What to Expect When Your Loved One Goes Through the Detox Process

If you have a loved one struggling with addiction, you may find hope in the chance of recovery through treatment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that addiction is a treatable disease. Research has led to the development of interventions that can help people stop abusing drugs, so they can lead healthy, productive lives.

And while you may have a positive outlook on the experience, watching your loved one go through a detox process can be difficult. They will have physical and mental hurdles to conquer throughout the journey. Knowing what to expect can help you provide the support they'll need.

Read on for some tips on making the process as smooth as possible, and how you can provide the love and support your friend or family member will need.

Get a Professional Assessment

Once your friend or family member has acknowledged their addiction and expressed a desire to get better, you should encourage them to see a professional for some guidance. You can make an appointment at a local detox center, where a qualified expert can conduct an assessment.

Detoxing can sometimes be dangerous. A professional can advise whether at-home detox is right for your loved one. They can also provide a contact for a physician or nurse that you can reach out to at any point during the detox process.

Prepare for the Physical Symptoms of the Detox Process

Withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the drug but knowing what to expect can help you be prepared to deal with the symptoms your loved one may experience.

Detoxing from alcohol can cause symptoms after just a few hours without a drink. An alcoholic's withdrawal symptoms may include headache, shaking hands, clammy skin, rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and uncontrolled blinking. They may also experience insomnia and nightmares.

For an addict withdrawing from an opiate drug like heroin, morphine, codeine, or Oxycontin, symptoms typically begin within the first 12 hours following the last drug dose. The early symptoms can include muscle aches, runny nose, sweating, agitation, anxiety, and irritability. As the detox process progresses, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting may occur.

Help Manage Pain and Keep Your Loved One Comfortable

The physical symptoms associated with detoxing can be quite unpleasant. But there are things you can do to help your loved one feel more comfortable.

Heating pads and cold compresses can help with aches, cramping, fever, and general discomfort. For severe vomiting or diarrhea, prescription medication may be necessary. Encourage the individual to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and to eat nourishing foods that are gentle on the stomach.

Create an environment conducive to health and healing. Exposure to plenty of natural light can be helpful, and easy access to a bathroom and sanitary items is vital. Of course, make sure triggers like alcohol and prescription medications are not accessible.

Encourage Rest and Promote Relaxation

Your loved one will need plenty of rest throughout their detox experience. Once the symptoms lessen in severity, they'll be more comfortable and able to sleep. Make sure they have a peaceful, quiet place to rest.

You can encourage relaxation through simple techniques, but it's best not to introduce anything too complex. Simple things like deep breathing, listening to music, and taking a bath can help promote relaxation. These practices should help take their mind off the pain and stress of the detox process.

If your loved one knows how to meditate and is familiar with the practice, this can be beneficial, too.

Have a Reliable Support System for Additional Help

Helping someone through their detox can be draining, especially if you're taking on the challenge alone. You shouldn't neglect your own needs or sacrifice your own emotional wellbeing.

Seek out others to create a small group of trusted people to help your friend or family member through their detox. Try divvying up the responsibilities. This will help during those first days of detox when the physical symptoms, irritability, and anxiety can be especially difficult.

As mentioned earlier, having a doctor or other professional available for additional guidance and support can also be helpful. Counseling can be an effective tool for recovery.

Understand the Complexity of Relapse

Relapse is common, especially at the beginning of the detox and rehabilitation process. In fact, recent studies have shown that only about one-third of addicts who have been abstinent for less than a year stay abstinent.

If your loved one relapses during detox, don't consider it a failure. Use the opportunity to learn more about their unique triggers for using drugs or alcohol and help them develop new coping strategies. Encourage them to try again, and express your confidence in their ability to conquer their addiction.

Be Patient and Understanding

Remember, the detox process is a difficult one. Your loved one will be experiencing uncomfortable physical symptoms. There is also the emotional challenge that comes with admitting they have a problem and moving forward to address it.

You want to express your support and encouragement without putting pressure on the individual. Try not to seem anxious or nervous around them. Always speak calmly and be patient.

Having a positive attitude can help, too. Tell your friend or family member how proud you are of them for taking on this challenge. Also, acknowledge the difficulty of what they're facing and show that you're aware the process may be long and taxing.

Encourage your loved one to speak openly and honestly about how they're feeling throughout the experience. Don't be judgmental. Listen closely and provide positive, encouraging feedback.

Accept That Recovery is an Ongoing Process and Learn More About Rehab Options

Addiction cannot be cured overnight. Most addicts must work to fight their addiction even after they've detoxed and become clean. The experience will evolve and change over time.

You can learn more about the options for rehab and detox by contacting our professional advisors. We can help you find the right solution for your loved one and recommend rehab centers and other resources.

We also have a wealth of articles with tips and advice on how to deal with addiction, whether it is you or a loved one that is suffering. Explore our posts on how to prevent and deal with relapses, how to encourage someone to enter rehab, and more.

Addiction is a complex disease, and we know it affects many people, including the friends and family of addicts. We are here to help you navigate the path to recovery.