Looking at a family member or a friend who is struggling to sort out their addiction issues can be challenging to deal with. You may want them to go into a rehab center for treatment, but they have to want to start exploring treatment options before things can really get moving in a positive direction. You need to be serious about the process, and part of that means knowing what you shouldn’t do to get someone with addiction problems into rehab.
Going to the Situation Ill-Informed
Coming directly at someone and accusing them that they are on drugs and need help isn’t likely to lead to much good. First, do you even know what drugs they’re using? Second, do you know why they’re using those drugs?
Depending on how they view their situation, the indications of trouble can be highly varied. Some people coping with addiction develop a dark sense of humor about it, and they can often be very direct in telling others about what they use and what it’s like for them. There are also high-functioning addicts who go to great lengths to avoid the implication they’re even using drugs or alcohol, let along that they need to enter a treatment program.
The biggest thing you need to do is reserve judgment. This is about their health and not your feelings. Take the time to gather information. Addiction can be unexpected in it’s in many forms, such as:
- Construction workers who develop back problems and end up hooked on opiates after getting prescriptions
- Students in high schools and universities who use Adderall to plow through long papers and tough tests
- Shy people who engage in social drinking to make friends
Each of those individuals has very different reasons for why they’ve ended up in the circumstances they’re in. Try to listen and learn. Don’t confront a person about addiction until you’re sure they have one and you have some idea of what it actually is.
Lacking Preparedness for an Overdose
Especially with the current wave of opiate-related deaths, it’s essential for anyone who’s worried that someone they care about might end up overdosing to have a supply of an antidote on hand. Products like Narcan and Naloxone can be critical in the minutes following an overdose. If you want someone to get better, the first thing you may end up doing is making sure that they’re still alive.
Not Knowing the Signs
There are a lot of social stereotypes about what a drug addict looks like. Particularly when dealing with a high-functioning addict, you might be surprised at how subtle the signs are. Someone might start losing weight, for example, and that can seem like a positive thing in some social circles. A person using amphetamines might look like they are getting in shape, but eventually, that tends to give way to signs of malnutrition and overall physical decline as they just keep getting skinnier.
Signs worth looking out for include:
- Style changes, particularly wearing long-sleeved clothes or sunglasses at inappropriate times of the year
- Sudden changes in the group of friends they hang out with
- Failures to handle commitments, such as going to school, picking up the kids or paying their bills
- Prolonged periods of sleeplessness
- Unexplained lethargy
What can get tricky is sorting out the signal from the noise. For example, a college student who’s abusing medication to treat attention deficits may be able to explain away their relentless sleeplessness during the semester. If they come home over Thanksgiving weekend and don’t crash after a long stretch of sleeplessness, though, you have to begin wondering what’s driving that.
Failing to Talk With Others
First, always bear in mind that it’s important to think for a while about the allies you recruit in convincing someone to get into rehab. Before you ask anyone who knows what might be going on any questions, ask yourself how much that person is likely to positively contribute. Some people will immediately turn questions about addiction into drama, so focus on only talking to people you know will be level-headed.
With that said, it’s important to compare notes. If you’re dating someone but you live separately, you might not get the full picture of what’s going on. If they have roommates, try to talk to them and learn what they think of the situation. You may be surprised to find that they’ve been sitting there with one half of the addiction puzzle while you’ve had the other half. Put the pieces together, and you might suddenly see what’s really going on.
Not Understanding Addiction
One issue that people regularly fail to fully comprehend is that drug and alcohol use, especially stretched out over months or years, can radically alter a person’s brain and body chemistry. Opiate users may develop brain disorders similar to Alzheimer’s dementia, alcoholics can develop a form of psychosis, and cocaine can completely rewire reward pathways.
To put a point on it, you may simply not be discussing addiction with the person you once knew. For example, scans of drug users’ brains in one clinical study literally lit up in anticipation when they were merely shown photos of drug paraphernalia. When speaking with an addict, you’re speaking with someone who has been utterly changed by the drugs they’re abusing.
You should also keep an eye out for signs of withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the drugs in question, these may include:
The most extreme forms of withdrawal can even give rise to cardiac episodes and respiratory failures. This is especially the case with alcohol and cocaine, which are notoriously painful to kick and can present major health risks during withdrawal.
One of the main reasons you want to watch for withdrawal symptoms is that they’re often the best indicators someone has developed a full-on chemical dependency on a drug. It’s a good idea to talk with a doctor about what you’re seeing to get clear on the concerns. If possible, try to line up a doctor’s visit for your loved one so that they can hear it straight from the source.
Being Confrontational, Threatening or Dramatic
It’s often said that desperate times call for desperate measures. Whoever first said that had no experience addressing addiction problems.
The resort to desperate claims, especially when made directly to the person you’re worried about, can lead the person to withdraw socially from interacting with the very people they need to help them. More than anything, regardless of how well or poorly your efforts to get them into rehab are going, that person needs a support system around them. Excessively confrontational behavior can lead to them completely cutting off family members, friends and co-workers who they’ll need when the time comes that they want to get treatment.
Avoid overly dramatic calls for action, too. These include:
- “Do you want to end up dead?”
- “You’re going to wind up in jail.”
- “Do you even see what you’re doing to me?”
- “You love your kids, don’t you?”
- “Why can’t you just stop?”
Stay focused on the facts and not the feelings. Making discussions of addiction and treatment dramatic can create an opening for conflict. Especially when dealing with personalities that are wired to blow situations up, this can give them precisely the opening they need to wreck an intervention rather than going to rehab. It also can quickly lead to recriminations, and the conversation can rapidly go off the rails.
Enabling Their Behavior
It’s tempting to think that someone in trouble just needs a small amount of help. Avoid temptations like:
- Handing them money
- Providing rides to places where you believe drug activity is occurring
- Helping them avoid law enforcement officials, such as cops and parole officers
Some types of help may be necessary to protect others. For example, grandparents who watch their grandchildren a lot while their son or daughter is doing drugs are at least mitigating the risks faced by the young ones. The essential questions to ask when providing help are:
- Who benefits from this?
- Who am I protecting?
If the answer appears to only be the addict, then you need to be serious about not helping them in ways that enable their conduct.
Not Understanding the Excuses
The world we live in has changed dramatically in the wake of the opiate epidemic, which means that, quite frankly, excuses that once had some credibility aren’t as valid as they once were. You’ll often hear people with addiction problems insist that they:
- Need to get through holidays before going into treatment
- Could be fired from their job if anyone finds out
- Will end up not graduating from school if they go into rehab
- Are just having fun on the weekends
- Will be put in jail
Simply put, society has changed. The legal systems in nearly all states now have diversion programs set up to ensure that nonviolent drug offenders who haven’t been directly involved in trafficking activities may be able to exit treatment with clean records. This is with the understanding that they will voluntarily enter a program and make an effort in good faith to follow it. It’s understood that people fall off the wagon, and the court system takes that into account when dealing with people who have difficult addiction problems.
The changing attitude in America extends to all walks of life. For example, hospitals now almost universally have programs in place that allow employees with addiction concerns to voluntarily seek treatment without recriminations for drug-related activities, such as stealing medication. Most high schools and universities will go to great lengths to accommodate students who need to put academics on pause so that they can get treatment.
In telling someone about the new progressive attitude of society in dealing with addiction, try to be as calm and supportive as possible, but explain that things don’t have to be dire for people going into rehab. It’s a chance to get things pointed in the right direction.
Not Knowing About Available Programs/h3>
There are a lot of facilities in the United States offering treatment programs. Even if the organization handling the work is excellent at the job, they may not be the right one to deal with your loved one. You may need to ask the following questions:
- How do they cope with people who use a mixture of drugs?
- Are they prepared to work with patients who have long-term pain management issues?
- What are the options for working with someone who is on medications to treat depression or anxiety?
- Is there a counseling agency located near you that has an established professional relationship with their rehab center?
- Are they able to work with special needs, such as physical or mental disabilities and age-related issues?
- Do they have trained nurses and doctors on-site to handle cases that require the use of crash carts?
With a better idea of the available treatment options, you can begin to put together a plan to help the person you care about. When the time comes that they want help, you will also need to plan for:
- Getting them to and from the facility
- Checking up on them periodically while they’re in treatment
- Making arrangements for post-rehab care and counseling
Once you have everything lined up, the important thing to remember is to provide steady support. Someone may not be prepared right now to visit a treatment facility, but you can let them know that you’ll be there for them when they want to. You need to be supportive, and that includes understanding that even once they’re out, they will still have addiction issues. With time, patience and support, it is possible for them to get better.