Dealing with an Addict

Addiction & Family – Dealing with an Addict

You probably discovered substance abuse occurring with your son, your daughter, or your spouse, maybe close relatives, or friends of the family. Families and friends say they tried to talk to the person with little or no change. Perhaps the person was rushed to the emergency for an overdose, then released, and back to using again. One would think this is enough to cause a person to re-evaluate their life choices. Yet, repeatedly we see people, despite everything, continuing to spiral out of control. At first glance, this appears to be some crazy mental deficiency on the part of the addicted person. This is somewhat true but not in the traditional way that the health care system labels them. And perhaps the person’s addiction is not that extreme. Nevertheless, how do you deal with the issue?

Labelling & Misdiagnoses

Too often, the health care system will misdiagnose an addict first because the addict is not honest about their substance abuse issues. Whether it is with illicit drugs, medication abuse, or alcohol overconsumption, they do not speak of it. The family physician or other health care provider is rarely aware of this facet of the individual’s problem.

Doctors can misdiagnose a person not knowing the whole story. The addicted person feels great and then depressed because of drug use. Most physicians prescribe a mood stabilizer, which often has side effects of its own. The addicted’s secrecy tends to complicate the matter. The illicit drug is now interacting with the new prescription medication. These cause unpredictable physical and mental changes. Unfortunately, individuals get wrong labels because of things kept secret.

Dealing with and helping an addicted person. A person behind a veil holding their head

Substance Abuse  

Physical Condition

Some families may face the addiction of a loved one because of earlier physical or emotional conditions. For example, pain from an accident or operation is usually prescribed medication for a period to relieve discomfort. The result of this practice is that often the pain lingers longer than the specified time of the medicine. Or, with highly addictive drugs, the person may feel withdrawal symptoms coming off them but misinterpret it as pain from the accident or operation. Also, certain people have a low tolerance for opiate-type pain medications and rapidly become addicted.

Now, the person can’t get a renewal, thus resorting to “black market medication.” Drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet, and Fentanyl are readily available on the street and on the Web.

Emotional Condition

Another example is someone facing a difficult life situation or an unwanted condition. It can be as simple as boredom or the inability to feel comfortable in social situations. There are as many circumstances as there are people abusing substances. The person lacking the proper skills to deal with this state of affairs will stay in this ever-present condition.

As we all want to be happy, a person will seek relief. Alcohol and drugs do this, and most people will use either or both. Being numbing agents, they numb out the source of the discomfort. At least for the time that the substance creates the desired effect. Once it dissipates, the person needs more and higher dosages to get the same relief. Thus, we have the start of dependency or addiction.

Steps in Helping & Dealing with the Addict

The difficulty in helping someone with drug addiction issues is mainly due to a lack of understanding. Most family members have no clue what to do about their loved one’s addiction. The following are a few tips for dealing with and helping the addicted person.

First, do not enable them; it only fuels their abuse. For example, if they ask for money to help pay for different things, tell them to bring the bill and pay it yourself. Recognize this as an indicator, especially if the person has a good job.  Do not give money freely.

Second, always face the problem head-on without being challenging. If you suspect drug addiction, question it. If the person denies it, don’t challenge them. Ask again (invite a response) until you get the truth.

You can request they do a urine test. These are available at any local pharmacy. Be sure you are present when they do the test (they can be falsified). If they refuse or turn the table on you and how you “mistrust” them, you know they are hiding something.

Factors in Dealing with an Addict

Nobody wants to be addicted. A person can get caught in the quick fix that mind-altering substances provide. There are strong deterrents to stopping their misuse and seeking help.

  • withdrawal symptoms because of the pain and discomfort,
  • not knowing what to expect from a treatment center,
  • afraid of the outcome of rehab

Withdrawal symptoms are a strong deterrent to stopping because of the pain, so they continue using. Not knowing what to expect from treatment centers can be another point. What does the person expect to find when entering a drug rehab center? Are they afraid? When talking with an addict, you need to be reassuring, understanding, and above all, helpful. Work towards making them realize they need professional addiction counselling. In the end, the simple and proven method of dealing with an addicted person is encouraging and coaxing them. Do this repeatedly until they see the need for addiction treatment.

Be Patient and Persist

Remember that the addicted person is not your loved one, relative, or friend. Their personalities have changed, and mind-altering substances have taken over. You need to be patient and persist with care and understanding and do not blame. Stay focused and know that you can always call an experienced Addiction Referral and Consultation counsellor for guidance if you need assistance.

Marc J. Bernard

Marc J. Bernard

Author,
Substance Use & Addiction Recovery Professional,
Referral & Consultation Counsellor

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