Opioid dependency is a global crisis, but families can prevent it from hitting home.
Fast becoming a global phenomenon, the North American opioid epidemic has taken an unprecedented toll on users and their loved ones. Families are finding themselves at the forefront of preventing opioid abuse, since understanding the risks and proper use of these prescriptions often starts at home.
Today, approximately 3.3 million Americans remain addicted to opioids and are highly vulnerable to serious long-term health complications—or worse. Nearly 50,000 people lost their lives to overdoses in the country in 2016 and almost the same number per capita died in Canada.
It is often through the vigilance of concerned parents that potential problems with opioids are first identified. Care providers acknowledge that the initial call to a treatment centre typically comes from a family member. The Edge recognises this support as essential to helping people enter rehabilitation, complete treatment and maintain sobriety. That’s why we have created a unique family programme at our sister facility, The Cabin Chiang Mai, to help bring loved ones into the recovery process.
Prevention Starts in the Medicine Cabinet
While mainstream drug education and awareness efforts have largely focused on illegal ‘street drugs’ such as methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin, many opioids are available legally through prescription. This can create a false sense of security, particularly for those who have obtained them from a doctor for a specific purpose.
Families can protect their loved ones from opioid abuse by having conversations about the dangers of prescription painkillers in the same manner they would in discussing illicit street drugs. This includes understanding how physical dependency develops and can lead to addiction. When faced with a situation in which opioids may be prescribed to you or a family member, talk with your doctor to determine if there are any alternatives for pain management.
If opioids are medically required, it is important to immediately and safely dispose of any unused medication. Studies have revealed that 53% of opioid users first accessed opioids via family, friends, or their own medicine cabinets—not through a doctor’s prescription.
Keeping Watch at Home
Given the pervasiveness of opioids today, it is critical for all families to be aware of the signs of opioid abuse and addiction, even when opioids are not known to be in the house. These signs can include:
- Increased drowsiness, such as nodding off during the day
- Slowed breathing
- Constricted pupils
- Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities
- Poor personal hygiene
- Elated or rapidly changing moods
- Withdrawal symptoms, such as increased pain or flu-like symptoms
Being able to identify signs of abuse and addiction allows families to determine appropriate action to help a family member seek treatment and get on the path to recovery.
Walking Together Down the Path to Recovery
After recognising signs of opioid abuse or addiction in a loved one, it is important to act immediately to help them seek treatment, as users may be in denial about how serious their dependency is. Often this begins with an honest conversation about the drug use and how it is impacting the family.
The family will also need to take an active role in treatment, helping to identify an appropriate programme, and then engaging with it as is recommended by staff, including by attending family counselling sessions.
Following the completion of a treatment program, families also need to be active in facilitating aftercare, ensuring that loved ones in recovery continue to access the resources they need to successfully move past their addiction. For people suffering from pain, additional help may be needed in everyday activities, such as cleaning the house, running errands, or cooking, in order to help them both manage their pain and prevent relapses.
Making the transition from addiction to recovery is a long-term process. The family network is absolutely critical in providing a strong and stable system of support. This is necessary for people with opioid dependencies to be able to confront and beat their addictions and maintain a healthy life.
Finding Help at The Edge
Opioid abuse is extremely serious, but there is both help and hope for loved ones dealing with addiction. At The Edge, our specialised, inpatient programmes are tailored to the needs of young men struggling with a range of substance and mental health issues, including opioid dependency.
Because opioid addiction involves a combination of both physical and psychological factors, The Edge engages participants in unique programming that combines one-on-one and group therapy sessions, intensive athletic training and outdoor expeditions. This approach is designed to treat all aspects of the addiction and the individual, and create healthy habits that support long-term recovery.
The Edge is located in the mountains of northern Thailand, and offers safe, world-class facilities for young men to begin rebuilding their lives away from triggers and temptations. Professional medical staff are always just steps away to help participants through their treatment, regaining strength and confidence as they recover.
Call us today to find out how The Edge can work with your family to help your son get the help he needs and the future he deserves.