Over the past decade, the number of people who have become addicted to opiates has increased dramatically. Heroin use has been on the rise as a consequence. In terms of heroin, in 2014, it was estimated that 6,000 adolescents could be classified as having a heroin use disorder. It has been found that 90% of all heroin users started with prescription pain killers. This problem has become so large that opiate addiction has been labeled a major public health crisis in the United States. If someone you love is struggling with this kind of addiction, there are things you can do to help.
- Get help from professionals. Opiate addiction, like an addiction to alcohol or other drugs, is a medical problem. Opiate detox may not be as intense as alcohol detox but that does not mean it is not as serious. The good news is that there is help out there. If you can, get them to go to a professional rehab center. There are a number of opiate treatment centers all over the country. If the person has insurance, you should check on what that will cover. There may also be centers in your county or city that do not require insurance.
- Get some professional help for yourself. It is hard to watch someone you care about suffer from opiate addiction. The saying is “no man is an island.” That is very true when it comes to dealing with addiction. The person who suffers from opiate addiction does not go through this alone. There are a ton of resources out there for people who have friends and family members who are going through recovery from addiction. It is hard to overstate how helpful it can be to talk to people who have been through the same thing you have. If you cannot find a support group with whom you connect, you can seek out the help from a therapist or other professional. There are a lot of pitfalls you will want to avoid when you are dealing with issues around addiction, having a support network can really help.
- Do not become an enabler. When you love someone, it is totally normal to want to help them. When you are dealing with someone who is suffering from an addiction, there can be a lot of things you may want to help them with. Whether it is opiate addiction or heroin addiction, they may ask for help with financial issues or they may ask to live with you. It is hard to say “no” to someone you care about and they will play on that. You need to be firm. People who suffer from addiction can be very manipulative. This is where having a support network can be even more helpful. They can help remind you why you need to say no and really mean it.
- Provide positive feedback. There are people with opiate addictions who really see that they have a problem and want to get better. Keep in mind, this is a disease. You should encourage their efforts to get better and be supportive in their recovery efforts. The process is different for every person who goes through it. It helps no one to compare their recovery to someone else, nor is their recovery timeline a function of how hard they are working. Be careful about making them feel badly for having setbacks, even relapses can happen on the road to recovery. Celebrate the wins and do what you can to mitigate the setbacks. Recovery is not a linear progression. It is important for you to remember that sometimes the ability to recognize and express problems is, in and of itself, progress for a lot of people. Also, this is not a question of willpower.
Opiate addiction may be in the news a lot today but addiction has been around and has been a problem for a very long time. Whether your loved one is addicted to heroin or addicted to opioids, they are still the person you love and they are suffering from an illness that, left untreated, can be deadly. When you think about things in those kinds of terms, it can be easier to help with their recovery efforts.