It is generally recommended that those who need to go through addiction detox should do so in a treatment centre, but this is not always possible. Some people need to detox at home, and while this can be done safely, it is necessary for someone else to be there for the entire process. This means providing round-the-clock care and supervision until all withdrawal symptoms have passed.

If you are planning to help someone detox at home, then you need to realise that this is a major responsibility. This challenging task should not be undertaken lightly. Detox can be dangerous, so you need to be alert and ready to take immediate action if necessary. Below are a few things to consider when preparing to help someone detox at home.

Before Detox

  • It is important that the patient is examined by a medical professional who has experience with addiction and the process of detox. Make sure that this person will be available for a home visit if this is necessary. If this person cannot be available, ask for a referral to someone that will be.
  • It is a good idea to find someone else to share the responsibility. Detox can last for a number of days, so it is better to have at least two people, but preferably a team, that can take different shifts.
  • Make sure you have a list of phone numbers close by to call in case of emergency. This may be the nurse or doctor-on-call, emergency services, or a close family member. It could even be that you need to call a neighbour who is close by and who could help in case the patient gets aggressive or violent.
  • Make sure that you have prepared the home to ensure there are no drugs, alcohol or prescription medication anywhere. This may involve a thorough search as the patient could have substances stashed or hidden around the house. The area needs to be completely clean for detox to be successful. This means you will also have to check for food items that contain alcohol as well as cleaning products such as hand sanitiser.

During Detox

  • You must stay with your patient at all times during detox. Until the withdrawal symptoms have passed, you must be prepared to be with him or her constantly to ensure safety.
  • Make sure the area is comfortable, and that lights are not too bright.
  • Be there for the patient and listen to him or her. If this is a loved one, you may be tempted to lecture or say ‘I told you so’ but this is not the time or the place. Let your loved one do things that he or she wants to do and join in. This could be watching a movie, talking, or sleeping. By being there and being supportive, you can help to make the whole process a little bit easier.
  • Unless you have been advised by a doctor to provide medication, do not give anything to the patient that could be mood-altering.
  • Do not take any anger or resentment personally during the detox. It is highly likely that your patient will aim insults at you as he or she struggles to cope with withdrawal symptoms. Remember that there is nobody else to insult except you – it is nothing personal.
  • Be positive throughout the process and give your patient continuous praise. This will reassure him or her that it is possible to make it through to the end and onto a path of recovery.
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