How to help a loved one struggling with opiate addiction.

Opiate addiction & family support: how to help a loved one

family supporting a loved one

Opiate addiction can damage more than physical appearance and relationships; it can be life-threatening.

That’s why it’s imperative to help your loved ones who might be struggling with an addiction. Here is how to help your loved ones struggling with an opiate addiction.

Opiate addiction: a nationwide epidemic

Opiates are strong drugs derived from opium, but they can have different chemical makeups depending on what they are. Currently, the United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic. This event is a public health crisis, as there are more than 200,000 cases a year according, to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Avoid these critical mistakes when handling a loved one’s opiate addiction

If your loved one is struggling with an opiate addiction, it’s important to avoid engaging in behaviors that can be harmful to their potential sobriety.

Criticism

When someone is living with an addiction, they may engage in behaviors that can hurt their family and friends. Such behaviors include lying, cheating or stealing. It’s normal to want to criticize. You may feel angry, upset and hurt, but engaging in arguments or negativity with your loved one won’t help the situation. It’s best to try and understand that they are hurting, sick and need help to get well.

Enabling

It might seem like you’re trying to help a loved one with addiction by giving them a home, car or money, but you might be enabling them. It’s natural to want to keep your loved ones alive and functioning during their addiction, but at some point, it’s important to detach.

Related: Are you enabling an addict?

Demonize

Don’t play into the myth that addiction makes someone a “bad person.” Educate yourself on addiction, what causes it and how it is treated. Demonizing someone because of their disease will only make matters worse.

People with addictions aren’t bad people; they are living with a disease and they should not be treated as someone who has a moral failing.

Don’t expect results right away

Just telling a loved one you want them to quit isn’t enough to cure their disease. Although it can help to express your concern, don’t expect them to run off to treatment because you said you don’t like the way they use opiates. Addiction is complicated and there are many layers to the disease. You don’t want to alienate someone that is struggling because they may already be doing all they can to make it through each day.

Effective Ways to Help Someone With Opiate Addiction

Here are some ways you can help someone with an opiate addiction.

Educate yourself

Knowing what to expect with a substance use disorder can go a long way. The more you understand, the more love and compassion you can have for someone who is struggling. Learn tips about what to expect when talking to a loved one about their addiction, learn what to say and what not to say and encourage yourself to be the best version you can be.

Plan an intervention

Interventions can be helpful in expressing concern over your loved one’s addiction and encourage them to get help. Interventionists can help you plan a successful intervention, give you the proper outline you need to write an intervention letter and be there when the intervention takes place. Suggesting addiction treatment for a person in your life with an opiate addiction may help them understand how their disease hurts others and can give them concrete steps toward making a change.

Related: How your words can make or break an intervention

Set boundaries and stick to them

It’s up to you to decide what role you want to play in your loved one’s addiction. You need to do what’s best for you. If this means not living in the same house as them or sharing money or a car, that’s alright. You should look out for your own best interests first, and then decide whether you are helping or hurting your loved one. Boundaries can be healthy for everyone involved.

Provide support

This task is an important component of being able to help someone with drug addiction. It can be difficult, but you should always provide support, even if you have to distance yourself from the situation. People with substance use disorders may be at the worst points in their lives, so they need to know they are loved and supported. Creating boundaries, organizing an intervention and educating yourself can all provide forms of support. Most importantly, talk to your loved ones and express to them how much you care for them and their future.

Opiate addiction can be devastating, but recovery is possible. You and your loved one do not have to suffer forever. There is no singular method for handling addiction because it’s such a personal disease. Everyone struggles with addiction differently, but by following the aforementioned concepts you’ll be establishing a healthy base upon which you can begin building a healthy future for your loved one.

“Opioids: The Prescription Drug & Heroin Overdose Epidemic.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed 4 January 2016. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/.
Opiate addiction & family support: how to help a loved one
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