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Helping a Family Member With Opioid Addiction

There are millions of Americans affected by opioid addiction, and rates are on the rise. Despite the fact that opioids are legal and can be acquired legally and for legitimate medical reasons, many still believe that a person they know and love would never abuse drugs. Opioid addiction usually begins with a prescription from a doctor, and individuals don't realize they are abusing the drug until they are dependent on it.

In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that up to 12% of people receiving opioid prescriptions are addicted, and 21-29% misuse them. Prescription opioid abuse accounts for approximately 80% of people who turn to heroin - so it is crucial to arrest the abuse of opioids as early as possible.

Families and loved ones can suffer from opioid addiction, which goes beyond chemical dependence to have severe effects. Your relationship will experience broad and deep changes as the addiction progresses, causing worry and heartache. The important people in your life deserve the best, which means getting them opioid addiction treatment as soon as possible.

In order to maintain recovery from opioid addiction, there must be a long-term treatment plan and the right mindset and skills.

How Can You Help Someone with an Opioid Addiction?

An opioid addiction can be a very stressful and scary situation for a loved one. It may be hard to know how to approach them about the problem.

However, providing opioid addiction treatment is not a one-size-fits-all process. Nevertheless, there are ways to increase their chances of considering changing. Don't give up if they don't listen right away. In spite of their initial resistance, you will most likely plant a seed that will eventually take root.

In order to help a loved one who is suffering from opioid addiction, you can do the following:

Discuss your concerns with them.

You should do everything you can to make sure your loved one knows you aren't angry at them, you are worried about their health. In the face of anger, it's easy to shut down, but ignoring genuine concern is much harder. Indicate how addiction-related health issues have affected the

quality of life of the person. Individuals with addiction are more likely to engage openly if they stay health-focused.

Use “I” statements.

If you are talking to someone who has an opioid addiction, never use accusatory language. You won't be able to reach anyone when they feel attacked, and your message won't be understood. When possible, use "I" statements to avoid accidental accusations. “I” statements are usually formatted like this: “I felt worried and confused when you skipped mom’s birthday party.”

Instead of demanding an explanation or otherwise berating your loved one, this format acknowledges the problematic behavior spurred by addiction, while circling back to its impact on you. To maintain calm during a conversation about addiction, "I" statements are the most effective.

Be compassionate.

If your loved one is abusing opioids, he or she is likely not doing so to harm you. In most cases, they feel as though they cannot stop regardless of whether they started to self-medicate for physical pain or emotional pain. Have compassion for how difficult this must be for them. Imagine yourself in their shoes.

Help them find treatment.

The recovery process from opioid addiction can be difficult on your own. Without ongoing treatment, there is a high likelihood of relapse. Your loved one can benefit from treatment by detoxifying, learning healthier coping skills, and getting to the root of why they use substances. Make your loved one aware of the treatment options and gently discuss them with them. Respect their decision and remind them that help is available if needed.

For individuals and families dealing with mental or substance abuse disorders, SAMHSA offers a national helpline. Providing 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, free, confidential treatment referral information is the goal of this helpline (800-662-HELP). In addition to providing referrals to local treatment centers, support groups, and community-based organizations, it is available in both English and Spanish. Information and publications are also available for free to callers.

Your family doctor may also be able to help. Opioid use disorder (misusing opioid medicines) and opioid addiction can be diagnosed and treated by these professionals. In addition to behavioral therapy, there are medicines that are effective at treating opioid disorders. Drugs such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are approved by the FDA for treating opioid use disorder and addiction.

Take care of yourself.

Burnout or anxiety can prevent you from supporting someone. When dealing with your loved one's addiction, practice self-care and consider therapy or support groups. Families and friends of alcohol or drug users often join Al-Anon and Nar-Anon groups.

Learn more about Naloxone.

It is also possible to help someone with an opioid addiction if you acquire naloxone and learn how to administer it. During an opioid overdose, Naloxone (Narcan) can reverse the effects.

Naloxone can help prevent death or severe brain damage if you administer it to someone who shows signs of an opioid overdose while you wait for emergency medical attention. Find out how to get naloxone by visiting Get Naloxone Now. Naloxone can also be obtained free of charge at certain places.

What are the Symptoms of an Opioid Addiction?

A loved one struggling with addiction is incredibly difficult to watch. You may feel helpless as a result. There may be times when you feel unable to help. Your loved one may even try to convince you that the problem does not exist.

It is important for you to educate yourself about addiction if you suspect your loved one is misusing opioids. As a result, you will be better able to identify the warning signs of addiction, such as:

  • Excessive or prolonged opioid use

  • Inability or difficulty in cutting back

  • Physically dangerous situations when taking opioids

  • Drug use results in less time spent engaging in social or recreational activities

  • The use of opioids makes it difficult to fulfill one's responsibilities

  • Opioid cravings

  • Excessive opioid use, abuse, or recovery

  • Even though opioids are contributing to physical or emotional problems, one continues to take them

  • Taking opioids despite relationship problems (with loved ones, friends, colleagues, etc..)

  • Over time, tolerance develops (needing more opioids to feel the same effects).

  • Following the cessation or reduction of opioid use, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Opioid use disorders are diagnosed if a person has either tolerance or withdrawal symptoms and one of the other symptoms listed.

In the case of a family member or friend suffering from an addiction, it is not possible to diagnose them with the disease. You can, however, initiate the process of getting help if you notice these signs.

Addiction to opioids: How Do You Treat It?

The best thing you can do for your loved one suffering from opioid addiction is to encourage (but not force) them to seek help. In most cases, opiate addiction is treated with a combination of medication and therapy.

Therapy can improve coping skills and help individuals understand their addictive behaviors and begin to change them. The following therapies are commonly used to treat addictions:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Through CBT, a person is able to recognize the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By doing so, they learn how to cope with their negative feelings and thoughts.

  • Motivational interviewing. The goal of this type of therapy is to support motivation for change. In it, a person's conflicting feelings about their use of substances are explored and worked through.

  • Motivational incentives. This therapy, also called contingency management, rewards positive behavior through positive reinforcement. Those who attend treatment and support groups and submit drug-free urine and breath tests, for instance, may receive a reward.

The use of opioid addiction medications is also an important part of the treatment process. Overdose risk, criminal behavior, and opioid use can all be reduced with the help of medications. A person is also more likely to remain in treatment and employed if they receive these benefits.

Opioid addiction is commonly treated with the following medications:

  • Methadone. As a synthetic opioid, methadone prevents other opioids from giving people a high. Additionally, methadone can reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. A licensed opioid treatment program, or "methadone clinic," is required by law to prescribe methadone for opioid use disorder.

  • Buprenorphine. As another opioid, buprenorphine helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. In contrast to methadone, it is prescribed in a doctor's office. In addition to buprenorphine, Suboxone also contains naloxone, which is designed to prevent misuse. In addition to resulting in withdrawal symptoms, crushing, snorting, or injecting Suboxone releases naloxone.

  • Naltrexone. Naltrexone (Vivitrol) is an opioid blocker that prevents opioids from activating the brain areas where they normally function. Naltrexone prevents the person from experiencing the typical euphoric effects of opioids when they are taking them. Vivitrol delivers long-term naltrexone therapy through an injection.

Supporting Loved Ones During Recovery

You should be more supportive than ever while a friend or family member receives treatment for opioid addiction. The following three tips will help you start helping those recovering from opioid addiction:

Find out what they need.

In order to recover, habits, social groups, and lifestyles must be changed. Managing these transitions can be challenging, and certain behaviors should be avoided to make things easier. If you want to support your loved one's recovery, be upfront with them and ask what you can do! They might need to limit their contact with certain friends or stop frequenting particular hangouts. If you don't ask directly, you won't know.

Stay in touch.

In addition to being a reliable source of support, isolation can contribute to addiction. Keeping a constant stream of texts or answering phone calls isn't necessary. Whenever possible, let them know you're open to communication and can assist them if necessary. Clearly state your availability, and stay true to it.

Promote healthy lifestyles.

Staying sober is greatly enhanced by a network of positive influences. Healthy recovery is the result of good choices at all levels, physically and emotionally. Do not be overbearing when supporting a loved one's positive choices. Taking them on a biweekly run is one way to make them feel included. Another is to share a healthy recipe you recently made. You can encourage your loved one to stay positive by showing them you care about their well-being.

The best way to support a friend or family member in recovery is to be positive and open, but you don't have to do it all. You can also work with trained physicians, and therapists, or join support groups.


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