Supporting a Family Member Addicted to Prescription Opiates

January 13, 2010 by admin 

Opiate addiction can be just as devastating for the family as it is for the addict. It’s not easy having a husband or wife who is addicted to painkillers. Your spouse is supposed to be your partner in all things, so when an addiction robs them of their ability to function normally or to be there when you need them, this can cause feelings of pain and betrayal.

Addiction is hard to overcome, and opiate dependence is one of the worst forms of dependence. It’s hard knowing that, for our loved ones to regain control, they will have to go through potentially painful withdrawal, along with all of the emotional tumult and social stigmatization that goes along with being a recovering addict.

But whether it’s your spouse, parent, sibling, child or any other loved one, there are things you can do to ease the burden on yourself while also helping the person you love.

Understand Your Loved One’s Addiction

The first thing you can do is make an effort to truly understand what the person is going through. Forget about any preconceptions or stereotypes you may have about addiction and addicts, and read up on the nature of opiate addiction, why it happens and how it is cured. This way, you’ll be prepared not only to understand and advise your loved one, but also to be able to take informed actions should he or she need something from you.

If there’s one thing that you should know first and foremost, it’s this: Addicts can’t “just quit.” It’s not merely a shortage of will power or a lack of morals. Drug use is a symptom of a larger illness, just as coughing or fever are symptoms of the flu. Drug addicts are unable to change their behavior because they’re incapable of altering how their minds work. As much as they may want to change, there is something inside of an addict’s brain that keeps them going back again and again to their self-destructive behaviors.

The causes of this illness can vary from person to person. In general, there is a substantial genetic component for most people with addiction. Some people may try to deny this basic fact, but few addiction treatment specialists, researchers or medical professionals would do so. While those who have never had drug problems may find addiction hard to understand, most people, when they look closely at themselves, have their own unchangeable patterns of behavior.

Be a Stabilizing Force Without Enabling

An opiate addict is much more likely to seek recovery if he or she has a solid support system at home. Let your loved one know that you understand, that you’re not judging and that you’re there to help.

If the addiction causes the person to act out or to become emotionally volatile, don’t be taken down that path. One of the worst things for an addict is a co-dependent spouse or loved one. Without seeming cold or distant, keep a healthy, rational, optimistic attitude. This way, you’ll set a good example, and you won’t make the problem worse.

However, it’s important to set rigid limits on what you will do. Remember that you love this person too much to take part in his or her decline. Refrain from things such as:

  • Lying or making excuses for your addicted loved one
    Procuring drugs for them
    Manipulating doctors into giving them additional prescriptions
    Loaning them money
    Taking the blame for negative situations related to the addiction
    Picking up the slack in areas, such as child care or housework, that they’re neglecting due to their addiction

It’s important for addicts to know that there are consequences for their behaviors. Everything inside of you may be telling you to help them out of a bad situation, but remember that addicts can’t be forced into treatment. They have to make the decision themselves, but your love and support will go a long way.

Involve Yourself and Others in the Recovery

Because it’s easy to wrongly view prescription drug addiction as less serious than alcoholism or addictions to illegal drugs, there’s often an extra reluctance among addicts to admit that there is a problem and to seek treatment. This is all the more reason why you need to inform yourself about the nature of the addiction.

It’s also important to be open about how your loved one’s addiction makes you feel. If they deny there’s a problem, be persistent without being too forceful. Addicts tend to become defensive when confronted, so use gentle tactics. If possible, involve other close friends or family members. For severe cases where the addict continues to refuse to admit that they have a problem, a family intervention may be called for.

Know the Treatment Options

In the end, addicts must decide for themselves that they are ready to seek treatment for their prescription drug addiction. Once you’ve reached this point, the next challenge is to decide between recovery options, including inpatient and outpatient drug rehab.

Opiate addicts need both physical and mental assistance in their recovery. Whatever opiate treatment program you turn to, it’s most important for a doctor to be involved in the early detox phase. In most cases, the patient will be transitioned to maintenance therapy with a drug like methadone or Suboxone, and will probably need daily meetings with a doctor for at least the first week.

After that, the focus is on maintenance and seeking appropriate therapy to deal with the psychological underpinnings of the addiction. Involvement in a support group such as Narcotics Anonymous is also a good idea.

by McKayla Arnold


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