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Detox and Stabilizing Without Insurance


As an addictions counselor, rarely a day goes by that I’m not hearing from someone (usually a family member) with an urgent request: “How do we get into rehab without insurance or money to pay?”

There are only a handful of programs that provide such services at low cost or free of charge. These are generally faith-based institutions like Teen Challenge or Salvation Army. In most cases, detox and rehabilitation are not available to the uninsured. My suggestions then are based on making the best out of a very difficult and potentially dangerous situation with minimal resources.

Medical Comes First

Get your loved one seen by a doctor. Ideally, they should be seen by their primary care physician. Work together to plan the process of withdrawal and urge your loved one to be honest about what they’re using and how much. Trust your intuition. If it feels like they’re minimizing, encourage them not to let shame prevent them from reporting accurately.

If they do not have a doctor, go to an emergency room and ask that they be stabilized from withdrawals to ensure well being. If at all possible, stay with them. The temptation to run is going to be very high. You cannot prevent them from leaving, but your presence will be comforting and it increases their accountability.

If You Have to Do it at Home

If you have friends and/or family that can help, ask. Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of it. To the greatest degree possible, plan to have people who are addiction-free or (even better) in recovery sit with your loved one. They can visit, chat, or watch movies or do anything at all to keep them occupied.

Here’s a helpful checklist of things to have on hand:

  • Phone: close by and fully charged. Do not hesitate to call 911 if things go south and there is an emergency.
  • Tons of fluids: Gatorade, water, and 100% fruit juices are especially good.
  • Soft foods: nothing hard to digest.
  • Lots of clean sheets and blankets: These will help because withdrawals cause excessive sweating and chills.
  • Music: Ideally, have their favorite types of music on hand.

The first three days of detoxing are hell. The next four are rough. If they can make it through those days, it gets way better physically from there.

Dos and Don’ts

Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when you’re with your addicted loved one:


  • Don’t give money.
  • Don’t give rides other than to places you know are healthy to go.
  • Don’t allow people who were not previously identified as supports into your home (drug dealers make deliveries).
  • Don’t take anything your loved one says in the throes of sickness personally.


  • Do encourage NA and/or AA meetings – the more of them the better.
  • Do encourage counseling with an addictions counselor. Group sessions for recovery are strongly recommended.
  • Do encourage and support service and community volunteering efforts. There are few things more dangerous in this world than a person in very early recovery with too much time on their hands.

And Most of All

Please consider not only your loved one’s needs, but also your own. My experience working with families has shown me that while you’re thinking a lot about the person in active addiction; you’re typically not thinking at all about your own needs, even as they relate to this process. Find a support group so you can connect with good people who struggle similarly.

jim-lapierreJim LaPierre LCSW, CCS, is a recovery ally, clinical therapist, and addictions counselor. He publishes weekly for the Recovery Rocks section for the Bangor Daily News and welcomes your questions and concerns via

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