An opiate addiction is not to be taken lightly. No friend or family member of an opiate addict believes the addiction is anything but life-threatening and dangerous. Those closest to the addict can play the most important roles in either enabling them or helping them get clean. In fact, a little bit of tough love has proven to go a long way. Studies show that many opiate addicts do not get sober without reaching the point of serious consequences. If they are cared for, provided shelter, money and an occasional meal, they have no incentive for change.
Enabling is common because it is difficult to imagine your loved one suffering even further. What would happen to them without your care? You may fear they are at risk of homelessness, disease or even incarceration. Unfortunately, studies also show that the actions of families and loved ones can actually increase the chances of these outcomes.
A steady supply of money and a comfortable bed to sleep in means the abuse of drugs can become more frequent and more concentrated. This can further increase the risk of overdose and death. If you are between a rock and a hard place being a loved one of an opiate addict, consider the following tips for dealing with opiate addicts:
1. Do Not Enable
First and foremost, do not negatively enable the addict. Reaching rock bottom is often the wake-up call an opiate addict needs to change. Providing food, money, and shelter makes getting high comfortable, not undesirable.
2. Opportunity to Change
Once negative enabling has ceased (i.e., the addict has stopped receiving financial support), then positive enabling may take place. At this time, as the family member, it is important to let your loved one know that you care about them and that their addiction is destroying their lives. In many cases, having a therapist-led intervention can be incredibly helpful. Providing treatment opportunities in addition, to offering support is the best option you can provide.
3. Seek Help – You’re Not Alone
An intervention of any kind should be mediated by a trained professional. When you have a family member dealing with an opiate addiction, it is difficult to not fall back on negative enabling. With the help of a therapist or group, you have the support you need to be the supportive friend or family member you need to be.
4. Make it a Family Affair
Although it is likely everyone from your immediate to extended family knows about the addiction, it is crucial to reach out. Once you have chosen to stop assisting the addict with food, shelter, and money, they will likely go to a relative for help. You must inform all family members to avoid negative enabling in order to properly help your loved one.
5. Know the Risks
There is nothing easy about dealing with an opiate addiction, whether you are the addict, or you have an addict in the family. In order to come to terms with how to be helpful – applying some difficult tough love, for example – it is important to understand the risks. Opiate addiction is disastrous to the body. More often than not, opiate addicts end up in prison or dead.
In order to know how you can be most helpful, you must understand the stages of drug addiction.
Stages of Drug Addiction
Stage 1: Experimentation – Although experimentation does not always lead to addiction, it does for many. Experimentation opens that door and should not be accepted or encouraged.
Stage 2: Social and/or regular use – The risk for addiction greatly increases during this stage. Regular use comes with an increase in the likelihood of participating in high-risk behaviors. Look for changes in mood and behavior.
Stage 3: Problem use – This stage can be difficult to detect. There will often be depression, irritability or fatigue if there is no access to the drug.
Stage 4: Addiction/Chemical Dependency – Marked by continued use of drugs regardless of the consequences, this is the final stage of addiction. Support from family and friends is very important at this stage albeit very difficult. Entering recovery after this stage often comes as a result of hitting rock bottom, experiencing the death of a loved one, etc.
If your loved one is struggling with an opiate addiction, please know you are not alone and you can be helpful. Reach out to a trained professional, explain your situation, and seek the assistance you need. While your loved one is still breathing, there is still hope. Advantage Mental Health Center is staffed by an experienced team of professionals who understand the opioid addiction treatment options that are available. We are here to help – contact our office today and let’s get your loved one on the road to recovery.