Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Assisted Alcohol Detox vs. Detoxing at Home

Alcohol can make teens feel silly, happy and giddy. When a few hours have passed, however, these teens might feel as though their bodies have completely returned to normal. They can walk in a straight line, talk coherently and pass even the most stringent breath test for alcohol. But deep inside the cells of the brain, a kernel of damage might remain. If the teen stops drinking alcohol altogether, that small bit of damage could blossom into a significant amount of pain. Detox can help, and there are two settings in which detox can be performed: at home or in a treatment facility.

At-Home Help

In adults, alcohol detox is associated with significant medical problems, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures

Guidelines produced in New Zealand suggest that this kind of damage rarely takes place among adolescents, as many addicted teens don’t have a long-term history of substance use and abuse. They may need assistance with their alcoholism, but they may not be dealing with decades of damage. Adults who do have decades of damage may have a higher risk of these medical problems, and they may need intensive care. Some teens might not.

At home, teens are surrounded by their families. Minor twinges of anxiety might be easier to face, when they have familiar people around them. They’re also in familiar surroundings at home, perhaps even recovering in their own beds, and they might also feel calmer and more collected in these environments. As long as parents or a sober sitter can hold watch and bring the teen in for medical evaluation if something goes wrong, this might be right for some teens.

Assisted Alcohol Detox

Medical professionals typically suggest that people dependent on alcohol JAMA Psychiatry, researchers found that 1.3 percent of teens met the criteria for alcohol dependence. This seems to suggest that not all teens can recover at home. In fact, it seems to suggest that many might need the help of a treatment program.

In a formal detox program, teens will be separated from their families and familiar surroundings. But they might have access to medications that can soothe the physical signs of alcohol withdrawal, if they arise. There will be no delays in getting care, as there might be in a home detox situation, and no family members need to be responsible for sitting in and watching around the clock. A medical team handles these details, and in some cases, that help is desperately needed.

The staff members of an assisted alcohol detox program can also help teens prepare for their therapy sessions to come, and sometimes, they’ll even transport the teen from the detox facility to the treatment facility. There is no gap in the continuity of care in this model, and the teen doesn’t have the opportunity to lapse back into drinking. The transition is smooth, and for some families, this is the real benefit of an assisted program.

If you’d like to know more about how we help adolescents in our program at Muir Wood, please call.