St. Luke's Hospital


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Aside from court-ordered rehabilitation, you can't force someone into treatment, even if it's desperately needed. And even court-ordered rehab may not help in the long-term. If an addict isn't ready to quit, he or she can return to the same cycle. In the meantime, however, you can help both yourself and the addicted person. Here are some of the most effective ways to cope when a loved one is in the grips of this frustrating disease. Be proactive. You never know when your loved one will say she's ready to enter treatment. In case it's today, have an action plan that's ready to execute on a moment's notice. You can even enlist her help by saying, for example, "If you were to seek treatment, where would you like to go?" Ask your loved one to give you permission to work with her insurance company to see which in-patient detox and residential treatment options might be covered, and what the procedure is for getting professional help. If she doesn't have health insurance, find out what her treatment options are by contacting the U.S. government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357. Provide a listening ear. Until an addict wants to get well, "give them an opportunity to tell their side of the story about how they got into this situation," Gary says. What you hear may sound like excuses, such as "I'm going through a divorce, and I've been under a lot of stress." Even if you don't agree, listen without judgment. Your goal is to build trust so your loved one will come to you when he or she decides to start the treatment process. "Then, strike when the iron is hot," says Gary, and kick the treatment plan into gear. Provide success stories. People addicted to opioids can become isolated. "The disorder wants to live in the dark, away from exposure," says Dr. Neeraj Gandotra, an instructor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and clinical associate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. But seeing examples of people who've made it out can be motivating. Shed light on the disorder by sending your loved one links to recovery success stories, or arrange to have her meet with people she personally knows in recovery who have gotten back their career, their marriage or their family. "When users see those stories again and again, it gives them hope," Gary says. Addiction is a risk for anyone who takes opioids repeatedly over a period of time. At first, an opioid user feels euphoric because the drug triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. In time, though, the body doesn't produce as many endorphins in response to the drug. Without taking more and more of the opioid, the user can experience withdrawal and other negative symptoms. Opioid addiction is tough to break free of because opioids can be particularly stealthy at changing the brain's structure to reduce a person's ability to control his or her substance use. Don't be a rescuer. Although opioid addiction can be a downward spiral, users don't have to hit rock bottom to be ready for treatment. "But they do have to get a scare," Dr. Gandotra says. "Most of the time, it's a run-in with law enforcement, some sort of shame that has manifested as a result of their use." Whatever the incident, don't bail out the person by, for example, giving him money or letting him stay at your house. Let your loved one suffer the consequences. "When users have gone through a lot, that's when they start making those hard decisions, such as: 'Do I really want to keep being homeless and not having food, or is it time to do something better?'" Gary says. How opioid addiction works Seeing examples of people who've made it out can help motivate an addict to seek treatment. s t l u k e s - s t l . s p i r i t h e a l t h . c o m | W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 | S P I R I T O F W O M E N 7

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