which can possibly cause harm to relationships during that difficult period of withdrawal.

Risks of Detoxing At Home

The risks of alcohol detox at home far outweigh the benefits for several reasons.

  • First, detoxing at home is rarely successful. Many individuals quit the process and resume drinking as usual within the first 24 hours, just from the difficulty of managing the symptoms. Part of the issue is that the alcoholic does not have the support at home that they would have at a treatment center.
  • There is a need for counseling, friends, helpful mentors, and group support rarely present in the home situation and certainly not present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • The alcoholic needs to be away from the trigger situations that are cues to drinking, like people, places, and bottles.
  • The drinker may also need medical attention because of the life-threatening physical and psychological symptoms during detox.
  • When a drinker stops drinking beer or liquor, the body reacts with several withdrawal symptoms that can last for weeks. Without any medical supervision, the process can become even harder.
  • Stopping liquor consumption can result in seizures, hallucinations, and delirium.
  • In rare cases, alcohol cessation can result in heart failure, which can even be fatal.

Remember, it is NOT recommended that heavy drinkers perform detox on their own, without professional guidance.

Despite these risks, a significant number of people choose self-detox methods, which can be carried out at home. But it is important to remember that self-detox is performed without any professional help, which means dealing with withdrawal symptoms alone or with minimal outside help.

Apples and bottles of fresh juice, how to detox from alcohol at home.

How To Detox From Alcohol At Home – First Steps

If one has read the cautionary warning in the preceding section and still wishes to pursue self-detox from alcohol, here are several preliminary steps for someone who wants to know how to detox from alcohol. they should undertake these steps to make sure the process is safe and to increase its chances of success:

  • Remove ALL alcoholic beverages from home – this is an obvious but crucial step.
  • Clear the schedule – the time required for complete detoxification could take weeks. Make sure nothing stands in the way.
  • Get support – make arrangements with family members or friends who will make sure a detoxing person is OK and who will be there if the individual needs anything.
  • Focus on hydration – make sure a detoxing individual drinks enough fluid because this will help rehydrate the body and eliminate toxins. Water, juice, broth, ice pops, and gelatin are all good for hydration.
  • Balanced diet – Eat a balanced diet so that the body can regain its strength and health. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits along with lean proteins and whole grains.
  • Take vitamins – B-complex, Niacin, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, and zinc can all be beneficial for the body and help remove toxins.
  • Slowly Reduce Liquor Consumption – slowly tapering off the liquor can make the detox process longer, but it can help avoid very severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Controlled breathing – this can help reduce the effects of withdrawal as deep breathing helps the body receive adequate oxygen, which, in turn, normalizes the heart rate and stabilizes the blood pressure.
  • Meditation – Meditation is also a great way to relax your nerves and clear their minds and focus on the benefits of detox. Yoga also helps one relax and deal with withdrawal symptoms efficiently.

Types of Self-Detox From Alcohol

At home, alcohol detoxification can be carried out under very limited circumstances. Alcohol detox at home is usually safe for the binge-drinker who only parties on the weekend because their bodies have not developed the full-blown addiction. These drinkers may become seriously uncomfortable while attempting self-detox from drinking, but most likely, this discomfort will not move into the life-threatening category.

That said, a person should NOT attempt to cope at home without an overseer, a supervisor per se.

This is especially true of the “Tapering Off” approach to self-detox. It can be done safely IF there is someone else present monitoring the quantity of alcohol consumed. If the person can drink only a beverage with a lower alcoholic content, like beer, and IF this consumption is doled out by the supervisor only. Whether an alcohol-dependent person is left to monitor himself or herself, the individual will increase consumption to avoid the pain of withdrawal in most cases.

The Cold Turkey Approach

Cold Turkey implies the sudden cessation of liquor consumption. This method can be effective for some because it quickens the path to recovery. It is much harder than the Tapering Off method, but it has proven to be the right choice for some.

It is important to understand. However, that withdrawal symptoms can be very severe. The body of an alcoholic is accustomed to large amounts of liquor, which is why sudden discontinuation of consumption can act as a shock to the body.

The Cold Turkey Method Can Cause the Following Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Heart rate increase
  • Hallucinations (audio-visual-tactile)
  • Fever
  • Seizures

It is not recommended to quit liquor cold turkey. One never knows how exactly an individual’s body will react, and thus one cannot precisely know what to anticipate. This is one of the reasons why alcohol detox should be professionally monitored.

A woman drinks non-alcoholic cocktail, alcohol detox at home.

The Tapering Off Approach

Tapering off is a alcohol detoxification method that consists of slowly reducing one’s amount of daily liquor intake. It is a less severe approach with regard to unwanted side effects such as stomach pains, nausea, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Many people choose beer as a tapering-off tool, so if a person is a beer lover, this could work in their favor. If they opt for this detox method, make sure to limit a daily liquor intake consistently and not fluctuate back and forth.

Overall, alcohol home detox is neither the most effective nor the safest method of quitting drinking addiction, but in some cases, it is an inexpensive and efficient one. Having someone around to make sure a detoxing individual stable is always a good idea. If one chooses to undergo self-detox from alcohol, they should remind their best friend, family, or even a doctor to check on them regularly, just in case. This is essential if a person wants to practice safe alcohol detox at home.

One of the most important aspects of self-detox alcohol is planning a schedule and trying to follow it. The person should aim to plan his goals and identify the triggers. This will help him create strategies and identify the support system to whom he can turn for help.

Below is a Sample Schedule One Can Follow Assuming They Used to Drink 12 Beers a Day:

  • Day 1: 10 drinks consumed throughout the day
  • Day 2: 8 beers in the whole day
  • Day 3: 6 beers in the complete day
  • Day 4: 4 beers in that day
  • Day 5: 2 beers throughout the day
  • Day 6: Zero beers

How Long Does it Take to Detoxify from Alcohol at Home?

The amount it takes to detox from alcohol at home depends on several factors such as:

  • The severity of AUD problem
  • The general health of the person
  • Whether any medications are being used or not
  • Whether the person is using the approach of stopping cold turkey or slowly tapering it off.

Detox at home usually takes longer than rehab facilities since the patient might be more willing to go slow and be cautious to avoid severe and dangerous complications.

The possible timeline for detoxing at home when the stopping cold turkey approach is used will be:

  • First withdrawal symptoms begin around 6 hours after the last drink
  • Symptoms worsen from 6 hours till 24 hours, during which seizures might also occur.
  • Symptoms start to finish 24 to 48 hours after the last drink.
  • Some late symptoms begin 2 to 4 days after the last drink, which includes delirium tremens.
  • These late symptoms diminish 4 to 6 days after the last drink.
A medical worker consults a person on how to detox at home.

Benefits Of Medical Alcohol Detox

Self-detoxing at home is a serious affair because of the dangerous risks and complications associated with it. The safer option is to join an inpatient or outpatient rehab and treatment facility where a patient is offered professional care and support throughout the detox and later stages.

Some of the benefits of a medical detox include:

  • Medical monitoring and support
  • A safe and structured environment
  • Peer support
  • Stress-free and trigger-free environment
  • Relapse prevention
  • Aftercare support
  • Therapeutic intervention
  • Family support

No matter where one is on the road to alcoholism, professional intervention and treatment can help them overcome this addiction and live a sober and productive life in recovery. It is never safe to self-detox at home. A professional rehab facility ensures that all the risks associated with detox from alcohol can be managed and dealt with in the most effective manner.

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Page Sources

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  3. Hugh Myrick, Raymond F. Anton, Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal, https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/38-43.pdf
  4. Carole Allan, Iain Smith, Michael Mellin, DETOXIFICATION FROM ALCOHOL: A COMPARISON OF HOME DETOXIFICATION AND HOSPITAL-BASED DAY PATIENT CARE, https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/35/1/66/142543
  5. Nigel Fleeman, Alcohol home detoxification: A literature review, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/13766589_Alcohol_home_detoxification_A_literature_review
  6. Louis A. Trevisan, Nashaat Boutros, Ismene L. Petrakis, John H. Krystal, Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal, https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/61-66.pdf
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  8. Australian Government. Department of Health. How Can You Reduce Or Quit Alcohol?, https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/alcohol/about-alcohol/how-can-you-reduce-or-quit-alcohol

Published on: March 9th, 2018

Updated on: April 2nd, 2021

About Author

Juliette Siegfried, MPH

Juliette has been working in the health communications field since 1991, when she began working at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Her initial campaigns focused on smoking cessation and cancer prevention. Juliette later moved to the corporate side of health communications, including working at Kaiser Permanente, where she designed interactive computer-based training for health education.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.