My Loved One Is Using Drugs
One of the worst discoveries a family member can make is that their child, sibling, spouse, parent has been using drugs. If you fall in the category of family member, you are likely feeling experiencing the full gamut of emotions and are wondering what to do next. There are some important things to understand about your loved one.
- If their drug use has been present for a while, they may fit the diagnosis of addiction. The DSM-5, which is the diagnostic manual used by clinicians. This manual specifies the criterion that must be met for someone to be diagnosed with a dependence disorder.
- Your loved one is not using to be willful or rebellious if they are addicted to a substance. They have what is recognized as a brain disorder.
- Your loved one cannot just “stop” using the substance at will. Addiction is a very powerful disease that influences mind, body and spirit.
- Once your loved one becomes clean and sober, it will take time for your family life to settle down because the healing process will need to include healing for the family.
You may ask “How do I know if my loved one is addicted and how can I get them to stop?”
This is a question that every family wants the answer to right away! Unfortunately the solution to the problem is not that simple. If it were simple then there would likely be much fewer addicts in our county than there are.
“Well my father was an alcoholic and just stopped! Why can’t my son/daughter/sister/parent just stop?” If Dad was able to stop on his own and never drink again then he is an exception.
Many family members argue, cajole, nag, plead with tears, restrict access to money and transportation, lecture and give advice, but end up angry, anxious, afraid and generally worn out from trying to convince their loved one to stop using drugs or even to get professional help. In some cases family members will remember some episode of Intervention where they saw family members getting their loved one to go to a treatment facility with the help of a professional interventionist, and may even try an intervention of their own. What can happen in such cases is that the loved one may stay in treatment for a few days and then walk out for one reason or another.
“Well, if I can’t get my loved one to accept treatment, then what do I do”?
First of all, family members can get help and support for themselves through such support groups as Alanon, Naranon, Celebrate Recovery (a faith based program) among others. Alanon is a sister organization to Alcoholic Anonymous and Naranon is partnered with Narcotics Anonymous. If the family has a religious affiliation then support may be found within a religious support system.
Secondly, refrain from paying bills for your loved one, from giving them rides to get alcohol or other drugs, from bailing them out of jail on demand, or otherwise doing for them those things they need to be responsible for. Calling a treatment facility to set up an appointment for an adult loved one will be met with a response that the adult loved one needs to call for themselves. If the loved one is in the legal system, then they may be required to attend treatment. Such an external motivator can at least get the loved one through the door of the treatment program.