April 12, 2021: Supporting A Loved One Who Misuses Opioids

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies invested millions of dollars in reassuring the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers. Subsequently, healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates, leading to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids. Then it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive. In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services declared opioid use a public health emergency in the United States.

Opioids affect more than just the individual who struggles with misuse – family, friends and co-workers can experience an emotional, physical and financial toll. Family dynamics can change, as conflicts arise and stress, resentment and worry increase.

Many individuals who find themselves in the throes of addiction become strongly opposed to the idea of undergoing treatment. The disease tells the individual that they are not sick and that they can stop any time they want. While the only person who can truly make the decision to get healthy is your loved one, there are things that you can do to cope with the misuse and stay ready to help them seek treatment.

  • Educate yourself: Knowledge is power. Learn as much as you can about drug addiction, mental and behavioral health issues that are often part of misuse, and available treatment options in your area. This will help you be prepared when your loved one indicates they may be ready for a change.
  • Manage your expectations: Recovery is a lifelong journey of ups and downs, not a single event. A person who suffers from drug misuse may experience relapses. While a relapse episode is discouraging for all involved, remember that it will be especially hard for your loved one. Remaining supportive and reinforcing that all of their efforts were not in vain can help them keep trying.
  • Make yourself a priority: Before you can begin to help your loved one, you need to have a healthy state of mind. This may seem difficult in the midst of a crisis when feelings of disappointment, anger and frustration can be consuming. Work to manage these difficult emotions through therapeutic activities, such as going for a run, meditating, or attending a support group. Making efforts to strengthen your own mental and physical health during this vulnerable time will allow you to be more patient, rational, and understanding around your loved one.

In-the-moment support, as well as short-term counseling sessions, are available through SupportLinc, for you and eligible family members. Counseling can be an excellent way for you to talk openly, work through issues, and receive resources and guidance in a confidential setting. Call 1-888-881-5462 for additional information – assistance is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at no cost to you.

Source: https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html

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