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Can I Quit Using Drugs and Alcohol Without Going to Rehab?

Whether you have been using drugs or alcohol, quitting is the first step to recovery. You can begin the road to a sober life once you determine that quitting drugs or alcohol is your goal.


Some people are ready to dive right into recovering from substance abuse. They may wonder, can I quit using drugs and alcohol without going to rehab? They may feel incredibly determined, strong, and ready to quit on their own without the help of a rehab facility.


Although your willpower is going to be a great benefit to you during the detox process, it can’t eliminate the withdrawals you’ll experience during the process of quitting drugs or alcohol. A rehab treatment program is necessary to assist with the uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effects of quitting drugs or alcohol on your own.

How Drugs and Alcohol Affect the Body and Brain

Before understanding why a rehab facility is vital in addiction recovery, it’s helpful to know how drugs and alcohol affect the body and brain.

Three parts of the brain are affected by continued drug use. These are:

The basal ganglia: This part of the brain can be thought of as the “happy” center of the brain. It’s the part that feels happy about small and big things in life. It becomes activated when you use drugs or alcohol. Over time, it becomes more challenging to feel optimistic about anything except using drugs or alcohol.

The extended amygdala: This section of the brain makes you feel irritable and stressed when things go wrong. This part of the brain is alerted when you stop using the drug. So, people take more drugs or alcohol to feel relief again. 

The prefrontal cortex: When this part of the brain works correctly, you will have good judgment and make better decisions. But when using drugs or alcohol, the prefrontal cortex becomes impaired, making it difficult to make the right choices (especially regarding substance misuse).

When a person uses drugs, dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, is released. Dopamine activates the brain's reward center and signals the person to continue doing the activity that caused the reward. However, in this instance, it is to the person’s detriment.

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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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What Happens When You Quit Drugs or Alcohol?

As stated above, your brain has become accustomed to experiencing pleasure from using the substance. When you suddenly quit taking drugs or alcohol, your body experiences a shock in the system. When it is removed, you will have a range of withdrawal symptoms.


The type of withdrawal symptoms you’ll experience can vary, depending on various factors, such as:

  • How long did you take the drugs or alcohol?

  • How much were you using?

  • How often were you using the substance?

  • Were you using more than one substance?

  • Do you have any co-occurring disorders (i.e., mental health disorders)?


However, regardless of the answers to these questions, most people may experience some of the following symptoms when they withdraw from drugs (see alcohol below):

  • Nausea 

  • Vomiting

  • Anxiety

  • Muscle cramps or muscle spasms

  • Body aches

  • Excessive yawning

  • Insomnia

  • Sweating

  • Hot and cold flashes

  • Watery discharge from eyes and nose

  • Diarrhea

  • Tension

Some of the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol include:

  • Auditory disturbances

  • Agitation

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Tremor

  • Visual disturbances 

  • Headache

  • Sweating due to hypertension

  • Inability to think clearly

  • Anxiety


If the alcohol withdrawal is severe, complications may arise, which include:

  • Delirium tremens

  • Seizures

  • Hallucinations

  • Cardiovascular complications

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Can I Quit Using Drugs and Alcohol Without Going to Rehab?

As you can see, the risk of complications, difficulties, and highly uncomfortable side effects is too significant to go through alone. It would be best if you did not quit using drugs and alcohol without going to rehab because of the harm you may incur. In fact, in 2019, the FDA released a safety announcement discouraging people from quitting prescription opioids suddenly. They advised that doing so could cause harm to the individual.

Even if you didn’t experience extreme physical distress, the discomfort might be enough to cause you to give up your goal of sobriety. Instead, you can seek treatment at a qualified substance abuse facility and make the entire process easier on yourself.

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Rehab Helps During the Withdrawal Process

Certified clinicians at a rehab treatment center will assist you throughout the withdrawals to ensure you ease through them as comfortably as possible. Doctors, nurses, and other professionals will monitor your condition during rehab treatment and administer medication as needed. Some people need prescription medication for nausea, vomiting, and anxiety. In contrast, other people may require more robust medication-assisted treatment.

Medication-assisted treatment is administered by FDA-approved facilities and under strict supervision. Medications are used in the withdrawal management of opioids and alcohol. Some of the approved medications include:

  • Methadone 

  • Suboxone 

  • Subutex 

  • Vivitrol

  • Naltrexone 

  • Acamprosate 

  • Disulfiram


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Starting the Journey to Sobriety at a Rehab Treatment Center

You can start your journey to a sober life and don’t have to do it alone. Get help quitting drugs or alcohol by seeking a substance abuse rehab treatment program. Begin your detox at an inpatient drug rehab or partial hospitalization program. Once you get through the detox process, you can continue the journey with an intensive outpatient program or standard outpatient program. Each level of treatment takes you one step closer to complete freedom. Start the journey today!

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What happens when you quit drugs or alcohol?
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