Many factors can influence whether your loved one could become addicted to drugs or alcohol such as genetics, early abuse, emotional and physical trauma, or a family history of drug or alcohol use.
Nearly all addicted individuals believe that they can stop using drugs on their own, and most try to stop without treatment. Although some people are successful, many attempts result in failure to achieve long-term abstinence. Contrary to popular belief, quitting is not a matter of willpower or morality. Even if someone genuinely wants to stop using, overcoming addiction is a struggle because long-term drug abuse causes changes in brain function that persist long after a person stops using drugs. These drug-induced changes in brain function can have many consequences, including an inability to control the impulse to use drugs despite adverse consequences – the defining characteristic of addiction.
Withdrawal symptoms and encountering triggers, such as stress from work or family problems, mental illness, medical conditions, and social or environmental cues, are two of the biggest reasons quitting drugs or alcohol is so difficult when quitting “cold turkey.”
Ways to Tell if Your Loved One Has an Addiction
- Trust your gut. When observing a spouse, relative, or friend, look for signs of addiction, such as:
- A need for an increased amount of opioids to relieve pain or get high
- Feeling physical or mental withdrawal after stopping opioid use
- Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control use
- Great deal of time spent trying to get more opioids, use opioids, or recover from their effects.
- Watch for withdrawal symptoms.
- Stay detached, but with love. Remember you are not responsible for a loved one’s addiction. You can address the issue, but it is up to them to change.
- Consider mental health. About 8.9 million persons have co-occurring disorders i.e. a mental health disorder and an addiction. The relationship between the two is complex and treatment is difficult.
- Don’t judge. Addiction is a disease and should be treated just like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. It is just as life-threatening if left untreated.
Not every drug or alcohol dependent person will have all of these signs and symptoms, but if you think you or a loved one may be dependent on opioids, consult a healthcare professional.
A variety of treatment options including counseling, therapy, and Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) are available. If you think you or a loved one may be dependent on opioids, consult a healthcare professional. For more information about MAT, check out SAMHSA MAT facts for families.
Naloxone (or Narcan) is a medication that can reverse an overdose caused by an opioid drug (heroin, prescription pain medications). When administered during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and quickly restores breathing. Naloxone has been used safely by emergency medical professionals for more than 40 years and has only this one critical function: to reverse the effects of opioids in order to prevent overdose death.
Naloxone has no potential for abuse. If naloxone is given to a person who is not experiencing an opioid overdose, it is harmless. If naloxone is administered to a person who is dependent on opioids, it will produce withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal, although uncomfortable, is not life-threatening. Naloxone does not reverse overdoses that are caused by non-opioid drugs, such as cocaine, benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanex, Klonopin and Valium), methamphetamines, or alcohol.
Project DAWN is a community-based overdose education and naloxone distribution program.
Naloxone is available at most pharmacies and through the Toledo Lucas County Health Department.
Lucas County Heroin & Opiate Initiative
The Lucas County Heroin & Opiate Initiative produced a video to discuss the current heroin epidemic:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) produced this documentary (Chasing the Dragon) to raise awareness about the heroin epidemic among youth.