Heroin is a very addictive drug that carries a high relapse rate. As one of the drugs that is driving the current opioid crisis in the U.S., heroin is used by people of all backgrounds and socioeconomic levels — no one is immune. There’s a good chance that, at some point in your life, you’ll have a friend, family member, coworker, or acquaintance who uses heroin or used it in the past.
What’s the best thing to do if you find out that someone you care about is addicted to heroin? It is frustrating and heartbreaking to watch a loved one suffer from the disease of addiction, especially when you feel like there’s nothing you can do to help. Addiction is, in many ways, a solitary fight. But your concern and support may mean more to your loved one than you realize. Here are a few things you can do to help a friend or family member who is addicted to heroin.
Learn About Heroin Addiction
Addiction — and heroin addiction in particular — is a highly stigmatized disease. There are lots of myths and half-truths about addiction floating around the common consciousness, and some of them do more harm than good. Instead of assuming you already know what heroin addiction is like and what causes it, make a point of arming yourself with knowledge about your loved one’s illness. Read books and seek out reputable websites about drug use. By getting a better understanding of heroin addiction, you’ll be in a better position to understand why your loved one does the things they do. You’ll also be able to communicate more effectively with your friend or family member.
Set Appropriate Boundaries
Supporting your loved one through their addiction is a worthy goal. However, there’s a fine line between support and enabling. Be careful that your efforts aren’t just making it easier for your loved one to stay mired in their addiction. For instance, if you financially support your loved one, they might not have as much incentive to try to stop using drugs.
When in doubt, the best way to recognize when you’re enabling your loved one is to ask yourself whether you’re helping your loved one avoid their responsibilities or the consequences of their actions. For instance, two examples of enabling behavior might include paying a family member’s rent for yet another month or calling in sick for a spouse who is too intoxicated to make the call. An example of healthy, non-enabling support would be helping your loved one find a rehab program near them.
If you’ve been inadvertently enabling your friend or family member, make it clear that your behavior will not continue. Tell your loved one that you are no longer going to cover for them if their addiction starts to cause problems. Explain how your behavior will change — for example, say, “I’m not going to call in sick for you anymore.” Then stick to your word.
Offer to Help Your Loved One Find Treatment
It is difficult to beat heroin addiction without professional support from medical and mental health professionals. Going to rehab will allow your loved one to detox from heroin safely. It will also provide your loved one an opportunity to work through the issues that led them to become addicted with individual and group therapy.
Unfortunately, many heroin addicts are initially resistant to attending a rehabilitation program. Your loved one may not know much about the options available to them. They may also be reluctant to seek treatment because of the stigma that often follows drug rehabilitation patients. You can help by researching the treatment options available in your loved one’s area. Make sure that you always speak about rehab in a positive and non-stigmatizing way. When your loved one sees that you won’t judge them for getting treatment, they’ll be less likely to judge themselves and more likely to actually follow through with rehab.
Seek Out Support for Yourself
There’s no way to sugar-coat it: when someone you love is a heroin addict, life can seem more confusing, frightening, and sad. It’s important to take care of yourself during this stressful time. Seeking out a support group for the friends and family members of addicts may help. Be sure that you’re also taking some time every day for self-care practices, such as working out and meditating.
You can’t fight your loved one’s battles with heroin for them. However, your support can still make a big difference. While protecting yourself should be your first priority when dealing with someone addicted to heroin, your ongoing care and support may eventually make the difference in nudging your friend or family member towards getting better. Call one of our counselors today at 844-639-8371.