Drug addiction is a destructive situation that causes pain and heartache for all involved.
For those with drug addictions, there is a high risk of health problems. Often they lose all sense of normalcy as their addiction spirals. Holding down a regular job becomes impossible and eventually, it will lead to the breakdown of the family and utter helplessness.
For those living with a person with a drug addiction, the pain is equally real. They must watch on—often seemingly unable to affect the situation—as their loved one descends into a world they struggle to understand for reasons they often cannot properly articulate. There are no winners with drug addiction – but it is not a completely helpless situation either.
People with drug addictions need help and support to break the cycle. As a family member, you may be able to facilitate recovery. It is estimated that 22 million Americans are battling some form of drug addiction, and whilst there are no stats to show how many come through the other side, plenty do. They achieve this through a mix of professional support and, more importantly, the help of family and friends.
As with alcohol addiction, it is important to open lines of communication early and build trust, not resentment; a good start will give you a sound platform to move forward. Blazing arguments and finger-pointing will not help. Try to be sympathetic to their plight if you can, as drug addiction is an illness, something that the person is often unable to control on their own.
Drug addiction can have many root causes. Without being able to address those causes, a family member stands little chance of dealing with the addiction. Even beating a physical addiction to a drug may not be enough to beat the psychological addiction if the root causes are not addressed.
That is why you should not approach a drug addiction in the family alone. Having proper support from the beginning is vital, starting with a social worker. Ensure that any professional social worker you get to help the family is capable of dealing with your situation. Social workers are highly trained and fully equipped to deal with complex and developing cases. They are able to handle addictions and their wider, ongoing impact.
Those who have a bachelors in social work as part of their background will be trained under the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) competencies, a key aspect of which is substance abuse. A trained professional carrying the right qualifications should be able to engage, interact, and intervene with not only the family but also individuals, groups, and a wider community if necessary.
Make sure any help you get includes support for you and the broader family circle too. You will need ongoing guidance as the immediate support network, as you too will suffer at times. There will inevitably be problems on your journey—and there will likely be moments you want to take a step back—but it is important to remain focused and not give up. If you, as the support network, throw in the towel, it will be easy for the person with a drug addiction to relapse and go right back to the start as well.
Finally, there is treatment. Depending on the level of addiction, this may mean going away, or it may be dealt with at home. Throughout this process, you must keep the trust and communication open. Remember, people with a Substance Use Disorder may be evasive or look to divert attention away from themselves. It will be hard going at times. Stay focused and ensure that you are providing a haven, but one with boundaries within the remit of their treatment.
Drug addiction is destructive, divisive, and demoralizing. It can tear families apart and destroy lives, but that is not the only outcome. With professional support and the right focus, you can help your loved ones recover and get their lives back on track.