Addiction is a chronic and progressive condition that requires professional treatment. Nationwide surveys show that nearly 10% of U.S. adults struggle with substance use disorder at some point in their lives but up to 75% report not receiving any form of treatment.[1] Those who don’t go to rehab often face multiple failed attempts at trying to get sober by themselves. Others spend years desperately searching for a quick fix or a cure-all for their addiction. Those who are not as fortunate end up facing a multitude of devastating consequences, ranging from legal troubles to medical issues and preventable death.

If you are tired of living in a cycle of addiction, you may be tempted to try to get sober without going to rehab. Although there are many how-to guides for at-home detox and more, there are significant dangers associated with getting sober on your own. The safest, most effective route towards sobriety is by attending a drug and alcohol rehab near you. Addiction treatment facilities provide individualized care for drugs, alcohol, trauma, mental health, and more, so you can stay safe, sober, and recover successfully.

Here are some of the biggest dangers of getting sober without drug and alcohol rehab.

The Dangers of At-Home Drug and Alcohol Detox

The first obstacle you have to overcome once you decide to get sober is withdrawal. Drug and alcohol withdrawal occurs when you stop taking a substance that your body has become addicted to. Almost all substances cause withdrawal, and some withdrawal syndromes are more dangerous than others.

Two of the most dangerous types of substances to detox from are alcohol and benzodiazepines. Both substances can cause life-threatening symptoms like irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, and seizures.[2] Medical detox programs can prescribe medications that prevent seizures and reduce other severe withdrawal symptoms. This can help prevent severe complications. If you attempt to detox at home and have a medical emergency, you could end up in the emergency room.

Even when drug withdrawal symptoms are not potentially deadly, they can be extremely intense and uncomfortable. For example, opioid withdrawal can feel like a severe case of the flu accompanied by intense drug cravings and insomnia.[3] Symptoms such as these can make it difficult to get through the detox process without picking up a drink or a drug. That is why so many people fail to complete detox on their own.

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The Effects of Getting Sober Without Rehab on Your Mental Health

The physical effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal are painful and dangerous, but they only last for 1-2 weeks. The psychological effects of getting sober, however, can last for several months or even years after you stop using substances.

After detox, you may find that you are still struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, shame, low-self esteem, regret, and more. Further, multiple surveys have found that nearly 50% of people who struggle with substance use disorder also experience mental illness and vice versa.[4] Whether you have a diagnosable mental illness or not, it is completely normal for your mental health to suffer when you first get sober. After all, it takes time for your mind and body to adjust to living without drugs and alcohol.

A huge part of substance abuse treatment is to learn how to cope with difficult feelings. If you struggle with mental health, behavioral therapy can provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to manage your symptoms. Addiction treatment centers also have mental health professionals on staff who can provide comprehensive evaluations and medications, if needed.

You won’t have access to any of these services if you are getting sober without rehab. Ignoring your mental health can result in relapse.

The Problem With Trying to Maintain Long-Term Sobriety Without Rehab

One of the primary focuses of rehab is to learn how to live sober and prevent relapse. Drug rehab centers accomplish this through a multidisciplinary approach involving:

  • Individualized care that targets your specific needs
  • Behavioral therapy to identify and modify self-destructive behaviors and thought patterns
  • Group therapy sessions that allow you to connect with others and build a sober support network
  • Relapse prevention planning that considers your lifestyle, schedule, and beliefs
  • Aftercare planning that consists of outpatient programs, sober living homes, and alumni events
  • 12-Step facilitation to encourage you to participate in a support group after rehab

Without these services, you may not be prepared to stay sober in the long term. This can be problematic because the risk of overdose increases after periods of sobriety. You see, the body develops tolerance to substances that are abused on a regular basis. When a person stops using a drug, such as heroin or Xanax, their tolerance drops. Some people do not realize this, and when they relapse, they use the same dose they used to take when they had a tolerance. Reduced or lost tolerance can cause you to overdose.[5]

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