Did you know that two million Americans are dependent on or abusing prescription painkillers? That being said, we need to redefine what an addict looks like today. It could be that businesswoman who appears confident and ambitious or that man who owns the local real estate agency.
Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that painkiller overdoses now account for more than twice the deaths as cocaine and five times as many as heroin overdoses? A 2009 National Survey of Drug Use and Health by Columbia University found that the proportions of Americans addicted to opioids – oxycontin, vicodin, and Demerol tripled from 1991 to 2001.
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Even as the faces of addiction change, so must our understanding of how best to help treat it. Drugs that originate in a doctor’s office or pharmacy makes them no less lethal and when an addict is your spouse, determining the course of action can take an added urgency.
Each case of addiction will have its own complications and nuances, but if you discovered that your spouse is struggling with a prescription drug addiction, you can start helping them by doing the following:
1) Immediately Intervene: Do not assume that you need to let the person hit rock bottom and experience enough consequences to change. Did you also know that 60% have one or more co-occurring mental health issues? The addiction can be what is mostly seen, but it is what is hidden that needs to be addressed immediately too.
2) Play An Active Role: Family members play a very powerful role in persuading substance abusers to submit to treatment. After all, the whole family suffers from the addiction and also can benefit from the treatment of it. Most family members are in positions to help the addict seek treatment or by doing nothing, they enable the continuation of the addiction.
3) Don’t Lose Yourself: Prescription drug addiction symptoms and problems can be so dramatic and visible while pulling other family members to ignore their own needs. It is crucial that each family member not get lost in an attempt to help. They need to focus on their own self-care and set their healthy boundaries.
It’s important to get real professional assistance and to educate the family as much as possible. The reality is if the person gets treatment and they really work the program, they can get better.
There are also professional support groups that can play a critical role in helping family members survive a love one’s addiction. See below:
Al-Anon (al-anon.org): A peer support group with meetings in more than 130 countries to help families primarily affected by alcohol addiction.
Nar-Anon (nar-anon.org): An offshoot of Al-Anon designed to help relatives and friends of addicts.
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Families Anonymous (familiesanonymous.org): A 12-step fellowship program of families of addicts.
Children of Addicts (mdjunction.com/children-of-addicts): An online support group designed to help children discuss and deal with the challenges of an addicted parent.