Detecting The Signs Of Substance Abuse
No matter how well we think we know the people we share our homes and hearts with, every individual is capable of keeping secrets. Addiction, by its nature, drives the individual to suppress painful emotions and harmful behaviors in order to fuel episodes of drinking or using drugs. The signs of addiction can range from obvious to subtle, revealing themselves in an individuals appearance, behavior, moods, mental function, occupational status, or finances.
Perhaps most importantly for families, addiction can affect the quality of interpersonal relationships. Addiction can undermine formerly strong relationships, creating an atmosphere of distrust and provoking feelings of betrayal. The following checklist can help family members identify the potential signs of addiction in the early stages of the disease.
When looking for the potential signs of addiction, remember that substance abuse affects many areas of an individuals life, and one or two changes in habits or appearance do not necessarily prove that a loved one is abusing drugs. These changes may also be caused by conditions such as depression, personal loss, job stress, or a difficult life transition. A mental health professional or addiction counselor can help to determine whether the changes in the persons life can be attributed to chemical dependence or abuse.
Set Boundaries And Enforce Them
Once youve made up your mind to detach with love, you need to let your spouse know the kind of behavior you will and wont accept from them moving forward. Let them know how you feel when they use drugs and clearly and boldly inform them that you will not:
- Tolerate verbal, emotional, or physical abuse
- Let them control or handle the finances
- Bail them out of jail
- Lie or make up excuses for them when theyre too high to go to work
- Rescue them from legal or financial trouble
But setting boundaries isnt enough. People struggling with addiction challenges tend to test boundaries. In fact, they will continue using drugs at any cost so you must be consistent in enforcing the boundaries you set. When your spouse crosses the boundary line, let them feel the weight of their consequences. If you dont, you send a message that their behavior is acceptable and that youre willing to tolerate it now and in the future.
Offer Support But Do Not Enable
Enabling a family members addiction comes in many forms some of which you may not think are enabling, but are.
It is important to recognize the behaviors and actions you and your family are carrying out that allow your drug-addicted loved one to remain in this destructive state.
Enabling can be anything from letting the addicted family member live in your home and abuse substances or carry on with these behaviors while there, or it could be something as simple as making excuses for the person.
Denying someone you love basic care or dignity may seem like a very cruel act. But it takes a lot of love to understand your enabling behavior and take steps to stop it. In the end, these actions can help your loved one on the road to recovery.
Just as important as recognizing enabling behavior is an understanding that now is not the time for blame. Now is the time for action.
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Maintain Normal Family Activities
Maintaining a “normal” family dynamic, or at least giving it your best shot, can help the whole family cope with family addiction.
Don’t ignore the problems of addiction — that kind of “everything’s fine” behavior sets the stage for denial and enables the addict. Recognize it but don’t hold the disease up as the center of the family universe. For example, if your wife used to attend your daughter’s soccer games but is now at a residential treatment facility, try to be present at as many games as you can. If you’re the parent of a teen with an addiction, be sure the addict isn’t the center of your attentions. Recognize that you’ll need to devote time to that child’s recovery process but not at the expense of the time spent with your other children.
According to The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, about 20 percent of teens report using prescription medications to get high, and about 10 percent report using prescription stimulants and tranquilizers.
Do: Seek Counseling Or Therapy
Addiction affects everyone, from the person in treatment to their loved ones. Its important to ensure youre well enough to manage the potential stress of helping someone dealing with addiction. Acknowledging that you may be in over your head and in need of professional help is normal and healthy. Its also necessary for you to help your loved one to the best of your abilities.
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Don Not Let Their Addiction Struggles Take Over Your Life
Sometimes a loved ones addiction can consume your life to the point of it swallowing you and your family whole.
You can still love the addict/alcoholic in your family while at the same time caring for yourself and other family members who might be caught up in the situation as well. You do this by carrying on with your regular life, work and interests taking time to care for yourself.
Try first getting involved in free support groups like the organizations we mentioned previously . You can look into therapy. It does help to talk to someone. These things can help you get a better understanding of how to cope and protect your family. Remember, you are not responsible for their addiction. Do your best, and that is all you can do.
A Need For Honesty About The Roles Of Family Members In Addiction
There is no need to blame anyone for having adopted codependent roles to cope with the behavior of an addicted family member, but there is a need for self-examination and honesty. Family members need to first recognize the unhealthy roles they have adopted, so that everyone can work together to heal dysfunction.
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Dealing With Addiction In The Family
The first thing you should do upon realizing that your loved one has a substance abuse problem is to encourage them to seek treatment. Approach them while theyre calm and sober, and talk to them compassionately. Using facts, explain to them how their addiction has damaging effects not only on them but also on the rest of the family.
If they dont want to listen, consider staging an intervention where you get other key members of the family and a therapist involved.
Its important that the whole family gets counseling or therapy. This is beneficial toward helping everyone recover and move on from the effects of the addiction. A therapist will create an environment where everyone can share their thoughts and feelings. They can also help you work through the present challenges while implementing strategies that will build trust.
The effects of drug addiction on family members can be dire. However, by seeking treatment for the addict and counseling for the entire family, affected families will have a better chance of rebuilding their lives and relationships.
Support For Family Members Of Drug Addicts
One individualâs addiction affects the whole family. Support groups such as Al-Anon, Ala-Teen, and Nar-Anon offer 12-step programs for the families and friends of alcoholics and addicts. These programs provide a support system to help you understand drug and alcohol addiction and the process of recovery. They can help you recover from the emotional toll of the relationship with an active addict.
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How Addiction Changes A Persons Personality
Addictive drugs all share one powerful ability: they interfere with the brains chemical processes, particularly those that involve dopamine. Dopamine is one of the bodys feel good chemicals as well as an essential neurotransmitter chemical. It plays a pivotal role in regulating the brains reward center, limbic system , and cognitive functions. All of these areas work together to form your belief systems, priorities, motivations, and behaviors.
When dopamine levels rise, the reward center remembers the conditions, such as what you were doing or where you were, that prompted the increase in dopamine. When repeated often enough, this area of the brain learns to seek out these same conditions. The other areas affected by dopamine work in tandem with the reward center. By the time addiction takes hold, drug use has become a vital need in the mind of the addict.
Personality changes develop as drugs take on more importance in the addicts life. Where once career and family held top priority, experiencing the drug high becomes more important than everything else. In order to protect this aspect of their lives, someone whos addicted will engage in behaviors they otherwise wouldnt do.
When youre dealing with a drug addict, expect to encounter one or more of the following behaviors:
Check Your Ego And Your Attitude At The Door
It can be extremely easy for you to become resentful of your addicted loved one and begin judging them for their actions as he or she continues to use drugs or alcohol. Whether these feelings are floating right at the surface or hiding deep in your subconscious, it can skew your interactions with him or her. You might be quick to blame your family member for everything and/or treat him or her disrespectfully . Your feelings are not invalid, however, you have to check them at the door in order to help your loved one get sober. This sounds much easier said than done because it is. Doing this is not easy, however, when you are able to control your ego and your attitude, you put yourself in a better position to help. This is because doing so encourages him or her to:
- Build a sense of trust with you
- Feel heard and understood
- Begin realizing the severity of the situation
Approaching your loved one with empathy can make a world of difference, as it allows for these benefits to come to fruition. Letting other emotions stand in the way of that can be the difference between life and death.
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How To Help An Addicted Family Member After Treatment
One of the best ways that you can help your loved one after treatment is by getting involved in their program while they are in treatment. Most treatment centers offer family services, such as educational and therapeutic workshops. Participating in these can help you learn more about addiction as a disease, develop coping skills, sort out feelings of resentment and frustration, and learn how to support your family member in recovery.
When your family member completes treatment and returns home, it is going to be a time of transition for everyone. It is completely normal to feel nervous, unsure, and emotional during this time, as the changes your loved one has made are drastic. However, with the skills that both your family member and you have learned during the treatment phase, you can enact healthy behaviors and actions that support sobriety and proper family functioning.
Transition can be difficult for everyone, but with some thinking ahead, you can lay the groundwork for success in your family. Some of the things that you can do to help support your loved one in recovery and ease this transition include the following:
Learn More About Helping Your Loved One
Your encouragement and involvement can make a big difference to your family member who is struggling with addiction. To learn more about how you can help them on their journey towards recovery, contact JourneyPure Emerald Coast. The most important thing you can do for your family member is to get him or her help as soon as possible. The faster substance abuse ends, the faster the damage can be mitigated and/or prevented.
Contact JourneyPure Emerald Coast today, and let our compassionate experts guide you to the best recovery options for your family member. No matter what the situation, recovery is possible. There is a happier, healthier life waiting at the end of this journey.
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Physical And Emotional Abuse
In addition to making the addict irrational, their substance abuse is also likely to put everyone around them on edge. This means that simple disagreements can result in big fights as everyone feels misunderstood.
With everyone acting out of character, physical abuse may start occurring on top of the pre-existing emotional abuse. Addicts can be the perpetrators of abuse, but their vulnerability also puts them at risk of becoming victims of it, too.
Children of addicts might also end up becoming abusers as well. In an attempt to shift blame from the addicted parent, some children may end up acting out and misbehaving. These actions can later scar them and cause them to turn to drinking or drug use as their relative did. Abuse and addiction can become a deadly cycle that can only be broken by treatment.
Speak To Someone About Family Drug Or Alcohol Issues
If you are worried about a family member and do not know how to help them with their alcohol or drug use, try talking to someone about it. Someone who knows your family, such as your doctor, or a counsellor or social worker might be able to provide help in a way that fits your family.
If you would rather speak with someone you do not know, call DirectLine Victoria’s 24-hour alcohol and drug counselling service on . DirectLine’s trained drug and alcohol counselling service will be able to give you advice and suggest the best next steps that suit your situation.
If you are a child and your parent has an alcohol or drug addiction, try talking to a relative that doesn’t live with you, such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent. If they can’t help you, try talking to your teacher or school counsellor.
If you would rather talk to someone that you dont know, you can also call:
- for advice and help for alcohol and other drug issues that are affecting you and your family.
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How Social Workers In Nonaddiction Settings Can Help
It is beyond the scope of this article to present in detail how to assess for an SUD, and social workers inexperienced in this area should refer patients to those who specialize in the treatment of SUDs. However with the prevalence of SUDs in the general population being at least 10%, and higher for those presenting with mental health problems, social workers in all settings will find themselves working with individuals with SUDs. All clients, and especially those with known or suspected SUDs, should be reassured of confidentiality. Due to the shame and stigma associated with having an SUD, this is of utmost importance to obtain accurate information. Clients should be asked if they believe they have an SUD and can be informed of how the social worker typically helps those with SUDs. Social workers need to educate themselves about the clinical and community resources in their area available for the treatment of SUD and refer to these resources when indicated. This includes outpatient substance abuse programs, methadone clinics, intensive outpatient programs, detoxification, and residential settings as well as self-help meetings.
Following are some specific steps that social workers can take to be helpful when a SUD is suspected or identified:
Routinely assess for SUD problem and refer the individual to a specialty clinic for further assessment or treatment when indicated.
If problem is identified, educate about SUD, treatment, recovery, and relapse.
How To Help A Drug Addict
Drug addiction afflicts family members of drug users as much as it does drug users. It is difficult to understand how you can help your loved one combat this severe problem if you havent been through that struggle yourself.
There is still a way to help addicts overcome their addiction. It is a three-step process that will require a great deal of patience, understanding and effort.
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Substance Abuse: How Big Is The Problem
In popular cultural stereotypes of the American family, drugs and alcohol are not part of a happy household. Yet statistics indicate that the problem of substance abuse affects people from all walks of life, including parents, children, spouses, and partners living in otherwise normal homes. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health of 2014, one out of 10 Americans age 12 and older used an illicit drug in the past 30 days a number higher than any year since 2002. The primary reasons for this increase include the rise in abuse of marijuana and nonmedical use of prescription drugs, especially narcotic pain relievers like OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, and fentanyl.
Alcohol abuse is also prevalent among American households. Out of the 139.7 million Americans age 12 and older who reported drinking alcohol in 2014, 16.3 million defined themselves as heavy drinkers, and 60.9 reported that they were binge drinkers, according to the NSDUH.
Although alcohol abuse has declined among young adults age 12-20, the NSDUH indicates that underage drinking is still a problem in the US:
- Current alcohol use was reported by 22.8 percent of underage Americans.
- Binge drinking was reported by 13.8 percent of this group.
- Heavy drinking was reported by 3.4 percent.
- In total, approximately 30 percent of underage Americans engaged in binge drinking, and over 10 percent engaged in heavy drinking.
Family Help For Young People
If you are worried about a young family member call the Youth Drug and Alcohol Advice helpline on . YoDAA provides advice specifically for young people and people concerned about a young person with a substance use problem.
YoDAA’s specialist alcohol and drug counsellors can offer advice over the phone or help you find more information.
The Victorian Government funds a range of youth-specific treatment services to help young people up to the age of 25 to address their alcohol and drug use issues. These services use a family-based approach where appropriate.
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