Drug and Alcohol - Medication-Assisted Treatment

Why Should You Avoid Detoxing Alone or “Going Cold Turkey”?

EDGE Cold-Turkey-Drug-Detox

Detoxing solo or going the “Cold Turkey” route is a serious mistake. Learn why professional detox is the smart, safe choice in our blog!

We understand how damaging substance use disorder (SUD) can be to a person and their loved ones. If you have SUD, it is imperative to get help from an addiction rehab center and start taking control of your life again.

It can be tempting to think you can go it alone, however. Let us be clear: taking a solo approach to drug detox or trying to go “cold turkey” when quitting substances isn’t just likely to be successful.

It can also be potentially dangerous.

What Is Drug Detox?

The first step in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse is to stop using the substance.

When you stop using drugs, your body begins to detox itself. This may sound very simple: you are letting your body cleanse itself and heal.

However, the process of detoxing is complex and can be dangerous when done alone.

The detox process involves many risks that can hinder your recovery or even become life-threatening. Although detoxing at home is free and convenient, it can become very costly and complicated when your body experiences the effects of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are physical and mental symptoms caused when a person stops using drugs.

The journey of recovery is life-long, and it is important to make your first step on that path as safe and successful as possible. To ensure that you or your loved one detoxes safely, it is necessary to complete the detox in a professional medical setting.

Today, we are going to look into the risks of detoxing alone and the reasons that detoxing with medical supervision is essential for safety, comfort, and long-term success.

Why Is Drug Detox the First Step?

The process of detoxing is to let the body rid itself of addictive substances and their byproducts. Think of it as giving your body a clean slate that will allow you to start recovery free of toxins.

In fact, you cannot begin the next steps of recovery without ridding your body of drugs and alcohol.

Why Is Drug Detox Difficult?

Unfortunately, this necessary process can be very intense. The severity of detox varies depending on the substance, your age, and the extent of your addiction. Detox can be very hard on your body because it is undertaken by people who are dependent on the substance. 

There are two kinds of dependence involved in SUD:

  • Physical dependence: Describes when a body physically requires drugs or alcohol to function on a daily basis

  • Psychological dependence: Describes when a person fully believes that they can’t function normally without drugs or alcohol, whether or not that is true

Most people undertaking detox are both physically and psychologically dependent on their substance of choice. To complete detox without relapsing, people need to remember that the only way to break their dependence is to let their bodies and minds go without the substance.

Over time, they will re-learn how to function without drugs or alcohol. In the meantime, however, people detoxing will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

The intensity of withdrawal symptoms can vary for a variety of reasons. For example, withdrawal from drugs can be different from withdrawal from alcohol, but they have many symptoms in common.

Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol include:

  • Cravings

  • Abdominal cramping 

  • Nausea and vomiting 

  • Diarrhea

  • Headaches

  • Insomnia

  • Fatigue

  • Depression

  • Hallucinations 

  • Seizures

Withdrawal symptoms from substances can include:

  • Body aches 

  • Hot and cold flashes 

  • Short-term memory loss 

  • Psychotic episodes 

  • Thoughts of self-harm 

The withdrawal period can last for a week or more, depending on the person and the substance they were addicted to. 

Why Is It Dangerous to Detox Alone? 

Another term for detox is “medically managed withdrawal.” This term emphasizes the need for medical supervision while a person is experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Choosing to detox alone at home may seem like the easier and more affordable option. However, this is not the case because of how dangerous this process is.

Detoxing without medical supervision can sometimes lead to withdrawal delirium and death. Another big concern for those detoxing at home is the heightened risk of relapsing and overdosing. When you detox alone, the cravings and withdrawal symptoms can become unbearable. Even if you are highly motivated to complete your detox, if you do not have support from medical professionals, you may use the substance again to get relief from withdrawals.

Using again is a relapse, and it can lead to an overdose.

Can Medications Ease Detox?

Since detoxing involves many processes in the body, its uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms can be eased by certain medications. For example, addiction to opioids, one of the most addictive substances, can be treated through medication-assisted treatment (MAT) at an addiction recovery center.

Even if you do not want to use medication-assisted treatment throughout the majority of your recovery, having help from medications during the height of withdrawal can help you complete the detox process. Since these medications help your body handle withdrawals, the process becomes significantly more comfortable, which in turn makes the detox more likely to be completed without relapse.

If you attempt to detox on your own at home, you will not have access to these medications.

Avoid the Cold Turkey Mistake With The Edge Treatment Center

At The Edge Treatment Center, treatment begins with detox. Through our trusted partners at the country’s leading detox centers, we offer medication, counseling, and supervision to ensure your comfort during the withdrawal process. Although it is important, detox is not a quick fix for addiction. It is only the first step in a lifelong recovery journey that can be guided by a qualified recovery program.

After your body has cleansed out the toxins from the drug or alcohol, you will still need time to recover from the physical and emotional effects of SUD. We usually recommend that people enter an inpatient program after detox if possible. The Edge also partners with our area’s best inpatient recovery programs to ensure your treatment journey begins the right way.

The environment of an inpatient program allows you to learn the skills for lifelong recovery. You will be surrounded by other individuals who are experiencing similar steps on their recovery journeys. There are also doctors and professionals available to monitor, guide, and support you through this process with therapy and group activities.

However, if your life doesn’t allow you to take the time to stay in a residential program, you have the option to attend an outpatient program. These programs are much more flexible for individuals who have daily responsibilities such as children, a career, or school.

At The Edge, we understand everyone is unique, and we can work with your individualized schedule to create a treatment plan that works best for you. Contact us today to learn more.

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Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

Medication-Assisted Treatment

October 4, 2022