When Someone You Love Abuses Opiates, How Can You Help?
It’s never easy seeing the signs and symptoms of opioid use in a family member or friend. It may be the alarming highs and lows, extreme secrecy, noticeable multiple prescriptions, or any other of the many signs of opiate abuse. You realize there’s a problem. So, what’s the best way to approach them, and convince them to seek help? There’s no perfect answer because every case of opiate abuse is unique. However, after years of experience helping to treat patients, family, and friends alike, here are some guidelines:
Have a private conversation with your loved one.
Find a time to approach him or her individually, in a quiet place that’s free of distractions. Do your best to make them feel comfortable. As you begin to share your concerns, avoid judgmental or blaming language. Focus on your concern and care for your loved one, and your desire to help. It may be helpful to reference specific instances that have worried you and made you think their safety is in danger. If they seem receptive, introduce the idea of seeking professional care.
Avoid language that condemns their opiate use, but don’t condone it, either.
The best thing you can do as a loved one is to support someone abusing opiates, without supporting the addiction. If you find yourself becoming resistant and frustrated, walk away from the conversation. If your loved one inadvertently complains about the consequences of opiate use, ask sincere questions to help them think about their use and its consequences: “You’re right, you have been tired lately. What do you think is the cause of that?” or “It sounds like you’re saying your boss is frustrated with your performance at work- what’s going on there?” These questions can open up a non-confrontational talk about the consequences of drug use, led by the user’s own discussion of their troubles. This process of actively listening can help a loved one realize their problem without feeling judged or confronted.
When they do decide to pursue recovery, be there for them.
Recovery isn’t an easy process. Don’t assume that a loved one no longer needs your help just because they’ve agreed to pursue treatment for their opiate abuse. Be there for them throughout the process. This might mean attending family therapy, asking questions and demonstrating interest in their recovery, or even simply making time to spend with them so they don’t feel isolated. Opiate use can often result in feelings of isolation that further decimate the mental health of someone dependent on opioids. Combat this by making your presence and support clear to your loved one.
Set personal boundaries and stick to them.
Even though your support is vital, you have to take care of yourself in a relationship with a user. While it’s tempting to drop everything and focus primarily on their health, you can’t support them unless your own foundation is solid. Don’t tolerate behaviors like stealing or physical and emotional abuse. Calmly and clearly let your loved one know when their actions are unacceptable, and don’t give in to unreasonable demands. The best thing you can do for yourself and for your loved one is to maintain appropriate boundaries before and during their recovery process.
Seek a professional’s help.
When you’re unsure of how to approach a loved one, it can help to speak with an expert. No situation is identical to another, so having an expert evaluate your circumstances and advise you is crucial. You may also need to pursue professional help for yourself. Living or maintaining a relationship with an opioid abuser is stressful and can negatively impact you in a variety of ways. For yourself and for your loved one, a professional’s expert care can help ease the process of approaching a loved one and convincing them to seek recovery.
If you fear that a friend or family member has a problem with opiates, you don’t have to deal with it alone. Let us help you support your loved one. Contact us today and begin the process of recovery.
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