Opioid addiction has reached epidemic levels in the United States. It has taken so many lives, and it continues to be a huge public health problem. In fact, opioid addiction is now more prevalent than diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Some addicts show clear signs, like intentionally losing prescriptions or going to more than one doctor to get multiple prescriptions. But there are others who go about their lives pretty much normally, showing no signs of anything wrong. They hold full-time jobs, have their families in order, and even have healthy social relationships.
But the many pressures of life can easily get to them. A stressful job, financial pressure in the family, and other struggles may become too much for them. Thus, some of these people resort to opioids to cope with the stress. They keep it a secret from most of their loved ones, and it can be too late before anyone notices. There are cases of people who died of accidental opioid overdoses, and no one close to them thought that they were addicted.
If you have friends or loved ones suffering from this addiction, it’s important to know how to deal with them properly. That way, they can have better chances of recovering. Here are some tips.
Educate yourself about the early signs of opioid abuse
Some opioid abusers keep their drug habits a secret from friends and family. But even then, there are some early signs you can spot, such as these:
- Always feeling tired and/or sad
- Talking too fast but words do not make sense
- Unusually high energy levels
- Nervousness or crankiness
- Peculiar sleep schedules
- Missing important family events
- Going to work much later than normal
- Financial troubles
- Neglecting personal hygiene and grooming
- Eating too much or too little
Take note that if you observe any of these symptoms, it doesn’t automatically mean that they’re suffering from opioid addiction. But it’s a good idea to watch out for these signs, especially if they happen regularly. Your friends or loved ones may not be addicted just yet, but they could be progressing towards it.
If they do happen to be addicted, here are some things you can do to help.
Avoid the “tough love” approach
Conventional wisdom says that you should not shield them from the consequences of opioid abuse. That means, for example, if they run out of money buying drugs, you ought not to give them more money. Bailing them out only gives them an incentive to look for more drugs instead of pursuing recovery.
But if you use this approach, here is what may happen. Let’s say they run out of money buying drugs. So, they come to you asking for money, saying they need it for food. You know they’re actively using, so you don’t give them money.
They’ll go hungry for sure, and common sense says that they will learn not to use all their money on drugs. However, this usually does not happen.
Instead, they will seek more opioids to stave off their hunger and miserable emotions. With lots of illicit versions of opioids on the streets, they may end up suffering the fatal effects of overdose instead.
Knowing these, the “tough love” approach is not the best thing to do. Most of the time, it may just do more harm than good.
So, what should you do instead?
Practice empathy and compassion
Understand that addiction is a disease. How would you treat a sick loved one? You would take care of them and be by their side until they get better. In the same way, you need to approach your addicted friends and loved ones in a similar way.
Instead of treating them with scorn, support them to take the road to recovery. Come from a place of help. Encourage them to seek professional therapists.
Many people believe that approaching with compassion is the better way to deal with addicted loved ones.
Avoid shunning them
According to proponents of 12-step therapies, addiction is a “disease of isolation.” Most addicts keep their behaviors secret, isolating themselves from friends and family when taking drugs.
Thus, the best thing to do to help them is to connect with them. Talk to them, show genuine concern, and let them know that you support their journey of recovery.
Simply talking to them is actually a very effective first step in curbing their drug habits. The more they feel that you care, the more they will trust you. In turn, the more you can encourage them to stay the drug-free path.
Be involved in their recovery
If the addicted persons are members of your family, it’s important for you to participate in the recovery process. How you treat each other at home is crucial to the process. In fact, bad family dynamics is a huge factor in the development of many addictions.
Also, you can help rehab professionals address the addiction better. You can provide crucial information about your addicted loved ones, like their family history, relationships, and habits.
Be open to the advice of the rehab professionals as well. They might need your help in some stages of the recovery process.
Also, after rehab, how you treat your recovering loved ones back home is also key. It’s possible for them to relapse if their home environment is toxic. But if you keep showing love and empathy, they will remain drug-free for much, much longer.
Find alternatives to opioids for relieving pain
Most people suffering from opioid addiction did not misuse the drugs at first. Instead, they unintentionally got addicted when they were prescribed opioids for pain. Though this does not always happen, it is still very possible.
Thus, it would be wise to avoid opioids altogether. Tell your friends and loved ones to ask for alternatives from their doctors. Opioids are not the only medications effective in pain relief.
After all, if they can stay away from potentially addictive substances in the first place, that’s the best thing they can do.