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If your loved one is in rehab for painkiller addiction, you can expect The Phone Call.
Whitney Harrah LPC, CACIII, the Assistant Executive Director of The Raleigh House in Denver, sees it happen all the time. “They can have a difficult time in treatment,” she says. “One reason why is because they perceive people who are addicted to heroin or cocaine as ‘junkies’ or somehow different from them. It can be a classic symptom of substance dependence to believe that you are better than, smarter than or different from other users of other substances. The function of this belief could be to avoid the truth, minimize current actions/choices or to protect your sense of self. Meanwhile, they tend to view themselves as users of prescription drugs who are experiencing problems or who have fallen victim to what was a legitimate prescription for pain relief.”
The next thing you know, you get a call from your loved one. She doesn’t belong here. She takes prescription pills, not cocaine or heroin. “Families need to be prepared for that,” Harrah says.
“How are you going to cope when your loved one wants to leave treatment because they think their problem is different? Or what if they tell you that the only thing that works for their pain is prescription painkillers?”
Step 1: Educate Yourself
The first thing you have to realize is that your loved one is not seeing the whole picture. They may have become addicted to painkillers accidentally, but the outcome is nearly identical. In fact, Harrah offers a concerning statistic: “The number of overdoses on prescription drugs is higher than on heroin.”
If your loved one started taking pills because of physical pain (and if that pain has become chronic) the next step is to educate yourself about non-addictive pain relief methods.
“People need to do more research on alternatives for pain management,” Harrah says. “Otherwise, the problem may persist.”
Harrah adds that treatment needs to address the difference between pain and discomfort, pain and pressure, and physical pain versus emotional pain.
Step 2: Build a Team
You can’t do this alone. Find a rehab center you believe in and then trust that they have the experience needed to do the right thing for your loved one. You will also need to work together with the doctor at home who is treating your loved one’s pain (or find a new doctor if necessary.)
“Comprehensive treatment would include communication of information and safety concerns to prescribing professionals,” says Harrah. Together, they’ll consider the risks and benefits of a long-term, non-addictive way to manage the pain.
Step 3: Seriously Consider Advice Given by Professionals
It would be great if someone could hand you a guide outlining how you should treat your loved one at this critical time. What are the right things to say? What should you avoid?
But if there’s one thing that people who work in recovery have learned for sure it’s that everyone is different. Every client is unique and responds to recovery differently.
So if you start getting calls from your loved one that he or she wants to leave treatment, you need to make a phone call yourself—to the therapist working with your family member.
“Seriously consider the professionals’ ideas. When a person enters treatment there can be a shared mindset among family members that there is only one way—one solution—and that is almost never the case,” Harrah advises.
Resist the urge to try and jump in and fix all of your loved one’s problems. Instead, consider the information presented before making significant decisions, ask for clarification and seek out your own support with other loved ones who are dealing with similar issues.
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When families are in the midst of struggling with a loved one's addiction, it can be hard to imagine how much better life could be, and will be, after rehab for painkillers. Here's what you and your loved one have to look forward to:
Hope at The Raleigh House
We know how helpless you can feel when dealing with a loved one’s addiction. Coping with a family member who is suffering from addiction may not something you can do on your own. Our master’s level trained therapists have met—and helped—hundreds of people. Many substance use disorders benefit from the intervention, assessment and treatment of trained professionals. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the painkiller addiction treatment program at The Raleigh House.