5 Tips for Family and Friends of Opiate Addicts
Most recent statistics indicate an average of 91 Americans die a day because of an opioid-related drug overdose. The number of deaths has increased greatly over the last two decades.
But while drug abuse is potentially deadly to people with opiate addiction, its also crippling to friends and relatives. Mother and father, siblings, kids, and many others often watch from the sidelines as their loved one progressively losses their fight against abuse of substances.
Fortunately, there are activities that families and friends of opiate addicts can do to offer support. If you want to know how to help someone you care about to fight their addiction, here are five tips to get you started.
1. Recognize Opioid Addiction as an Illness
One of the most pervasive myths about drug addiction is that drug use is a behavior that addicts choose to engage in. Under this view, drug use is akin to a dangerous bad habit like driving too fast or drinking too much caffeine. If the addict could simply exercise discipline and self-control, they could kick their habit and return to a productive life. Knowing when to get into opioid addiction treatment is part of the battle.
EMPATHIZING WITH YOUR LOVED ONE
When someone has this view of opioid drug addiction, it makes it difficult for them to understand and empathize. They may see the individual lose a job or custody of their children due to their addiction. If they believe this person could simply choose to stop using drugs, they can grow judgmental of the individual, and begin to believe that they deserve their situation.
In reality, addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes or cancer. Because of this, addicts do not fail to quit because they lack the will, but rather because they lack the physical ability. Saying an addict should simply quit using would be like saying a diabetic should just produce more insulin.
HAVING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Because addiction is an illness, opioid addicts do not always follow a direct path to recovery. As with other chronic illnesses, addicts may get well and relapse several times on their path to recovery.
For opiate addicts, relapse is not a sign that recovery efforts are not working. Rather, it is a sign that they have more work to do in overcoming their illness. When loved ones understand this, they can have better expectations.
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2. Know About Opiate Addiction – Get Involved
If your loved one were diagnosed with lung cancer or heart disease, you would likely spend time researching the illness so you could understand it better. Your approach should be exactly the same with drug addiction.
The more you know about drug addiction, the better you will be able to support your loved one. You will be able to identify your loved one’s symptoms, provide necessary care, and notice if they have experienced a relapse.
Additionally, look into care options that are available for friends and family of addicts. Support groups geared towards caretakers can help you manage your emotional health and learn strategies for coping with the disease.
3. Know When to Walk Away from Opiate Addict
That said, while addiction is an illness, this does not mean that friends and family are obligated to turn a blind eye to destructive behavior. If your loved one had lung cancer, you would not buy them packs of cigarettes to continue their habit. The same goes for dealing with addicts.
Providing money or a place to stay to addicts can help enable their addiction. To protect yourself, it is important to know how to set boundaries and say no to requests.
Unfortunately, because addiction often causes users to lose their jobs or homes, many addicts become accustomed to manipulating others so they can continue their addiction. Resisting this manipulation will require a strong will. Ultimately, saying no to an addict’s requests can help them reach the point where they recognize their need to get help.
4. Offer Alternatives
Helping an opiate addict achieve sobriety can be a fine balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want to offer your home to them if they are going to continue using. On the other hand, you don’t want their only option to be living with other addicts.
So, when you offer alternatives to a loved one, make sure the expectations are clear. For instance, you can offer to provide them a place to live if they first complete a rehabilitation program. This offer can give them confidence that they will have somewhere to go if they finish rehab.
That said, do not offer more than you are capable of. There is no shame in keeping your distance if that is what you need.
5. Maintain Your Own Sobriety
If you do not struggle with drug addiction, mind-altering substances do not pose the same threat to you as they do to opiate addicts. You can take codeine for a cough, or have a glass of wine with dinner without these activities affecting your life.
For an addict, however, it can be difficult to be around someone who uses these substances. So, if you decide to have an addict live with you while they are recovering, you should remove all intoxicating substances from your home. If you are not able to do this for any reason, you should reconsider having your loved one live with you.
Even if you do not have your loved one living with you, you should still be cautious of your activity when you see them. For instance, if you go out to dinner with a recovering addict, you should avoid ordering alcohol.
If you are prescribed opiates for any reason, make sure that your loved one does not know where you keep them.
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Help the Opiate Addicts in Your Life Today
With the help of these tips, you will be better equipped to help the addict you care about to take the steps they need to get well. That said, it’s important to keep in mind that most opiate addicts will need professional help and counseling to achieve full recovery.
If you would like to connect your loved one with professional care, contact us to admit them to rehab. Know when your loved one is ready for treatment and our services can help the person you care about to get clean and to get their life back.