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When Addiction is Hurting Your Loved One

January 02, 2019

When Addiction is Hurting Your Loved One

According to a recent Pew Survey, around 20.1 million Americans 12 years of age or older are suffering from substance abuse. Of those, 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder and 15.1 reported an addiction to alcohol. The more complex and soul-wrenching part of our nation’s drug epidemic, though, lies in the grim opioid overdose statistics.

While 17,000 overdose deaths occurred in 1999, by 2016 that number had increased to 64,000. These numbers demonstrate a staggering and somber look at the grip opiate use has on our nation. America’s opioid epidemic has increased the need for quality addiction treatment and safe opioid detoxification.

The same survey also concluded another rather bleak statistic; nearly half of Americans are struggling with a loved one who’s addicted. Imagine, as you scan any room, 50 percent of the people in that room are dealing with the painful reality that someone they love is in the battle for their life. Whether it’s heroin, cocaine, hallucinogens, methamphetamines, inhalants, or misusing prescriptions drugs, our culture is in crisis -- both young and old, rich and poor, black and white.

So, what if you’re worried your loved one may need treatment?

Start by looking for some warning signs. Indicators of drug or alcohol addiction can include:

  • Increased episodes of intoxication
  • Looking more fatigued
  • Sleeping more often or/and sleeping irregular hours
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of a job or difficulties with school work
  • Lying about their use habits
  • Stealing to get money to support their habit
  • Mood swings
  • Poor hygiene
  • Withdrawing from social circles

If you’re witnessing these symptoms, it’s time to intervene. Intervention looks different depending on your family’s specific situation, but here are some basic tips to consider as you work toward healing your loved one.

Have A Talk With Your Loved One

The moment you realize your loved one is suffering with an addiction, make time to talk about it. While it’s easy to want to avoid the uncomfortable, the earlier you handle a discussion about the problem, the better opportunity for a quicker and easier outcome.

When you sit down to discuss, remember:

  • Be kind and sympathetic, never judgmental
  • Communicate as clearly as possible the reason for your concern
  • If your loved one becomes angry and defensive, remain calm
  • Open the dialogue about treatment options

Find The Right Treatment Program

Discuss with your loved one the various forms of treatment options that are available to help them. Perhaps they want to start in a 12-step program with other patients experiencing similar issues. Or, they may even realize their addiction has spiraled out of control so far that they need an inpatient program to get well. Fully research, discuss, and support a quality treatment addiction program that is best suited for their needs.

To aid in your discussion, review various online materials that are provided from national drug organizations, such as the  What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? booklet published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Create A Compassionate Environment

According to Beverly Engel, L.M.F.T., co-author of When Your Partner Has an Addiction: How Compassion can Transform Your Relationship (and Heal You Both in the Process), family members are frequently taught to treat addicted family members with a “tough love” approach, so they aren’t acting as enablers to destructive behaviour. The research, however, shows that partners of substance abuse patients can often play a critical role in promoting change for their loved one.

One of the reasons for success with this approach is the ability of compassion to heal issues of shame. Shame and addiction are strongly correlated. Engel suggests that, like any other poison, “toxic shame needs to be neutralized by another substance--and antidote--if the patient is to be saved.” What is the most effective antidote? Compassion.

Carefully protecting your own self-care needs, while helping your loved one through an addiction process, can be challenging, but the rewards can be great. The most important thing to remember, in the process, is the continued practice of self-care. You’ll only be able to help your loved one, if you’re taking care of yourself first.

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