All the warning signs are there. Pills have gone missing, or maybe there is lying, deceitful behavior. Perhaps someone you love looks different, seems tired or lethargic, or has started losing interested in school or work. Maybe they’re feigning pain in order to doctor shop and get more prescriptions for opioid painkillers.

These are all potential signs of an addiction to painkillers, but what can you do if you recognize these signs? How can you help someone addicted to painkillers?

What To Know About Addiction

You may be struggling with trying to figure out how to help someone addicted to painkillers, and the first steps you take should involve educating yourself. Try to learn all you can about the science of addiction itself, how painkillers affect the brain of the user, and how you can help the person as much as possible, while also taking care of yourself and your own needs.

When you learn about addiction, it can help you understand how an addict thinks. This can be useful in many ways. First, while a person has the ultimate ability to decide whether or not they will first try painkillers, once they do take them they have a powerful effect on their brain. Painkillers and other drugs like them create a disease in the brain because of the interaction they have with the chemicals that regulate our emotions and control our behaviors.

Repeated use of painkillers creates a compulsion to seek out and use drugs, and they change the areas of the brain that allow them to have self-control. There are countless studies that show brain images of people with addiction, and they highlight what these differences look like.

People who are addicted to painkillers will do anything to continue to facilitate their habit. This includes bad behaviors like lying, stealing, and manipulation. They will only think about their addiction and how to get more painkillers, rather than thinking about the harm they’re doing to themselves or the people around them.

There are three primary components of thinking that an addicted person often demonstrates. These include denial, which means they have no understanding of the reality of their situation or the magnitude, self-obsession, and irrational decision-making.

When you understand how addiction works and the fact that it’s a disease you can then learn more about how to truly help someone who’s addicted to painkillers.

How to Help Someone Addicted to Painkillers

One of the most effective ways to help someone addicted to painkillers is to encourage them to go to a treatment facility. Opioid addiction is complex and requires intensive treatment and therapy to increase the likelihood of a recovery. It is possible to recover from an addiction to opioid painkillers, but it requires work and the desire to recover.

If you love someone who’s addicted to painkillers you can’t cure them, nor can you make them do anything. A lot of people who love addicts become frustrated that they can’t change the person, or they may start to blame themselves. These are not the right ways to think about it.

All you can do to help someone addicted to painkillers is set your own boundaries, and be firm and consistent in your communication.

You can also hold an intervention. During an intervention a group of people who love the addict get together and organize a structured meeting they will have with the addict. During the intervention, participants will share how the addict’s behavior and drug use has impacted them, and they will outline consequences they will enact if the person refuses treatment. Interventions can be one of the best ways to help someone addicted to painkillers because they force them to face the reality of the situation, and they show them the effects of their behavior, which they may not have been able to see before.

With an intervention, it’s important to have already selected a treatment facility and arrange for the addict to go if they accept they help. When choosing a rehab center for someone addicted to painkillers you’ll have to think about logistics such as how long the program needs to be, the type of program that might be best, insurance coverage, and also things like the aftercare provided by the program. A professional counselor or interventionist can help you choose the right program.

If you hold an intervention and offer treatment and the addict refuses, you may come to a point where how to help the addict relies on you taking a step back, disengaging and letting them really experience the severity of the consequences of their drug use.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.