9 Ways to Support a Friend or Family Member Going Through Heroin Detox

 When it comes to quitting heroin, there are often layovers on the way to sobriety.

It’s one of the toughest drugs to quit. In fact, heroin tops the list of drugs with high relapse rates—but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to journey back to recovery.

Whether your loved one has tried to quit and relapsed before, or it’s his first time trying to kick the habit, you’ll need a strong game plan. Read on and learn how to best prepare and support your loved one through a heroin detox.

1. Make sure he's 100% committed.

It might sound like common sense, but your loved one must demonstrate they are 100% committed to quitting before starting. He may suggest “tapering down” on heroin, but you should know it is nearly impossible to “wean” off of this drug. Prepare him to take off work, school, or take a break from other commitments for a minimum of 7-10 days.The longer, the better!

2. Opt for rehab if possible.

If you check your loved one into a licensed and certified drug addiction treatment program, you have a much better chance of seeing him finally kick his addiction—and he'll also avoid the full severity of symptoms (see #7). Not only will his withdrawals be more comfortable, but he'll get valuable support during the process. At Pat Moore Foundation, we recommend a minimum of 30 days in rehab for the best results.

3. Make sure he's as healthy as possible to start.

There’s no template for how difficult your loved one's heroin detox will be. Everyone’s detox process is different, because everyone has different bodies and experiences. One thing you can do is to ensure your loved one is in relatively good health, and not currently battling any other ailments. It’s been said that heroin withdrawal symptoms are similar to a brutal flu. Treat any other ailments first, or it will be nearly impossible to get through detox.

4. Prepare his (or your) home.

Make sure you have plenty of dry sheets and clean clothes ready. Your loved one will be sweating and frequently feeling desperate. Get rid of ANY drug paraphernalia or reminders of heroin or other drugs. Not sure what to expect? This is another good reason to check him into rehab. At Pat Moore Foundation, we do the prep for you. Your loved one will be housed in a safe, comfortable environment that will keep him in the right state of mind.

5. If you have any kind of support network, reach out.

Help your loved one stay away from friends who still use, and be reliable. Side note: be prepared to deal with an extremely moody patient. If you choose a professional rehab program, choose one with counseling and group therapy sessions. This kind of support is crucial during the rough times.

6. Remember addictions aren’t just physical.

“Just one more to take the edge off. Then I’ll quit.” If you’ve ever had to deal with even a few hours of a loved one going through heroin withdrawal, you know there will be moments he is willing to do almost anything to get a fix. Anxiety, panic, bargaining, and desperation are normal feelings that arise. If you don’t acknowledge the psychological part of withdrawal, you’ll be less likely to hold out when you’re bombarded by his pleas.

7. Know what symptoms to expect.

For the first 6-12 hours to the 7th day, know what to expect. Not only will you feel more prepared, you'll help him get through these normal (if difficult) symptoms of heroin withdrawal. Depending on your loved one's level of use, here’s what he might experience from day one to seven:

  • Nose running/eyes hurting

  • Insomnia

  • Dehydration

  • Cold Sweats

  • Inability to get comfortable

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Aching joints

  • Muscle cramps

  • Unstable moods

  • Loss of appetite

  • Suicidal thoughts

Think of different ways to combat these symptoms, whether it’s a warm running shower, or a bottle of diluted gatorade by his bed. Another benefit of detox at Pat Moore Foundation? If your loved one experiences seizures or other more extreme symptoms, renowned hospitals are just a few minutes from our Costa Mesa campus.

8. Make an “after detox” plan.

Studies have shown that exposure to “cues” like people, places, and things from before detox can trigger a relapse. Take measures to help your loved one get more social support (Narcotics Anonymous meetings or other types of social groups), therapy to deal with the negative emotions and thoughts that might resurface, and perhaps periodic rewards for staying clean. It’s so important to steer clear of those cues that could stir up a rosy nostalgic picture of the days when he used heroin.

9. Know the battle isn’t over.

After a month or two, your loved one might still be experiencing aftereffects or symptoms like unclear thoughts, difficulty concentrating, cravings, lows, or depression. Be prepared for that, as it can lead him to relapse.

On the flipside, he may also act as though he's 100% in the clear—and might be tempted to take risks or hang out with friends who still use. This feeling of overconfidence is commonly known as  a “pink cloud” or “honeymoon phase,” and it also frequently leads to a relapse. Warn your loved one, and keep him accountable in those moments.

 

Ready to help your loved one kick heroin and even get through detox comfortably? Find out if your insurance covers rehab at Pat Moore Foundation, and discover a detox program that’s comfortable, safe, and supportive. Have questions or hesitations? We’re here. Get in touch today.

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