Watching a family member suffer from addiction can be a devastating experience. When your loved one finally decides to stop using drugs and undergo detox it can seem like the weight of the world has been lifted from your shoulders. But just because your loved one wants to quit using drugs does not mean the battle is over. Before they can overcome their addiction they must first go through drug detox, a process that can be extremely draining, both physically and mentally.
Thankfully, there are several things you can do to help a family member through drug detox.
Don’t attempt home detox without consulting a doctor or detox facility. Some drugs are not safe to detox from without professional supervision at a detox facility. Call your doctor or your nearest detox center to find out if home detox is a safe option and, if so, what you can do to prepare.
Understand that detox is not a cure for addiction. Your loved one will have to work on many things to overcome his addiction, including modifying his behaviors, learning better ways to cope with stress, and addressing the underlying emotional and psychological issues that have lead to him to use drugs in the first place.
Be prepared to take time off or have people help you. The first few days of detox can be intense, both physically and mentally. Not only will your family member be experiencing painful physical withdrawal symptoms, but he’ll also be combating powerful cravings. It’s best to spend as much time with your loved one as possible during these difficult first days to ensure he withdraws safely and without relapsing. Be prepared to take time off from work and have someone watch your children or elderly parents while your focus is on your loved one.
Help your loved one manage the physical pain and discomfort of withdrawal. Your loved one will experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms, depending on the type of drug used, how much of the drug is abused, and how long he has been taking the drug. These symptoms will range from mild to severe and can include flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, runny eyes and nose, sneezing, and hot and cold sweats. Your loved one may also become anxious, irritable, extremely tired and have difficulty sleeping. You can help alleviate these uncomfortable symptoms by making your family member as comfortable as possible. You can do this by providing him a comfortable, quiet place to rest; gently massaging or rub any painful areas; drawing him a hot bath; giving him over-the-counter medications such as anti-diarrhea and pain reliever medicines, etc. If withdrawal symptoms are severe, contact your doctor right away.
Encourage your loved one to eat and drink the right types of food and liquid. If your loved one is experiencing vomiting, diarrhea or fever, it’s very important to make sure he doesn’t get dehydrated. Help him avoid dehydration by encouraging him to drink lots of fluids (about 2 liters a day), and eat light, easy-to-digest foods such as soup, noodles, rice, vegetables and fruit.
Help distract your loved one from any cravings he might have. Intense cravings can often arise during the detox process and can be one of the biggest threats to your family member’s sobriety. If your family member is experiencing cravings, help distract him by doing activities such as watching a movie, playing cards, walking, etc. You can also help by simply listening your loved one vent his frustrations and fears.
Keep toxic people away from the home. Whether it’s a friend who’s a bad influence or a family member who causes stress and arguments, discourage people from contacting your family member while he’s detoxing.
Be patient. Your loved one is going through an intense physical and mental process that may make him difficult to deal with. The good news is that this won’t last for long (most detox periods last between a few days and a few weeks). Be patient with your loved one and try not to take anything personal.