How To Help A Heroin Addict: 5 Tips For Family And Friends
In 2016, almost 1 million cases of heroin use were reported in the United States alone. That number represented a steep rise since similar figures have been tracked going back to 2007.
If you have a family member or friend struggling with heroin it can present a significant hardship for both them and you.
For them, theyre locked in a fight to take their life back from the jowls of addiction. For you, youre trying to figure out ways to support them without enabling their problem.
Our team at Find Rehab Centers understands the struggle youre facing. To help you better navigate having a healthy relationship with addicted close friends and family members, weve compiled this list of our top 5 tips on how to help a heroin addict.
Supporting A Loved Ones Addiction Recovery
Theres no one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming an addiction to drugs, and its rarely a process thats quick or straightforward. While you can support your loved one and encourage treatment, you cant force them to change or control their decision-making. Letting your loved one assume responsibility for their behavior and choices is an important step on their road to sobriety.
Adjust your expectations. Everyone is different. Recovery for one person may mean total abstinence from drugs. For another, it could mean cutting back or staying mostly drug-free. Being too rigid in your expectations can lead to disappointment and a sense of failure, even if your loved one finds stability in their life again.
Encourage your loved one to seek help. While some people are able to quit drugs on their own, the more help and support a person has, the better their chances of success. Offer to sit with your loved one while they call a helpline or accompany them to a doctors appointment, counseling session, or peer support group meeting.
Help plan for triggers and cravings. Your loved one will need to find ways to cope with drug cravings and triggers. You can help distract them with other activities or encourage them to learn how to ride out the urge, but ultimately, they have to be responsible for their own sobriety.
How To Help Someone Dealing With Addiction
Knowing someone who has an addiction is not uncommon, but knowing the best way to help a loved one with an addiction can be confusing and even scary. When someone has an addiction, it can affect every aspect of their lives as well as the lives of their loved ones. You will inevitably be concerned about your loved one, and it can be difficult to know what to do and what not to do, but its important to remember that Recovery is a solution.
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Take Care Of Yourself
Although you may see this as selfish, its incredibly important that youre able to be there for others and make the best decisions possible. Make sure your own needs are met by getting enough sleep, exercising and eating well. Dont be afraid to go to therapy to get help if you find yourself struggling due to your loved ones drug addiction.
When To Have An Intervention
In an intervention, significant people in the users life, such as family and friends, gather together to share how the addiction has affected them and try to get the user to accept treatment.5 Some users are unable to see the negative consequences of their drug use, which is why a structured intervention is valuable.
If your loved one is unwilling to go to addiction treatment, you may want to consider holding an intervention. This can be done on your own or with the aid of a professional. 5
If you arent comfortable holding a meeting on your own, you can contact an addiction specialist, interventionist, social worker, or psychologist to help you orchestrate an intervention either in the persons office or at home. A professional can help suggest treatment approaches and design a follow-up plan. When a family uses a professional for an intervention, it can increase the odds of success. 5
Holding an intervention comes with some risks, however. The individual may:
- Become defensive and leave the situation.
- Feel alienated and isolated from family and friends.
- Feel stigmatized and shame associated with addiction.
Although a professional is not necessary, interventions are more likely to be successful if they are facilitated by a professional. Still, interventions may not work for everyone. Your loved one may refuse addiction treatment right away, but may seek help later on as a result of the intervention. 5 Dont try to force him or her to get help before he or she is ready.
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How To Set Boundariesand Stick To Them
The Effects Of Drug Abuse And Addiction On Family And Friends
Witnessing someone you care about battle a substance use disorder can be extremely distressing and take a heavy toll on your own mental and emotional well-being. Whether the drug abuser is a close friend, spouse, parent, child, or other family member, its easy for their addiction to take over your life. It can pile stress upon stress, test your patience, strain your bank balance, and leave you racked by feelings of guilt, shame, anger, fear, frustration, and sadness.
You may worry about where your loved one is at any given time, their risk of overdosing, or the damage theyre doing to their health, future, and home life. You may be in debt from paying their living expenses, the cost of legal troubles resulting from their drug abuse, or from failed attempts at rehab and recovery. You may also be worn down by covering for your loved one at home or work, having to shoulder the responsibilities they neglect, or being unable to devote more time to other family, friends, and interests in your life.
As despairing as you may feel, youre not alone in your struggle. A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 found that nearly half of Americans have a family member or close friend whos been addicted to drugs. Across the Western world, the abuse of prescription pain relievers and tranquillizers has skyrocketed in recent years, creating a public health crisis.
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Know The Warning Signs Of Meth Abuse And Addiction
Identifying harmful patterns of drug use is one of the first steps towards getting a person help.
When a person first starts taking meth, theyll likely go to great lengths to hide their drug use. In the beginning, they might succeed, however, as such a powerful drug, the toll of meth abuse can quickly become evident.
Major signs of meth abuse and addiction include:
- cravings: Overwhelming urges and thoughts of drug use become disruptive to a persons day.
- tolerance: A typical dose doesnt create the usual effect, which often leads to higher doses.
- dependence: A persons body is reliant on the drug and cannot function normally without it.
- withdrawal: Physical and/or psychological symptoms occur when a person stops taking meth.
A deteriorating physical appearance can also be a major sign of meth abuse. Use of this drug may result in meth mouth, or severe dental problems. A person may also have a poor complexion and skin sores. Many people ignore personal care and fail to bathe or wear clean clothes.
People who are struggling with meth abuse or addiction may also develop problems at home, work, or school and begin to ignore important responsibilities that relate to these things.
Educate Yourself About Addiction
Before you approach your loved one, take the time to educate yourself about addiction, detox, withdrawal, and various treatment options. The more you know, the better youre able to approach the situation calmly and with confidence. Understanding what the person is going through, at least on an academic level, will help you speak knowledgeably when the time comes to discuss the problem.
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If Necessary Stage An Intervention
If the person is in grave danger or doesnt respond to your concerns, it may be helpful to stage an intervention. Before organizing an intervention, it may help to talk to a substance abuse counselor, social worker, or other trusted health expert. Their guidance may be very helpful, especially if theyre willing to attend the intervention itself.
Organize a time when friends, family, and other concerned parties can gather together. Allow at least a few hours for the intervention. Everyone present should have enough time to communicate his or her thoughts and feelings.
Host it somewhere quiet where the person with the addiction feels safe, such as their house or that of a family member. Dont attempt to lock the doors or block their exit if the meeting doesnt go well. They should be able to leave if they arent prepared to participate in the intervention. The intervention will only work if they accept it.
When they arrive, explain that youve gathered everyone together because youre concerned about their behavior. Invite members of the intervention to talk about how the persons behavior has affected them. Encourage them to express their concern for the persons welfare. It may also help to discuss the consequences that could ensue if the persons behavior continues. Its important to avoid threatening them.
How I Overcame Sexual Addiction
My name is Jordan, and Im a sex addict.
As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt like a total impostor.
The men and women seated around me, legs crossed and arms folded, draped over orange plastic chairs, would see right through me any second now. Even though I was staring down at the floor, I could feel their eyes burning in to me.
These people had real addictions my problems felt so entry-level by comparison. They had serious problems, not me.
I mean, sure, Id slept with countless women who I felt no emotional connection to.
Sure, Ive felt a deeply permeating sense of shame at the core of my being after compulsively acting out sexually.
And, if Im being honest with myself, Ive probably cumulatively spent weeks of my life watching porn, scanning sex ads, and frequenting massage parlours and sex workers in multiple countries.
Fuck. Who am I kidding?
The more I listened to the stories of the people around me, the more I realized that I was in the right place.
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Be Wary Of Providing Resources That Allow Addiction To Continue
Very few addicts have the resources they need to support themselves through their addiction. After all, addiction often consumes ones life.
This consumption makes it difficult for an addict to hold down a job and acquire the means to pay for their habit which can cost thousands of dollars.
Bottom line, theres a good possibility that your loved one is receiving support that allows them to stay addicted. Its your job to limit that support.
For starters, you should not give an addict spending money. Very few addicts will come out and openly admit that the money theyre asking for is for drugs. You should assume it always is.
If you would like to support a loved one with an opiate addiction by giving them money for food or transportation expenses, buy them the food, put the gas in their car, pay for their bus pass, etc.
Dont give them the money to do it themselves.
Housing is another key resource addicts often get from family members. Asking an addict to help contribute to the rent or at very least, making sure that they know drug use in your home is grounds for expulsion can create discomfort for them. This discomfort may lead them to take recovery seriously.
How To Help Someone Understand They Need Help
Friends and family members may feel that they constantly express concerns about a loved ones substance use but never see any changes. You may have reached this point after weeks or months of giving lectures, making threats, ignoring behaviors, accepting promises of change, giving second chances, or imposing consequences.
Experts recommend developing and repeating a consistent, positive message: We care about you and we want you to get help. Define substance use as a problem for you and others who care about the person. Avoid blaming, arguing, and reproaching, and expect denial, distortion, avoidance, rationalization, and intellectualization of the problem.
Perhaps a friend, another family member, doctor, clergy, boss, co-worker, or other significant person in their life might be able to have an effective discussion. Or maybe the person with the substance use disorder would respond to activities you can do together, such as reviewing brochures or videos, meeting with a professional, or going to a self-help SMART Recovery or Twelve Step meeting.
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Encourage Them To Get Help
As with other diseases, the earlier addiction is treated, the better. However, dont be surprised if youre met with denial or excuses as to why they cant or wont seek treatment. Be persistent about how important it is that they enter treatment for their addiction, but avoid making them feel guilty or ashamed in the process.
Another option is to hold an intervention for your loved one. Although these are often difficult to do, an intervention may be exactly what your loved one needs if theyre deep into their addiction. Consider bringing in an intervention specialist to help you navigate this process.
Help Your Loved One Recover
Addiction is a terrible condition, and it is especially terrible for the loved ones that live with an addict or alcoholic. Luckily, recovery is possible. Every year, millions of Americans find the help that they need to get started living a better, sober life. You know what its like to live with an active addict, now its time to find out what its like to live with a recovering alcoholic. Contact a treatment provider today to discuss available rehab options.
Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelors and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffreys desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffreys mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
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When All Else Fails Dont Use Guilt
Its very easy to mix up the thought of an ultimatum, and lecturing or guilting an addicted individual into ceasing their vice usage. Under no circumstances should you attempt to guilt them into quitting their addiction. Phrases like How could you do this to me, or anything that will garner guilt and/or shame from the addict is a surefire no-go.
Let Them Hit Their Bottom
As mentioned previously, the only way for an addict to maintain long-term clean time is to get sober for themselves. They cant get sober for you, their partner, their siblings, their job, or any other outside force. The desire to get clean must come from within.
One of the best ways to help an addict is to allow them the space to hit their bottom. This may be one of the most painful things you experience in your life but is often a necessary part of the process.
During this time it is important to have a counselor or support group to help you process the feelings of fear, loss, and abandonment.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Drug Addiction
People who are addicted to drugs tend to show signs of the disease in every aspect of their lives. The symptoms of addiction are varied, but common signs of a problem with substance abuse include:3,4
- Needing to use drugs to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- Needing more drugs to get the effects .
- Continuing use of drugs even with the awareness of the harm it causes.
- Neglecting family obligations and financial issues.
- Continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite declining physical health.
- Losing interest in hobbies.
- Changes in eating habits .
Help Identify Their Issue
The first step to give help is to make your loved one understand whether their problem is mild, moderate, or severe. This is the hardest step to do since it depends on how you broach the subject. You need to be careful since a negative approach will make them defensive.
You can try telling them how they were before they start getting into substance abuse. Dont ever mention how negative they are at the present. Make them remember the times where both of you had great experiences together.
If you really need to talk about something negative, make sure to stay focused on it. Bring up the actual events but never tell them their current negative traits. Dont tell them theyre undependable or evil in any shape and form.
The way you open the conversation sets the mood. If you follow this tip, you can have a focused and civil argument. This will prevent them from drowning from too much criticism.
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