Can Detox Be Dangerous? Understanding the Risks

Last Updated on July 9, 2024
adam zagha of numa detox and rehab in los angeles
Writer: Adam Zagha
Clinical Reviewer: Ariana Gravanis

Detoxification (or detox) is the process of eliminating the harmful substances the body has incurred due to drug or alcohol addiction. While detoxing is essential for recovery, some may wonder "can detox be dangerous?". This article discusses the effects of detoxing, the severe symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal, and why it can be risky.

NUMA Recovery Centers is a licensed Los Angeles detox center that offers comprehensive treatment program to individuals struggling with substance use disorder. Our team of medical professionals also treats co-occurring mental health disorders, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. If you are looking for a rehab center that help you detox safely and lead you to a successful recovery, contact NUMA Recovery Centers today.

Start Recovery Here.
Call (323) 970-9379

Quick Points

  • Detox is the process of getting rid of the substances in the body caused by drug and alcohol abuse.

  • Detox can be dangerous if done without proper medical supervision from medical experts and addiction specialists.

  • Severe withdrawal symptoms can endanger the lives of individuals who decide to detox at home or by themselves as there’s no medical professional to provide the proper medication or care for them.

  • Going cold turkey from alcohol and other drugs can lead to health complications like dehydration and heart problems.

  • Individuals who want to detox at home can opt for an outpatient treatment program, as it enables them to receive proper medical care without needing an inpatient stay.

The Link Between Detoxing and Withdrawal Symptoms

During detox, the body experiences withdrawal symptoms as it adjusts to the absence of substances like drugs or alcohol. The effects of detoxing can manifest either as physical and psychological symptoms, and can range from mild discomfort to severe and life-threatening conditions.

Since withdrawal symptoms during detox can vary from person to person, medical care plays an essential role in the detox process. Medical professionals can help effectively manage and ease withdrawal symptoms experienced when undergoing detox.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary from mild to severe. The severity of these symptoms often depends on factors like the duration and intensity of alcohol use.

As a result, medical supervision is recommended when undergoing alcohol detox. The presence of medical professionals helps manage the risks involved during detox and support the patient’s full recovery.

The severe withdrawal symptoms that manifest during alcohol detox include the following:

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms


This is one of the symptoms of alcohol detox that usually begin within six hours after you quit drinking, and it affects the hands and other parts of the body.


Disrupts sleep patterns, which leads to fatigue. Medical supervision is required to manage bouts of insomnia among individuals undergoing alcohol detox process.


One of the common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, nausea normally affects most people undergoing alcohol detox.


This is a common symptom during detox and it can lead to severe dehydration if not managed properly.


Similar to vomiting, excessive sweating during alcohol withdrawal can lead to severe dehydration.

High blood pressure (hypertension)

This is one of the severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that can escalate to life-threatening levels.


While not often life-threatening, diarrhea can cause severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance during detox.


These are considered severe and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that can occur within 24 to 48 hours after you quit drinking alcohol.

Delirium Tremens (DTs)

Considered as a severe withdrawal symptom during alcohol detox, an individual with delirium tremens experiences severe changes in their physical and mental state.

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms


This withdrawal symptom can manifest as restlessness, nervousness, and irritability hours after taking the last drink of alcohol.


These symptoms can occur within 12 to 24 hours after the last drink, which can cause individuals to see or hear things that aren't there.


Individuals undergoing alcohol withdrawal may experience bouts of extreme depression which are characterized by feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

Alcohol Detox: What Are the Risks?

Detoxing from alcohol comes with significant risks, especially if done abruptly or cold turkey. This can result in severe withdrawal symptoms, like dehydration and increased blood pressure, or possibly even death.

These concerns highlight the need for medically supervised detox, which can be provided at specialized addiction treatment and detox centers. These centers offer comprehensive programs with medical supervision and proper care to individuals struggling with substance use disorder, ensuring a safer and more effective detox process.

Severe Withdrawal Symptoms and Substance Use Disorder

Similar to alcohol withdrawal, severe drug withdrawal symptoms are common in detoxing individuals with substance use disorder. Given their severity, these symptoms require immediate medical attention to prevent life-threatening complications.

Prescription drugs, such as certain opioids (Oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl), benzodiazepines, and stimulants, are also some of the commonly abused substances. Detoxing from these drugs take weeks or months, depending on the severity of substance use.

The severe withdrawal symptoms from individuals with substance use disorder include:

Severe Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Hallucinations

  • Delirium tremens

  • Severe anxiety

  • Depression

Other health problems that may arise from detoxing include serious heart problems like cardiac arrest, suicidal thoughts, and muscle and joint pain. Therefore, individuals undergoing drug detox should be medically supervised so medical professionals can ensure they remain medically stable throughout the detox process.

Why Detoxing Alone Is Dangerous?

Detoxing alone can be dangerous due to the risk of severe health problems and medical emergencies, especially for individuals with alcohol or substance use disorder. Therefore, if you detox at home, managing withdrawal symptoms, such as severe dehydration and blood pressure fluctuation can be difficult due to the lack of medical supervision.

Additionally, individuals who choose to detox at home or by themselves lack treatment strategies that ensure emotional support and prevent relapse, which are crucial for successful recovery. Seeking medically supervised detox in a safe and comfortable environment that offers an effective addiction treatment program is the first step towards a successful recovery.

When to Seek Professional Help During Detox

If you're experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures or hallucinations, while detoxing from alcohol or drugs, it's important to seek medical attention immediately. Medical professionals can provide the necessary care, medications, and supervision to manage these symptoms safely.

Additionally, if you have a history of severe addiction, underlying health problems, or if you're detoxing from multiple substances, it's advisable to seek the help of medical professionals to ensure that you undergo the withdrawal process safely and without experiencing any serious health complications.

Safe Alternatives to At-Home Detox

Many addiction treatment centers offer detox programs with proper medical supervision for individuals struggling with alcohol or drug addiction. This includes those who choose to detox at home.

Outpatient treatment programs are examples of such options. This approach provides flexibility for individuals who do not need 24/7 inpatient care.

These programs allow individuals with alcohol or drug addiction to receive treatment while maintaining their daily routines. They focus on easing withdrawal symptoms, preventing relapse, and supporting a successful recovery journey.

How Can NUMA Help?

Taking the first step to sobriety and long-term recovery from alcohol and drug addiction takes time, effort, and the ability to bear the challenge of withdrawal. Fortunately, you do not have to endure the whole withdrawal process by yourself.

NUMA Recovery Centers offers comprehensive treatment programs that ensure you get the best addiction treatment, regardless of the severity of your alcohol or drug abuse. With proper support from our team of medical professionals, we aim to prevent relapse and promote successful recovery from substance use disorders. Visit NUMA Recovery Centers today to start your journey towards a healthier, addiction-free life.

Start Recovery Here.
Call (323) 970-9379
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adam zagha of numa detox and rehab in los angeles
Adam Zagha
Adam Zagha is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles with over a decade of experience in addiction treatment and recovery. He holds a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology and is certified in EMDR therapy, CBT, DBT, and ACT. Prior to Numa Recovery Centers, Adam was CFO and the Director of Clinical Outreach at Transcend Recovery Community. Adam is committed to providing top-quality care to individuals seeking treatment for addiction and mental health issues. He also provides trainings and workshops on addiction, mental health, and mindfulness.
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About Numa
Numa Recovery Centers is a leading drug and alcohol detox and rehab company based in Los Angeles, providing evidence-based treatment for substance abuse and addiction. With a team of experienced professionals, Numa offers a comprehensive range of personalized services to help clients overcome addiction and achieve long-term recovery.
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