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Opiate dependency is a huge problem in the United States, and the Federal government, local and state entities, and nonprofits are working together to try to get this crisis under control. The reasons for addiction vary, from someone who was on pain medications for an injury or another condition and became addicted to someone who tried opioids once in the form of a street drug and developed a dependence through continued use.
The drugs vary as well, from those prescriptions to street drugs like heroin. Because prescriptions are so well regulated, pills are often hard to get even illegally. No matter what, a regular opioid dependency will affect the mind, body, and spirit of the one you love. When they are ready to kick the habit, and even before, you can be their greatest support.
Here are seven ways to support a loved one through opiate dependency.
Show Concern, Not Judgement
It is okay, in fact it is important that you show concern for your loved one. The things they are going through are not easy, and they need to know that someone cares. However, you have to be careful not to be judgmental.
This means saying things like: “We are concerned and would really like to see you get some help.” Avoid you statements, that appear to point a finger, like “You need to stop this behavior.” Because they are addicted, simply stopping is not that easy. They need help. Acknowledge and support that.
Show Empathy and Compassion
Show empathy and compassion, almost like you would to someone with a chronic illness. The reason is that addiction feels like an illness, something your loved one cannot control. Telling them to “just get better” is like telling someone with cancer the same thing. It’s not possible. Empathize with their struggles even if you have never shared them and show love and compassion. Both will go a long way toward helping them with their recovery.
Create a Structured, Stable Environment
One of the methods to breaking a habit is to establish a new one. The thing about new habits is they depend on structure and stability. The more structure, the stricter schedule you have, and the more stable things are, the easier it is to get into new routines and avoid the old ones. Often the reason for addiction in the first place was a disruptive event that triggered the abuse. Removing that will make things much better.
Seek Professional Help
Not sure if your loved one is actually addicted or what to do about it? Seek help from a professional. Someone who deals with addiction all the time will know what kind of treatment to start with, what medications work for whom, and how to help you be as supportive as possible.
Often people have a negative connotation with treatment, thinking it means in-patient care or an intervention. Sometimes it involves those things, but other times it does not. getting real, professional advice from someone who knows will not only dispel those myths for you, but will make your loved one more comfortable as well.
Keep Track of Medications and Refills
Three are a number of medications like Suboxone that can help your loved one deal with opiate dependency. Typically, these will be prescribed as part of an overall treatment plan. Knowing what prescriptions your loved one is supposed to be taking is the first step.
Dependency may have created other issues they are taking medication for as well. Make sure that they have enough pills, they are well organized, and help them keep track of when they need refills. This will ensure that they do not have a relapse simply because of missing medication or a unfilled prescription.
Be Aware of an Overdose
Unfortunately, people who are struggling with addiction relapse or they may try to hide taking drugs from you. As a result, you need to know the signs and symptoms of an overdose, and what to do in case you are witnessing one.
- Shallow breathing or breathing has stopped
- Pinpoint pupils, or very small pupils
- Lips or nails turning purple
- Slow heart rate or low blood pressure
In the event of an overdose, you need to do CPR if you know it. If you don’t know it, you should learn. Call 911 immediately and let them know what is happening so paramedics will be prepared.
Protect Yourself and Those Around You
Unfortunately, addiction does not always allow people to act rationally even if you love someone. Addicts may lie or steal to get more money to feed their habit. They may be tempted to do other illegal acts in order to get drugs.
Opioids can also affect them mentally, causing bouts of anger or paranoia for no reason. Because of this, you need to protect yourself, your property, and those around you. This means being vigilant about money and valuables and locking them up. If you detect signs of irrationality or violent behavior, you need to remove yourself or your loved one from the situation.
Dealing with opiate dependency is not easy for anyone, and it can be devastating to a family. Work with your loved one and their professional caregivers to support them the best you can. Use these seven tips to get started, but always connect with others along the way who can help support you and your loved one through this difficult time.
What are your feelings on this drug epidemic? Has the opioid crisis affected you or your loved ones? Leave us a comment with your thoughts and experiences in the section below.