Watching a family member suffer from addiction can be a devastating experience. When your loved one finally decides to stop abusing drugs or alcohol 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 medical 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 detox.

Advice on Helping a Family Member or Friend Through Drug Detox

There are safe and healthy ways to support a loved one or friend who is battling substance addiction through the detox process. It is essential to have your loved one checked into a professionally trained facility experienced in drug detoxing such as First Step®. The best thing you can do for your loved one is to encourage him or her to seek detox treatment with First Step® as the starting point. The physical and psychological risks of detoxing at home – without appropriate ongoing medical supervision — are dangerous to you and your loved one. In addition, without medical intervention at a medical detox facility like First Step®, the unrelenting discomfort of substance withdrawal sharply increases the risk for relapse and/or medical complications.

But if your loved one chooses to detox at home, know the symptoms. Do some research or talk to a doctor about the powerful cravings and withdrawals that will be expected of that specific drug detox.

Common symptoms (both mild and severe) of drug detoxing include:

  • Obsessive thoughts of using
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pain and muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite and vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Chills or excessive sweating
  • Irritability, anxiety and confusion
  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Flu-like symptoms

If the withdrawal symptoms progress to severe depression, seizures, thoughts of suicide, vomiting blood or blood in stools/urine, it is imperative to seek medical attention immediately. Detoxing at home is very dangerous and not recommended, as in some cases the shock of going “cold turkey” could even cause death. Talk to a doctor or call a helpline, as there are options for your loved one to safely and comfortably get through drug detox.

How to Support your Loved One During Medical Detox

Most detox facilities – including First Step® — prohibit communications to and from the patient during the initial drug detox. This is by far the most fragile stage of substance addiction treatment. It is an overwhelming and emotional process. Limiting outside influences will help reduce stress and concerns during recovery. What you can do is take this time to get educated about substance addiction and the recovery process. It is also imperative that you take care of yourself so that you can be healthy and strong when your loved one returns home after treatment. Relax, as your loved one is in good hands with First Step®. If you need support, which is common, there are great self-help and support groups available.

Helping your Family Member After Drug Detox

It is essential that your loved one gets additional treatment after the medical detox. Understand that detox is not a cure for addiction. Your loved one will have to work on many things to overcome his or her addiction, including modifying his behaviors, learning better ways to cope with stress, and addressing the underlying emotional and psychological issues that have led them to use drugs in the first place.

Substance addiction is a physical and psychological dependency. It is imperative for recovery to address the underlying emotional and psychological issues that may be triggering the addiction. Talk to a doctor, drug treatment helpline, support groups etc. for drug treatment information. Recovery is possible through support and developing the skills to help achieve lifelong sobriety. First Step® is here for your loved one to assist both during medical detox, and after detox when your loved one should immediately be admitted to addiction rehabilitation treatment (“rehab”).