Opioids, which are drugs commonly prescribed by doctors to relieve pain, are highly addictive painkillers and dangerous substances. The United States is experiencing a tragic epidemic of drug usage and overdose deaths from opioids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an average of 78 people die every single day from overdoses in the U.S. And the problem with these medical painkillers only seems to be getting worse.
Just last week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy penned a warning letter to 2.3 million healthcare providers urging them to fight the opioid epidemic.
“I am asking for your help to solve an urgent health crisis facing America: the opioid epidemic,” Murthy writes in his letter. “Everywhere I travel, I see communities devastated by opioid overdoses.”
So what can really be done by family members to help painkiller addicts get better?
I researched and spoke with saludmóvil’s™ integrative medicine expert, Dr. Joseph Mosquera, to find out what effective approaches a family member or friend can take at home or seek out in order to help an opioid addict.
Identifying and Eliminating Negative Enabling
The worst thing a loved one can do for a painkiller addict is to continue negative enabling, says Dr. mosquera.
What is negative enabling? Negative enabling is a term that refers to giving an active opiate addict some form of resource that allows the addict to progress in addiction, notes Dr. Jeffrey Foote, Co-founder and Clinical Director at Center for Motivation & Change.
Two common forms of negative enabling opioid addicts are giving them money or a place to live, says Dr. Mosquera. It also includes any form of resource, like a car, that allows an opiate addict to maintain their addictive lifestyle without repercussions.
“ If addicts act badly and nothing happens because a loved one intervenes, the negative behavior is encouraged and has no consequence. Even if what a family member or friend is doing is “nice” it just perpetuates the negative action.” Says Dr. Mosquera.
“It’s important to identify what actions are negative enablers for your loved one, stopping them, and sticking to it.” Believes Dr.Mosquera.
Don’t hide the painkiller problem from other family members and friends
To stop the negative enabling people need to know someone has a dangerous addiction.
Some people feel ashamed talking about something like opiate addiction, but addiction affects families from all walks of life.
Even though there’s a good chance most of the family already knows someone is struggling, Dr. Mosquera says to be sure to inform other family members and friends about the situation.
“It’s important to explain what actions are negatively enabling to the addict.” says Dr. Mosquera.
With more family and friends on board, Dr. Mosquera says it will be increasingly difficult for an opiate addict to support active addiction or have any negative enablers.
“Choose transparency over secrecy”, encourages Dr. Mosquera. “It could save a life.”
Medication options out there for treating opioid addiction
“For an addicted person to just go cold turkey and never use opioids again is mentally and physically difficult,” says Dr.Mosquera. “Luckily, we now have medications available that can undo the damage, prevent relapse, and help people achieve permanent recovery.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Naltrexone (brand name Vivitrol®), is an antagonist medication widely available in emergency rooms that immediately stops opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. An antagonist medication is a drug that blocks opioids by attaching to the opioid receptors without activating them.
It has become widely available for treating overdosed patients.
Dr. mosquera says to be sure to talk to your healthcare professional about Vivitrol first. “Just taking another medication isn’t going to stop the cycle of addiction.” notes Dr. Mosquera.
Seek out an integrative recovery treatment plan with 12 steps
Dr. Mosquera also suggests an integrative 12-Step approach to treatment that considers the individual on a case by case basis. For example, treatment should take into account an addict’s cultural heritage, current lifestyle, socio economic status, and family dynamic.
“With the patient’s firm commitment to recovery, integrative 12-Step counseling, and a strong support system from family and friends, Vivitrol can be an effective way to treat addiction to opioids.” Dr. Mosquera says.
This suggestion comes from Dr. Mosquera’s 30 years of experience with patients along with years of medical research that substantiates the 12-Step recovery plan’s effectiveness. It is also the only medically-proven method to bring about sustained, quality sobriety.
“You want to find a treatment plan that offers whole-body treatment that fits the individual,” adds Dr. Mosquera.
Not sure what treatment plan out there will work for your loved one?
Dr. Mosquera recommends checking out the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. It is a national provider of addiction treatment services with licensed drug rehabilitation centers in Minnesota, Oregon, California, Florida, Illinois and New York.
Remember, the sooner substance abuse is treated, the better. There is no better time to seek out help than the present.
Still brewing on this? Send comments, questions, and concerns to Elara@saludmovil.com.