Supporting someone through a detox
The information on this page is for people supporting a friend or family member who is participating in the Detox@Home program.
Before detoxing at home
Your friend/family member will be assessed by the Detox@Home team, including a doctor, before the detox starts. This will be a week or two before.
During this time, you and your friend/family member can get organised as you will need to take time off work to support your friend/family member through the detox. If there are children, plan how they will be cared for during the detox.
Talk to the Detox@Home team about the detox, your role in providing support, what to expect from the withdrawal, how long the withdrawal symptoms may last, and common withdrawal symptoms.
A peaceful and stress-free place to detox in is a good idea. For this, it may be best to let other friends/family know that the person will probably be feeling fragile for a few days.
Discourage people who use drugs from visiting during this time and, preferably, remove any alcohol and substances from the home to avoid temptation.
During the detox at home
The Detox@Home team will provide support to you and your friend/family member during the detox, including medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms. There will be daily face-to-face contact with the Detox@Home team as well as daily telephone support.
Using alcohol, other drugs and medications not prescribed whilst detoxing is not permitted. As part of treatment, your friend/family member will be breathalysed daily and, if positive, the detox will be stopped.
They may be able to do another detox later. Talk with the Detox@Home team or Case Manager about whether this is the best option.
A urine drug test may also be done. If positive for drug(s) that we have not been told about, the detox may need to stop.
To get the best outcomes from the detox, your friend/ family member should:
- attend all appointments
- stay the full duration of the detox
- take the time to recover
- take medications as prescribed by the Detox@Home team.
During detox, your friend/family member may experience forgetfulness, be irritable, have poor coordination and concentration, and the medication can make them feel drowsy.
If your friend/family member is cooking, boiling water, or doing other household tasks some extra care may be required.
This is where your role supporting your friend/family member is important and you may need to assist them with some activities.
What withdrawal symptoms could my friend/family member experience?
When a person stops using a drug the body and mind take time to adjust physically, emotionally, and mentally. People withdrawing from alcohol often experience shaking, anxiety, feeling jumpy and nervous, feeling irritable, sweating, nausea, racing thoughts and disrupted sleep. For some people, withdrawal symptoms can be more severe, including:
- Blacking out
If the person you are supporting does experience any severe symptoms, please contact the Detox@Home team, or seek immediate assistance by ringing 000 or attending the nearest Hospital Emergency Department.
What medications will be used?
Going “cold turkey” can make a withdrawal very uncomfortable, and for alcohol withdrawal it can be very risky. Your friend/family member will be prescribed diazepam as part of their detox (also known as Valium). This is usually quite safe but can make people feel a bit drowsy. This will be given to you with instructions on how and when to administer.
The Detox@Home team may also recommend other medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms including a course of Vitamin B1 (thiamine) to protect against nerve and brain damage from thiamine deficiency.
What else can help?
Encourage drinking and eating small amounts of food. It is important to make sure your family member/friend doesn’t get dehydrated, and that they take lots of fluid, along with light food such as soup, rice, noodles, vegetables, and fruit.
Reassure your family member/friend that any cravings they have are normal and encourage them to use the list of D’s as a distraction from their cravings:
- Do an activity such as watch a video, play cards, listen to music
- Delay - suggest and encourage them to put off the decision to give up on detox for at least an hour
- Drink plenty of fluids - especially water
- Discuss and remind them to look at their reasons for stopping
- Do some gentle exercise with them such as walking, stretching exercises, yoga, Tai Chi, or encourage them to ease aches and pains by having warm baths.
Withdrawing from a drug does not mean your friend/ family member is no longer dependent. They will need further support after their detox. This will be part of the treatment plan and will be organised prior to the detox.
Preventing relapse is part of any good drug treatment plan and is essential for after a detox. This is about putting things in place to support the change and recognising when a lapse occurs. It is important to know that a lapse is part of the treatment journey and not a failure. A lapse can help develop further ideas to manage cravings, triggers, and other reasons for using.
Get support for yourself
Have support organised for yourself and make sure there is someone you can talk to if things get difficult. The Detox@Home team are here to support you as well.