Being around someone with an addiction to opioid medications can be a painful and intensely draining process. Seeing someone you care deeply about in such suffering and feeling they are wasting their lives poisoning themselves can be a huge struggle, and it may be easy to feel helpless against someone else's addiction.
However and may not feel like there's anything but, if done with care and compassion, can be deeply rewarding, even lifesaving.
Here are some steps you can take to know how to support someone with opioid addiction, aid direct them towards the help they need.
Learn about the nature of opioid addiction, its effects on bodies and minds, as well as what resources are available for help. Addiction can be a very powerful, all-consuming obsession, so a person will have a very difficult time cutting back or stopping of his or her own power.
This is all the more true with opioid painkillers, which have strong and unpleasant withdrawal effects. Many people find it necessary to undergo the initial stages of recovery in a detox center or other place where they can be protected, supervised and supported.
Some addicts are in denial about the extent and problems of their addiction, but others are aware they have a problem, but feel unable to initiate the action they need to get help. For that reason, having a specific plan to guide someone to seeking help, and knowing what resources are available can allow you to help direct them towards those resources.
Being willing to stay with an addict and be a hopeful presence in his or her life can be a powerful motivation in a decision to seek help, but it can also be harmful if you slip into habits of enabling. Enabling behavior is anything that "helps" an addict avoid the consequences for their actions, like giving money, lying on their behalf, or making excuses for bad behavior.
Actions like this that "protect" can end up encouraging a sense of denial or keep them thinking their addiction is "not that bad." Rather than encourage an addiction, find a way to confront them about it, and guide them towards resources to get help.
It's also important to speak from a place of concern, not judgement. Speaking from a place of anger, condescension, or harsh criticism can activate a sense of defensiveness that can push them away from you.
Speak honestly and kindly about express how you've seen the addiction affect them, and how that affects you. Communicate a sense of love and worry for their safety.
Stay with them
Realize that addiction is an ongoing process, and the person in recovery has a difficult, but rewarding path of working out what it means to have a full life of sobriety. Continue to remain involved, encouraging their involvement in continuing care, therapy, or support groups that work for them.
Opioids flood the brain with an unnatural amount of endorphins that create a sense of pleasure, happiness, and relaxed well-being. One important task of sobriety is discovering ways to feel "normal" levels of happiness, and find ways to enjoy life.
Thus, your continued presence with someone can be a very important part of their recovery.
Even if the person you care about relapses, their supposedly "failed" treatment taught important skills about how to fight addiction. There is no reason for either them or you to give up hope.
Try again, and be open to exploring different treatment plans. Be careful for your own safety, and your own well-being, and be unafraid to set boundaries and ultimatums if you need to.
You can not make someone get sober; recovery is a commitment that each person must make for him or her self. However, your honest confrontation and patient encouragement can significantly help someone make that change for themselves.