Our Top 10 Tips for Parents (or Loved Ones) of Someone Battling Addiction

10 Tips Image 13Embrace Early Screening & Early Intervention

As a parent or family member, you may recognize early signals of addiction in your loved one. It’s never too early to discuss the dangers of addiction with them or to have them pre-screened for early detection. This may help identify risk factors that will help prevent further and future damage to both to their health and livelihood. An early screening and intervention will help clarify if their use and profile is suitable for treatment. Treatment is a significant financial and physical commitment so you want to be sure they really meet the clinical standards for treatment. Much can be done in the early stages of addiction with the help of therapy, intensive and outpatient care. Visit a local outpatient treatment center to have them evaluated if they’re willing.

Don’t Worry About Timing

You may never know exactly when the right time is to help your loved one get help. Studies show that even if the addict hasn’t “hit rock bottom”, they may still reach long-term recovery if their addiction treatment enables them to understand a new, safe and successful way of living. And as we all know, so many families have experienced that waiting too long to intervene can cause them their loved one’s life.10 Tips Image 2

The Importance of a Professional Intervention

In the grips of addiction, it is often difficult for the addict to accept they have a problem and agree to long-term treatment, let alone see the damage they are doing to themselves and their family. Staging and intervention may be the best opportunity to allow them to understand the depth of their problem and agree to get help. Unfortunately, the least effective members of an intervention tend to be close family. So choosing a professional interventionist, or escorting a loved one to an outpatient center for an evaluation is often the best opportunity to see them into a treatment setting. Help from an outside interventionist, someone who understands their pain and their journey, who also has an objective viewpoint, is the best voice of reason for an addict. The interventionist will also help you stage the intervention, develop a strategy and lead the conversation for the most successful opportunity at getting your loved one the treatment they need.

10 Tips Image 4Recognize That Self-Detoxing Can Be Deadly

If your loved one has decided to begin the process of quitting their drug of choice, even if they’re not ready for treatment, it’s critical that they detox in a medically supervised detoxification center. Most people don’t realize that detoxing can lead to death. For those who abuse alcohol and drugs like opioids (painkillers) or benzodiazepine (anti-anxiety medication), a tolerance has been built that causes the body severe, adverse reactions when withheld from the system.  Alcohol is notoriously linked to life-threatening withdrawal reactions, such as seizures, which may cause fatal head trauma, heart attack, stroke, lethal dehydration, or asphyxiation. A medically supervised detox will help your loved one detox in comfort and with dignity, and helps prevent the propensity for relapse during this critical phase. Withdrawal symptoms may begin hours or days after the last use, and can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending on the type of drug and level of use. During this withdrawal phase, they are at the highest risk of relapse AND life-threatening symptoms that require 24/7 monitoring.

10 Tips Image 6Invest In Recovery, Not Relapse

The cost of treatment can seem steep, but when compared with long-term use, the cost of treatment is just a fraction of the price of continued drug use. However, choosing an “inexpensive” institution, or cutting down the time a loved one stays at a facility due to the cost, may lead to an early relapse. Staying 90+ days in a treatment facility will offer them the greatest opportunity to reach long-term recovery. Enlist them in an aftercare program following treatment, like a transitional living facility or three-quarter home. This is an excellent way to help them reach the long-term goal, while being supported and encouraged by a close-knit community of other recovering individuals. It will be an investment, but is far less costly than continued relapse or ongoing drug and alcohol use.

Start with 30-Days

You may not be able to convince your loved one to stay in treatment for 3 or more months, but you will likely be able to convince them to commit to 30-days. Most facilities find that the desire to continue treatment will manifest within those first 30-days, and you want your loved one to be able to continue with their treatment plan where they’re at if they do choose to stay, so make sure the facility can accommodate up to 90 days of treatment.

Addiction treatmentChoose A Specialization

Choose a treatment facility that offers specialize programming that caters to your loved ones needs, such as their drug of choice, a co-occurring disorder like PTSD, an eating disorder, social anxiety or a mental disorder, to name a few. This will help them beat their addiction along with the other psychological ailments that have contributed to their substance abuse. Since most people who suffer from addiction also suffer from another co-occurring disorder, choosing treatment at a facility that specializes in their particular ailment(s) will springboard their growth versus being left untreated.

Embrace A Geographical Change

Map of USA with state borders, 3d render

It is important to understand what can and what cannot be achieved with a geographical change for your loved one who is suffering with addiction. May people benefit greatly from a geographic change if they commit to receiving long-term, monitored care at a reputable treatment facility that’s located in a thriving recovery community. There are several located throughout the country, like Florida, Texas and Southern California.  They may also benefit greatly from being separated from family members and friends that have become “triggers” for their use. However, if your loved makes a geographic change simply to leave the environment which has “made them use” without seeking help, it is highly unlikely that their addiction will cease, and they will find themselves in the same addictive pattern wherever they move to. Geographic changes are encouraged when it comes to receiving treatment and/or working a fully committed program of recovery.

Honor New Boundaries

While therapy will be helpful to rebuild the family as a result of your loved one’s addiction, depending on their progress, it may not occur during treatment. If your loved one welcomes family sessions during their stay, take advantage of the clinical services offered at their institution. If this is an important factor, make sure the treatment center offers family programming and therapy. But don’t be discouraged if your loved one opts out. The first few months, and sometimes the first few years is often a time for them to fully understand their journey, and they will likely grow to a point in their recovery where they will be able to initiate therapeutic healing for all.

AddictionEliminate Enabling

Many loved ones feel responsible for helping the addict, especially as it relates to emotional and financial support. It can be impossible to cut them off as a supportive role. While this all comes from a place of love and concern, it’s critical to understand that as long as you are in some way enabling them to continue “running the show”, they are unlikely to feel the pressure to change in the long-term. Shutting off any access to support of their habits will force them to change their ways. The addict must recognize the breadth of their choices and arrive at a place where they have no choice but to initiate positive, responsible changes. As a loved one, you are a critical piece in enabling this change to happen. Also, don’t mistake your generosity for help. Enabling them to continue using is hurting them and may even lead to death. Follow this rule before, during and after treatment to offer the greatest opportunity for your loved one’s long-term success.

Addiction treatment

Someone Else’s Addiction Is Not Your Fault

It’s natural to feel hurt or even responsible for a loved one’s addiction, but it’s important to recognize these are naturally occurring emotions that stem from love. In most cases, for those who have “done all the right things,” they’re addiction has nothing to do with how you have treated them. Holding onto fear and anger for too long can make rebuilding family trust difficult. Support groups like Al-Anon help family and friends accept these feelings while learning how to support an addicted loved one — and themselves — during and following the rehabilitation process. Visit http://www.al-anon.org/ to find a local gathering near you.

Women & Modern-Day Addiction

Women and Addiction

As the stigma of addiction begins to lessen, more studies and stories are being released explaining the reasons for addiction in our culture. In specific, women have unique realities – both physiologically and societally – that differ from men, which researchers have been identifying lead them to addiction.

Overall, studies still show that more men in the United States are dependent on drugs and alcohol than women, about 20% of men suffering versus between 7% and 12% of women.

However, the dangers of addiction have been shown to be significantly greater for women primarily because of their physiology. Women weigh less than men, which means that alcohol affects them quicker and with more severity. In addition, women typically store more fatty tissue, where alcohol is retained while it is filtered from the system. Finally, two enzymes which help to break down alcohol – alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase – are lower in women, leading to more absorption into the bloodstream. Hormonal differences in women are also highly influential on the potential negative side effects of substance abuse. Hormones have also been shown to affect relapse rates in women as it affects their emotions, urges and will-power during abstinence.

Experts have concluded that women develop dependency and physical deterioration much more rapidly than men do too, leading to earlier onset problems like brain atrophy and liver damage. In addition, a theory known as “telescoping” identifies that women appear to more rapidly accelerate from the first drink or drug to full-blown dependency than their male counterparts.

Women also are more susceptible to emotional or physical trauma, which if experienced, makes them highly susceptible to substance abuse and addiction as a means to self-medicate. Some of these experiences include violence, sexual abuse, trauma and low self-esteem, just to name a few. In a recent study, 74% percent of addicted women reported sexual abuse and 52% percent reported physical abuse in their personal histories. Addiction is similarly apparent in women suffering with a co-occurring disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or bipolar disorder.

But increasingly, substance abuse has unquestionably become a mainstream affliction – not just affecting women who are genetically disposed to addiction or those with a history of emotional trauma. Stay-at-home-moms, sorority girls and high-functioning professional women have become the latest wave of sufferers of substance abuse. The number of DUI arrests of women rose 30% between 1998 and 2007, helping support the claim that with a rise in equality, expectation and responsibility, modern-day -women are, like never before, increasingly more at risk of addiction.

Some Societal Reasons for Increased Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Women are being introduced early-on in high school and college to prescription stimulants and painkillers, as well as alcohol and illicit drugs such as marijuana to alter their mood, paving the way for a future of potential dependence.

Modern day medicines like Adderall and Ritalin, which are commonly prescribed as ADHD medication, are readily available and have become widely acceptable stimulants for students and professionals alike. Glamour magazine reported just this month (September 2015) that “Women using them are trying to sculpt their best selves—the smartest, the most productive, the thinnest, the most social.”

Needless to say, adolescent women are binge drinking earlier and with more frequency than ever. However, studies have shown a dramatic increase of professional women binge drinking on a regular basis. In fact, one study showed that professional women are 19% more likely to binge drink at home than non-professional women. Overall, it is believed twice as many professional women binge drink regularly than the general female population. Some of this is believed to be due in part to rising responsibility and stress in the workplace, in addition to opportunities to indulge with co-workers after hours.

And on the home front, it is not uncommon for mothers to fall into the grips of loneliness, monotony, boredom, depression and a loss of self. Many turn to alcohol or prescription drugs to quell their emotions, or stimulants to increase productivity. As these behaviors become more accepted, especially when shared between similar social groups, it can easily lead to a loss of control and dependency.

And the false safety of prescription drugs are also contributing to an alarming rise in overdoses and hospital visits. Chemically speaking, Adderall and Ritalin are practically identical to cocaine. When mixed with alcohol, this combination can easily result in death. “Every day, nearly 400 people visit the emergency room after mixing drugs and alcohol”, Glamour reports. Many women are not aware of the uncontrollable effects of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol, and unwittingly self-administer combinations that can cause blackouts and overdose.

Rehabilitation Programs for Women

Most professionals agree that both women and men stand the same likelihood of rehabilitation regardless of undergoing a gender-specific program. Comfortability should first be addressed, and if a gender-specific program feels safer for the individual, it would certainly benefit them to enroll in a program that caters to females only.

However, the most important factor when reviewing a facility is understanding the therapy programs available, which can include specializations such as trauma, eating disorders, psychiatric programs, PTSD and family services, to name a few. Facilities that offer specialized therapy for co-occurring disorders, together with addiction rehabilitation, offer the best opportunity for sustained recovery.