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How to Help an Opiate Addict

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Help for Opiate Addicts

Opiates are some of the most abused drugs in America, with prescription opiates accounting for up to 5.1 million cases of addiction.

Around 210 million doses of opiates, including morphine, OxyContin, and Vicodin, were prescribed in the U.S. in 2011, so it’s not surprising that the problem is extensive.

Opiates are any drugs that are derived from the opium poppy. Effectively, all opiates affect the body in the same way. Opiates are prescribed for treating moderate-to-severe pain, such as post-operative pain, back pain, etc. They can also produce euphoria, which makes them potentially addictive if they’re used over longer periods of time. Opiate overdoses accounted for more deaths in 2014 than car accidents (Rudd, 2016). Consequently, they should be prescribed sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.

Approaching a Loved One About Opiate Addiction

Common losses that make an addicted person see the need for treatment include the destruction of important relationships (with spouses or children, for example), significant health problems, financial devastation, and loss of freedom (e.g. going to jail). As you talk to your loved one, you can empathetically and non-judgmentally bring up some of the major losses you’ve seen them endure due to their substance use. Avoid blaming your loved one for these losses and instead place your focus on your concern for them and the need for treatment.

You can also talk about what you and others who love them have lost during their addiction and lay out clear boundaries you expect them to respect from this point forward. Express that you’re here for them and that you’re on your side, but make it clear that you won’t be enabling their drug or alcohol abuse anymore, if you have been.

It’s very likely that your loved one will be angry and defensive and may blame their problems on any number of other factors besides their substance use. For example, if their using led to them losing their job, they might say their bad boss is to blame. You can prepare for this by having clear examples of ways their drug use led to adverse consequences. If it helps, you can bring notes so that you don’t find yourself getting into a heated argument or engaging in emotional pleas that are less likely to work than a rational and empathetic conversation.

Remember, your loved one may not respond with an enthusiastic “yes” to addiction treatment right away, and they may come away from the conversation visibly angry. However, they may process what you said and the support that you expressed over days, weeks, or months and come to you at a later point asking for help. You can also come back to them at another point (give it time—don’t nag) and ask again if they’d be willing to consider getting into treatment.

Should I Hold an Intervention?

There are certain methods you can use to help your loved one decide to pursue addiction treatment. The first and most well-known is an intervention. If you take this approach, it’s important to plan the intervention well and only include those who can offer loving support and concern for the addicted individual. Avoid including people who cannot contain their judgment or temper their emotions. Consider also that a large group of people approaching your loved one can intimidate them and put them on the defense, so you may be better off holding a one-on-one conversation where they may be more willing to open up to you.

If you need, you can enlist the help of an interventionist who can take the reigns in the planning and implementation of the meeting. They can also help you to work out some of the details prior to sitting down with your loved one, such as where they’ll go to rehab, how much it will cost, health insurance coverage, and more. Your loved one may have many obstacles to cite as to why it’s not possible to go to rehab, but you can help overcome these by working details out ahead of time.

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Another method that has shown success in getting those who need help to accept treatment is Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). This therapy type is intended for those closest to the addicted individual and teaches positive communication and other tips for managing relationships and encouraging treatment.

NOTE: If your loved one has been in rehab for opiate addiction and relapsed, continue to assure them that you will support them through additional recovery efforts. Many people relapse several times before successfully getting sober. You can help your loved one go back to treatment by reassuring them that there are many reasons a treatment program may not have worked the first time and suggesting that they might benefit from a different approach.

Opiate Addiction Treatment

Opiate addiction treatment follows a fairly standard regimen, but the specifics depend on the particular drugs being used and the amount of drugs you’ve been abusing, as well as your health and addiction history. During detox, you may be switched to an alternative opioid like methadone or buprenorphine; alternatively, you might simply be weaned off opiates altogether.

Before beginning the process of detoxification and treatment, a medical professional will likely create an individualized treatment plan for you. This plan may be changed continually to make sure it is meeting your needs.

Medically assisted detoxification is helpful in achieving long-term sobriety from opiates. Withdrawal from opiates can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, distressing enough to trigger relapse. Supervised detox provides supportive care to manage the withdrawal syndrome and a sober environment in which to focus on recovery.

In treatment, doctors may prescribe you treatment medications to help prevent relapse. The following medications can play an important role in treating opiate addiction:

  • Methadone: Methadone is long-acting synthetic opioid agonist. It reduces cravings and alleviates symptoms of withdrawal in order to prevent relapse.
  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a synthetic opioid medication that works as a partial agonist at opioid receptors, partially activating opioid receptors to produce a safe level of opioid effects. The drug has a ceiling, meaning effects only reach a certain point. This discourages abuse of the drug for a “high.”
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is a synthetic opioid antagonist, meaning it blocks opioid receptors in the brain. This drug works to prevent opioid abuse by blocking the euphoric effects of opioid use.

Understand that detoxification alone is rarely enough to prevent relapse. The most successful treatments combine medication and behavioral therapy to ensure that you succeed in your recovery. During therapy, you’ll discuss and uncover the reasons behind your addiction and be taught methods to reduce the risk of resuming drug use. You’ll also be encouraged to build up a supportive network outside the center.

Finally, you’ll go through the recovery stage, but you won’t be on your own. Your family can help you through this difficult stage, or you can use the support networks you’ve built up while recovering. These networks help to prevent you from relapsing.

To see if your insurance may cover treatment for opiate addiction, use the free and confidential form below.

Addiction Treatment Professionals Are a Vital Part of Recovery

What’s better for opiate addiction recovery: a hospital or an addiction treatment center? Despite the incredible medical care that a hospital can provide, opiate users who were treated at formal treatment centers had significantly lower rates of death, according to a 2017 study. Identifying addiction and receiving treatment that not only addresses the medical needs, but also the long-term psychological needs of those addicted to opiates, is an important aspect of recovery.

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Opioid Abusers at Higher Death Risk When Addiction Specialists Not Part of Care. Medline Plus.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Because opiates cause sedative and euphoric effects, they can be addictive to users, even when taken as prescribed. Many users end up taking higher doses than prescribed and continually increasing their doses as their bodies become tolerant to the effects they produce.

Once opiate use has ceased, withdrawal symptoms kick in. Opiate withdrawal involves very unpleasant flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • Cramping.
  • Nausea.
  • Fever.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sweating.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Cravings.

What Are the Signs of Opioid Addiction?

The main symptom of opiate abuse and addiction is that you keep taking the drug no matter what, even despite negative consequences impacting your health, your family, or your work obligations.

While it may be sensible to take a drug after surgery, if it’s several months after the surgery and you keep on refilling your prescription, you may need to talk to someone about a possible problem with your opioid use.

Am I Addicted to Opiates?

Having a prescription for an opiate prescription medication does not guarantee the safety of that medication. You can still become addicted to it, especially if you do not take it exactly as directed.

Signs that you might have a problem with opiate addiction include the following:

  • Taking opioid drugs well after you medically need to and being afraid of running out.
  • Taking opioid drugs for their euphoric high.
  • Obtaining supplies from friends, family members, or even from dealers.
  • Stealing drugs or money to buy drugs.

Find Opioid Addiction Treatment Programs

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, help is available and recovery is possible. Treatment can start anyone battling a substance use problem on the path to a happier and healthier life. Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S., and many offer specialized treatment that can cater to individual needs. You can use SAMHSA’s Behavioral Services Locator to search for rehab centers. Many state government websites will also provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’ Once your state website is located, substance use resources shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should provide further phone contacts for your assistance.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted rehab facilities across the country. For helpful advice, information, and admissions, please contact AAC free at .

Recommended Opioid Rehab-Related Articles

How to Help Someone With Alcohol or Illicit Drug Addiction

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