How can I help a friend or family member prepare for withdrawal?
If you are helping a friend or family member through the withdrawal process, it's a good idea to do some preparation beforehand.
Talk to the health practitioner to make sure you are clear about your role, and understand what you will need to do to help the person through their withdrawal.
Be there during the tough times
Try to stay positive for your friend if they begin to question why they are going through the process. Challenging any illogical thoughts during withdrawal is a very important function of a support person.
Encourage them to read through their personal list of reasons for going through detox if they begin to have unpleasant symptoms, or if they are questioning whether withdrawal was really a good idea.
Help them to deal with their relapse if they begin to use the drug again during detox. It can be useful for them to make a plan for how this will be dealt with, before they begin to withdraw.
Be on the lookout for overdose if they do relapse. When a drug is taken regularly, people will build up a tolerance to the drug so that they will need a greater dose to feel the same effect. Even when the drug is stopped for only two or three days, tolerance may be affected, so if they return to using the drug in the same amounts, there is a real risk of overdose.
Encourage them to eat a balanced diet as this can reduce mood swings that are often a feature of withdrawal.
Remind them to maintain their fluid intake. 1 to 2 litres of water is recommended, but they should not have more than 3 litres a day.
Suggest a vitamin supplement if they are so unwell that they are struggling to eat.
Keep them busy so they don’t have time to dwell on how they are feeling, but remember they will have a short concentration span, and their memory may not be functioning very well. Watching TV, movies, walks, short car rides, reading magazines and short trips may be good activities to try.
Help them to manage stress by using basic techniques such as talking, exercise or massage.
If your friend or family member is preparing for residential withdrawal at a withdrawal unit or hospital, make sure you find out whether there are restrictions to visiting, or contacting them, and what items may be brought in to the unit.
Last updated: 30 June 2012
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