Looking to Help Someone Detox? Here’s What You Should Know

hand supporting someone going through detox

The first step in healthy, sober living for anyone with a substance or alcohol use problem is to detox. Cleansing the body of drugs or alcohol not only begins the physical process of the body’s recovery from abuse, but it’s also a pivotal step in ridding the mind of thoughts and desires that could cloud or inhibit one’s ability to stay clean. A clear mind is beneficial for those embarking on the road to recovery, but we also can’t say enough about the power of community and a strong support system.

If your friend or loved one is struggling with an addiction and you’re able to be included within their support system, there are a few things you should know about the detox process.

Detox is Physically Demanding

The impact of a drug or alcohol addiction on a body can’t be minimized. As someone becomes addicted to a substance, their tolerance increases, which means it takes more of the substance than ever before to reach the same high or level of satisfaction. When that addict abruptly curtails their drug or alcohol abuse — as in the case with detox — the body responds in a way that produces a series of physical reactions.

It’s common for someone experiencing detox to have tightness of the chest, as well as muscle tension, rapid heart rate, nausea, headaches, and difficulty controlling their breathing. Other symptoms of detox, like sweating and repeated vomiting, are easier for a bystander to recognize.

The Mental Toll of Detox is Nearly as Devastating

Though it’s true the physical developments occurring during detox can be debilitating, you should also know how the process affects the addict’s mental health and cognition. In general, a person undergoing detox may find their mental processing delayed and concentrating challenging. The person may also struggle with memory lapses and judgment and find even moderate amounts of sound and light unbearable.

In addition, those going through detox will find it taxing to relax, which can cause insomnia. Worse, the resulting sleep deprivation and aggravation will often intensify one’s desire to use again.

What You Can Do to Help Someone Going Through Detox

The most important thing you can do to help someone detox is to be present. The first few days of the process will trigger the most severe symptoms and be the most trying. If you plan to be involved, we recommend you go into the process with realistic expectations for what will be asked of you. You should also recognize that detox starts a lifelong endeavor and is not a quick fix or a cure for the person’s addiction. Your continued support will be needed for years to come, so it’s best to prepare for the long haul.

Things will likely get worse at the onset of detox before they get better, so you must be willing to be patient. Your friend or loved one will be going through many difficult changes, and it’s crucial that you keep a positive, supportive attitude throughout. As the person begins to suffer through the symptoms of detox and withdrawal, it’s imperative that you’re there to help manage any physical pain or discomfort. Additionally, the person may ask you to aid in their decision-making and keep them motivated toward recovery. You may also need to make certain the person is drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration and eating small amounts of healthy food, including fruits, vegetables, and substantive meals like soup or noodles.

Next, as best as you can, you must keep enablers or those who are toxic away during detox. That means helping shield your friend or loved one from social circles or environments that could lead to a relapse of drug or alcohol use.

One of the best things you can do for someone undergoing detox is simply to be a distraction — and we mean that in the best way possible. You can help distract someone from their cravings and physical symptoms by participating together in an activity like watching a movie, playing a board game, or doing some light exercise like stretching or yoga.

All of these tips are essential for someone helping their friend or loved one with detox, but the reality of this situation is that it can be dangerous to do this on your own without trained supervision. Many treatment centers have dedicated detox programs that include round-the-clock medical care to ensure the person stays safe at all times.

Final Thoughts On Helping Someone Detox

A support system is only as strong as its weakest link. One problem that plagues a lot of people helping friends or loved ones detox is that they become burned out or worn down by the gravity of the situation. Substance abuse and mental health experts caution that while you may want to be there at all times, your own mental and physical health should come first. Be sure to take time for yourself and your own self-care habits, whether that’s exercising, hanging out with friends, catching up on work, or getting a few extra hours of sleep. Detox involves a lot of variables that can complicate the process, but one universal truth is that even the biggest, most accommodating supporter can’t pour from an empty cup.

Midwest Recovery Centers Offers Supervised, Residential Detox

At Midwest Recovery Centers, we feel strongly that recovery requires a solid foundational start, beginning with supervised detox. Our residential detox program includes supervised care from licensed healthcare professionals specially trained in the nuances of addiction, withdrawal, and detox.

Following detox, we encourage patients to continue with us by enrolling in our multi-phase treatment program, where we deploy an evidence-based approach that includes individual and group therapy, life skills training, and more.

We understand the last thing you want is to see your friend or loved one suffer during detox, and we want you to know that you don’t have to go it alone. If you’d like to learn more, you can fill out our contact form and someone from our team will call you, or you can call us directly at 855-962-4205.


Reviewed and Assessed by
Taylor Brown, B.A.Com., CADC
Tim Coleman, M. of Ed.

Staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Click or Call Today! 844-990-1578

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