How to Help a Loved One Through Detox

Three Methods:Managing Home DetoxSupporting Someone through a Hospitalized DetoxLending Emotional Support

Detoxing is the process of cleansing oneself of any drugs or harmful toxins, and many detox as a first step toward overcoming a drug addiction. Whether your loved one is detoxing from alcohol, opiates, or another drug, it is never easy to see someone that you care about in pain. There are many things that you can do to help throughout the detox process, as ongoing support (both medical and emotional) are important parts of a successful detox.

Method 1
Managing Home Detox

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    Get a professional assessment. Because detoxing from many drugs can be dangerous and often requires medical supervision, make sure that a home detox is the best choice for your loved one. Arrange an assessment by calling a nearby detox center for information, and always have a physician or nurse that you are able to contact for advice.
    • Find a nearby detox center by calling your state’s Alcohol & Drug Information Service.
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    Learn about physical withdrawal symptoms. Know what physical and psychological symptoms to expect as you help your loved one through detox. Since withdrawal symptoms vary by drug, be sure that you are prepared to deal with the symptoms unique to your loved one’s drug(s) of choice.
    • For alcohol detox[1]: headache, shaking hands, eyes blinking on their own, clammy skin, rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, nervousness, irritability, insomnia, nightmares.
      • The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can begin within just a few hours without having a drink.
    • For opiate detox (heroin, morphine, codeine, Oxycontin, Dilaudid, and methadone): [2]Early symptoms include muscle aches, tearing, runny nose, sweating, and yawning agitation, anxiety, insomnia, irritability. Late symptoms include abdominal cramping, dilated pupils, diarrhea, goose bumps, nausea, and vomiting.
      • Symptoms typically being to emerge within 12 hours of the last dose, and within 30 hours for methadone.[3]
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    Watch for dangerous symptoms. Be on the lookout for withdrawal symptoms that seem especially worrying. If you see your loved one having a fit, becoming unconscious, hallucinating, or having serious chest pains, call 911 to send an ambulance right away.[4]
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    Create a safe, supportive environment.[5] In order to make your loved one as comfortable as possible, take extra care to create a safe environment in your home. Try to get as much natural light in your home as possible, and keep lots of sanitary items in close reach. Make sure that your loved one has an accessible place to rest in peace.
    • Remove anything that might tempt or trigger him to use, like alcohol or other prescription medications.
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    Manage pain. Help the person to manage any physical pain and discomfort, like cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. It may be helpful to learn a few basic first aid skills, like how to effectively use a heat pad and cold compress. To avoid messes, keep buckets in convenient places in case vomiting occurs suddenly.
    • If the nausea, vomiting and diarrhea is severe, then medication such as Maxalon or Lomotil may be helpful, but keep in mind that these can only be prescribed by a physician.[6]
    • You can also try homeopathic remedies like acupuncture pressure points to encourage a settled stomach.
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    Encourage liquids and easily digestible food. Most withdrawal symptoms leave the body dehydrated and exhausted. So, see to it that your loved one doesn't get dehydrated. He should be drinking at least two liters of water per day, even if this proves quite difficult. Eating may be even more difficult, due to nausea and indigestion, but light foods like soup, rice, noodles, vegetables, and fruit will provide nutrients that are important for recovery.[7]
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    Use relaxation techniques. Help your loved one relax by reminding them about techniques that they already use. Even if it's simple, like taking slow, deep belly breaths, listening to music, or relaxing in the bath, don't try to teach him something he doesn't already know. These techniques will help take his mind off of the pain of detox and send a signal to his body to stop resisting this pain and simply allow it to pass.
    • If your loved one is familiar with yoga or meditation, join him in a practice of his choosing.
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    Contact others for support. It’s not always the best idea to be the sole person helping your loved one through detox, as you may end up with caretaker burnout. Caretaker burnout occurs when you spend so much time worrying about and helping your loved one that you neglect your own needs, which can lead to unexamined resentment and ultimately lead to a poorer quality of care. If possible, enlist the help and support of other mutual, local contacts.
    • These others can provide support to your loved one detoxing, help you with the tasks you are taking on to aid the process, and even help you with responsibilities that you've put aside to take care of your loved one.
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    Talk to a doctor. Make sure you ask for advice to prevent the spread of infection, for which there is high risk, throughout the detox. Know what to do should you be faced with an emergency situation. Always call your doctor or go to the emergency room if you think your loved one is in severe medical danger.
    • Be sure to put off the counseling or psychological help until after the detox. This is because the detox puts the person in a very vulnerable physical state, and counseling may create more stress than help at that point.

Method 2
Supporting Someone through a Hospitalized Detox

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    Call the detox center or hospital. Before visiting, become familiar with the facility's visitation procedures. Ask about visiting hours, spending the night, and their policy on visitors who are not immediate family members.
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    Take cues instead of giving direction. Try to resist the temptation to visit your loved one whenever you want, without asking. Always make sure that your loved one wants you around, and abide by his wishes no matter how you're feeling. Let him direct your level of involvement, and don't take it personally if this level is lower than you expected. Some people find it easier and more comforting to handle pain and sickness on their own.
    • This same attitude also applies to talking about thoughts and feelings related to the process. Your loved one should know that you're available to listen without feeling forced to speak and explain while getting through a time of weakness.
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    Enlist the support of other loved ones. If there are others who you think would appreciate the opportunity to visit, give them information about visiting hours. Remember to brief them on how things are going, and give them the same instructions that you are following about how to be supportive visitor.
    • Don't bring anyone to visit that you think could potentially agitate your loved one. If you're unsure, check with him before inviting anyone else to the facility.
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    Be patient. Avoid putting any unnecessary pressure on your loved one. Since you are not around 24/7 to see the detox process through entirely, you may feel compelled to ask many questions about how he feels and what's happened since you last spoke. However, this may inadvertently make it seem like you want or expect him to be able to recovery very quickly.
    • You can still express love and encouragement without bringing an anxious tone into his room. Try talking about how proud and excited you are. Emphasize your awareness that the process is long and taxing.
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    Bring mementos. As an additional form of support, bring along with you any small tokens or forms of entertainment that you think your loved one might like to have around. Especially if your loved one gets homesick easily, have beloved objects with you and even things that might serve as motivators or reminders that recovery is important. These might be photographs, memorabilia, childhood toys, etc.
    • Check with the detox facility before bringing any home items to ensure they will allow your loved one to have them inside the facility.
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    Get involved. Many detox centers offer programs for the family of users. These might be family therapy or multi-family sessions. Taking this step in support of your loved one will send a clear message that you are available, unashamed, and happy to support him.[8]
    • 12-step support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and its variants (which exist for all addictive drugs) prove very helpful for maintaining ongoing sobriety. These groups usually have family chapters that you can attend.

Method 3
Lending Emotional Support

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    Keep your attitude peaceful. Practice patience and try to be as non-confrontational with your loved one as possible as they are detoxing. Consider that his body is going through a lot, and he probably is not thinking very clearly at this time. Don your best nurse attitude and try to focus more on what he is going through than whatever might have happened to make you upset.
    • Even if something happens that would normally provoke an argument, keep your cool and tell yourself that you absolutely must let your loved one take it easy now.
    • Try not to take anything your loved one says too personally. Don’t assume that he is trying to hurt you just because you got caught up in a moment of his moodiness.
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    Listen without judgment. While your loved one is feeling vulnerable and ill, he may still want to discuss much of what's going on. Listen closely and give words of encouragement whenever possible. Congratulate him on getting to this point, and tell him how proud you are. If he says something disturbing about his current state or past drug use, don't react with shock or demand an explanation. Understand that you do not fully understand, and choose instead to simply let him speak from the heart.
    • It can also be encouraging to discuss and remind him to look at his reasons for stopping. This way he'll stay grounded in the purpose behind the taxing mission of detox.
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    Avoid bringing up touchy subjects.[9] You are probably thrilled that your loved one is on the road to being able to see things more clearly than when he was using. However, detox is not the stage of recovery to try and talk out issues that may be looming from the past or plans for how to carry forward. For now, just show lots of support and be very present; after all, your loved one is in a very vulnerable, physically painful place.
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    Suggest distractions from cravings. Because cravings provide a major hurdle through detoxing, do whatever you can to distract your loved one. Cravings pass when they are not indulged. Reassurance about how well he is handling everything will also serve as a reminder that going back to the drug is not the only way to make negative feelings go away.
    • Try activities that are engaging, but not too physically taxing. Watch a movie that you know by heart, play cards, crossword puzzles, and listen to music.
    • If your loved one decides it's too hard to go through with the detox, make a deal with him to wait an hour and then confirm it instead of just acting immediately.
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    Review reasons to quit. If your loved one is interested in talking through the detox, try to direct the conversation in a way that will motivate him to stay clean. Rehash all of the important reasons why he is detoxing in the first place. Remind him of all of the things he is excited to do and explore now that drugs are not going to be a part of his life. Assure him that you and others in his life are also thrilled to be able to connect in a new way that is not hampered by his addiction.
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    Talk about triggers. In order to be more certain that you are doing everything you can to keep your loved one clean, to see through the whole detox process, ask him what triggers him to use. For example, he may be angered by the mention of his mother in a way that makes it especially difficult to resist the temptation to quell his craving. Without ever asking, you may not have known that you are mentioning something that hurts his ability to cope.
    • The same goes for things that may be lying around the house (besides the obvious, drugs) Specific movies, music, or TV shows might also be triggering.
    • Try to have the conversation early on so that you're not left wondering what might be needlessly creating a difficult environment for him to detox in or asking him to name his triggers at inopportune times.
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    Understand that relapse can be a part of detox. Remember not to get so excited about your loved one’s detox that you take it as a failure if he has a relapse and begins using again.[10] Relapses can provide important information about what triggers drug use and where extra coping strategies may be needed. If you assume that a relapse means the whole detox was a failure, you could end up hurting your loved one’s morale at a crucial time where confidence and support are most important.
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    Take care of yourself. Helping someone through a detox can be very taxing, and may require you to completely rearrange your own schedule in order to provide continuous company and support. It is hard work to be kind, positive, and understanding throughout the process. Make sure that you have others around to share the responsibility with you, and try to give yourself as many opportunities to recharge as possible.
    • When asking for the presence of others, be careful with your choices. Discourage any other users or people who might trigger cravings or anger in your loved one.

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Categories: Addictions