Discover Recover: The Impact of Opiate Abuse on Family Dynamics

Opioid abuse and misuse has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. Chances are, it’s affected someone you know, perhaps even one of your children (90 percent of all drug addiction starts in teens).

Opioids are a class of drug that includes heroin, fentanyl and pain relievers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, codeine and morphine. Many people who use opioids do so without a legitimate prescription.

Addiction is hard on family and friends. Check with your hospital or healthcare provider to learn about local resources that offer support groups for an addicted person’s loved ones. An opioid addiction may be especially stressful because an overdose can be deadly.

Living With Someone Who Has an Opioid Addiction

If someone you care about is addicted to opioids, here are a few tips for how to support them while still taking care of yourself and your family.

Get over the stigma. Realize that opioid addiction is an epidemic, and it can happen to anyone. Be aware of warning signs, and take action to help a loved one if you suspect they have an addiction.

Know it’s treatable. Despite widespread media coverage of opioid overdoses, most people DO eventually recover from their addiction.

Start with a full psychiatric evaluation. The majority of people addicted to opioids also have an underlying mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or borderline personality disorder. It’s critical to address all underlying mental health problems in order for treatment to be successful, so the first step in treating addiction is a psychiatric evaluation.

Choose a treatment supported by research. Many drug treatment programs are simply not grounded in good scientific data. Research shows that confronta­tional interventions or abstinence-only programs are typically not successful for opioid addiction, and can further damage already strained family relationships.

Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT), which is a set of therapeutic techniques, is a proven, effective treatment for opioid addiction. It emphasizes supporting the addicted person in a loving, respectful way, while holding them accountable for their actions and preventing additional long-term damage (for example, acquiring a criminal record that prevents them from getting a job after recovery). It also focuses on self-care for those who are affected by the addiction. One component of CRAFT is teaching loved ones how to administer naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of opioids and can prevent an overdose if administered in a timely manner.

Tap into existing resources. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other organizations have tons of information and resources online for people with addictions and their families. For example, NIDA has a Family Checkup tool to help families communicate effectively with teens who have a drug problem. The tool even includes how-to videos to demonstrate the techniques.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Simple things like eating healthy, managing stress, being physically active, staying connected to friends and participating in enjoyable activities will help sustain you through these difficult times.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drug most commonly used for pain relief. Popular opioids include:

  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl
  • OxyContin
  • Vicodin
  • Codeine
  • Morphine

Facts About Opioids and Addiction

  • Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing
  • 60% of adults who misuse opioids use these drugs without a prescription
  • Americans consume 80% of the global supply of opioids
  • More than 3,500 people start misusing opioids every day

action items
Educate yourself on the prevalence of the opioid epidemic, and recognize the signs of addiction. Realize that addiction can affect anyone, and that there are local resources that can help the families of those suffering from addiction.

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