More people are addicted to opiate painkillers and heroin than ever before in history. In 2016, there was an estimated 65,000 fatal overdoses in the United States alone and that number has been rising and will continue to rise until we take on a different approach to opiate addiction.
So what do you do when someone you love is addicted to opiates?
More often than not, the addict knows that he or she needs help along with everyone else around that person.
Unfortunately, withdrawal is what keeps most opiate addicts using. The painful effects of withdrawal were what kept me using even after I knew that I was done because I didn’t want to do another shitty detox.
People assume that once an addict enters treatment, that they will be treated well and effectively but that’s not always the case. I was so sick throughout my entire last detox that I knew I could have done it better myself at home (I felt I had access to the medications I needed). More than HALF of the patients in that last detox left without completing treatment because they weren’t getting treated appropriately….some not treated at all. Part of me felt that this particular detox & rehab intentionally under medicated their patients so that they would be so uncomfortable that they would never want to relapse and have to go through it ever again. NOT THE RIGHT APPROACH. These were all people who wanted to get help. I came in sick in the morning and was left sick and incredibly uncomfortable until midnight…unacceptable.
When bringing up treatment options, it helps to well informed and open to a variety of treatment modalities.
Rehab is not the only solution.
In fact, it’s worth noting here that the success rates in rehabs are actually pretty terrible. There is about a 15% success rate with rehab and that’s being generous and going with the “successful” studies.
For me, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is what worked. This form of treatment actually has the highest success rates out of any other treatment out there. Now that there is science and data supporting this form of treatment, it’s becoming more socially acceptable and more doctors and even rehabs are using it. MAT is truly an effective treatment that your loved one may actually be open to with success rates around 85-90%.
I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again, most addicts will continue to use until they reach their rock bottom and know that they are done.
The best thing you can do is to offer support. Cutting an addict off and out of your life will only hurt them more. However, there is a delicate line when it comes to suppport versus enabling. To be clear, offering support to your loved one does not mean enabling their behavior. You can set your boundaries while continuing to offer the support your loved one needs and continuing to encourage treatment.
Its not uncommon to feel unsure about what to say or how to say it when you have a loved one who is battling addiction.
When discussing treatment options, try to avoid negative dialogue that will make your loved one feel judged. Focus on how much you care about your loved one and that you are bringing up the topic out of love and concern.
For me, what pushed me away further from my loved ones were the hurtful comments that some people made. I had a cousin tell me that he didn’t believe that I got robbed…he said it a easier to believe that I sold all of my shit to get more drugs which hurt me and pushed me away from him even more. Avoid making judgements or blaming your loved one for their addiction. That will almost guarantee doing more harm than good and will likely push your loved one away.
Another thing to avoid doing is making public comments on social media or any other public platform. I had two people do this to me on Facebook which I found devastating because it led to everyone finding out about my drug problem…from the kids I used to nanny for to former coworkers and classmates. I was beyond devastated and it actually pushed me deeper into my use due to the negative emotions that were caused by their actions. Addiction can be very isolating and there is a lot of stigma that comes with it. Try to avoid adding to that isolation by saying or doing hurtful things that will push your loved one away even further.
Dont try to force your loved one into treatment because more likely than not treatment will fail if your loved one isn’t ready.
How many times have you seen that show, Intervention, where it turned out with long lasting, positive results? Ambushing your loved one and forcing your loved one into a program when they are not ready usually fails over the long term.
What finally did work when I was ready to quit was knowing that I had the love and support from the people I needed most at that time.
By making it clear that you love them no matter what and that you will do what you can to help them through the struggle against their opiate addiction, you are establishing a trust in the relationship that they may not have realized was there.