How to Help a Family Member in Detox

Giving up substance abuse is challenging, especially within the first few days. The detoxificationhow-to-help-family-through-drug-detox process, or detox, is a necessary part of recovery, but it is never as simple as it sounds. When a family member is trying to give up substance abuse and is stepping onto the road to recovery, offering help and support is a natural part of showing love for that individual.

Basics of Detox

Before it is possible to offer any help or assistance throughout the detox process, it is important to understand the basics of the program and how it will impact a loved one. Knowledge is a powerful tool for recovery, especially when loved ones are involved and are offering assistance.
Detox is a term that describes the first step of recovery. When the substance is first stopped, the body will need to remove any remaining traces of the drug or alcohol. Although the exact time period will vary between drugs, most detox programs will take three to seven days to complete.

During the detox program, a loved one will face withdrawal symptoms. The exact symptoms will vary between substances, but can range from mildly annoying to very painful problems.

The common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Emotional turmoil
  • Anger
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Aching muscles
  • Pain throughout the body
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chills
  • Heart palpitations

Although the symptoms might not seem challenging, the symptoms are potentially dangerous. Certain drugs, such as opiates and alcohol, have more extreme withdrawal symptoms than other substances. Regardless of the extremity of the symptoms, it is also uncomfortable to give up substance abuse.

The body needs time to remove substances from the system. During that time, loved ones will face brutal emotional and physical symptoms. Having a family member offering help and support will make it a little less intimidating to face the symptoms and get through the challenging times.

Inform the Family Member That He or She is Not Alone

While it is not possible to experience the withdrawal symptoms for a loved one, it is possible to give a little peace of mind and positive support before getting involved in the detox program. Discuss the treatment options and make it clear that a loved one is not alone in the fight.
It is hard to focus during withdrawal symptoms and it is hard to remember that others are willing to stand with a loved one and give support throughout the recovery process. Informing a loved one that he or she is not alone will offer a little confirmation that the family is still supporting and loving that individual.

Substance abuse can ruin relationships and it is hard to build up trust after it has been broken. By informing a loved one that he or she will have support, it can help mend some of the hurts and emotional turmoil that relates to the relationship.

Listen to Complaints

Depending on the detox program and the facilities that are being used, it might be possible to talk to a loved one on the phone or in person. Although a medical doctor and any staff members at a treatment program will need to clear up the specific rules, it is always helpful to allow a loved one to talk about the symptoms, the situation, or other concerns during the detox process.

Taking time to listen is always a show of support and love. Even if a loved one cannot talk about any positive aspects, knowing that someone is listening will make it easier to keep walking forward.

The complaints that might occur during the withdrawal symptoms will vary. Family members should expect shocking or uncomfortable statements.

These may include:

  • Claims that it is impossible to continue
  • Wishing to die
  • Complaints about the pain
  • Accusations
  • Talking about the substance
  • Longing for the substance

The exact complaints, statements, and information that are presented during withdrawal symptoms will vary. Family members should expect shocking statements, but the individual and the substance will play a significant role in the exact wording and situation.

Listening to the troubles that contribute to substance abuse or the comments about the substance might be hard, but it will help. Talking through the issues can play a significant role in the ability to keep moving and working toward a full recovery. Substance abuse recovery is challenging, but talking about the problems that caused the initial drug use or the worries about withdrawals can help.

Help Alleviate Some Discomfort

Although the situation will vary and it might not be possible to directly help a loved one, some programs will allow individuals to get through detoxification at home or allow visitation during the process. In most cases, severe withdrawals are medically supervised and family members are not allowed to directly help loved ones due to the health risks.

When a loved one is staying home for the withdrawals or a program allows loved ones to visit, taking measures to reduce or help alleviate some of the discomfort is appropriate. The best way to reduce discomfort will depend on the specific problems and symptoms that arise.

A few ways to help include:

  • Giving a loved one massages to help with aching muscles
  • Providing water and encouraging a loved one to drink more water
  • Offering a variety of healthy food choices
  • Giving gingerale or similar soda to help reduce nausea symptoms
  • Distracting a loved one through discussion of fun times
  • Providing games, books or other tools to further distract from symptoms
  • Being patient and understanding of the challenges a loved one is facing

Alleviating some of the discomfort will make it easier to get through the challenges of withdrawal symptoms. Although the exact measures that will help vary based on the symptoms and possible solutions, a family member can provide distractions that are based on the personality and interests of the individual, which can go further than the attempted distractions of medical professionals.

Make a Family Member Feel Safe

Giving a loved one the support and guidance needed to seek help is only the first part of overcoming withdrawal symptoms. It is important to feel safe emotionally and physically to avoid giving up before getting started on recovery.

Making a family member feel safe will depend on the situation and the symptoms a loved one is facing. For example, if a loved one is seeing hallucinations, then the best way to provide a safe environment is having a medical professional get involved to reduce the impact of those hallucinations. In other situations, it might mean having specific family members stay away during the detox process or getting certain individuals directly involved in the process due to their calm behavior.

Feeling safe and secure can play a significant role in the ability to get through detoxification. Providing a feeling of safety can be as simple as giving a hug or making hot chocolate and talking about a favorite topic. It is the familiarity of family members and loving support that helps build up trust and the feeling of safety.

When a family member is going through detoxification, offering help might give that loved one a fighting chance to reach for real recovery. It is not easy to get directly involved in the addiction rehabilitation of a loved one, but it can provide the key to giving up substance abuse for a lifetime that an individual needs.

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