For The Family


Five Must-Do Things if a Family Member Is Abusing Drugs

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Educate yourself about addiction

We see what we know. Thus, until sometime has some knowledge about drug use-the signs and clues that someone might be using, awareness of the lies that often go along with misuse of drugs, and so on—it is easy to simply not see things that are right in front of you.

Consider this vignette: One of my elderly patients told me that when her daughters were teenagers, she and a friend were at a restaurant with their husbands and went to the ladies’ room together. As they entered the restroom my patient caught a whiff of a familiar scent and said to her friend, “Someone else uses the same perfume that my daughter Mary does.” Her friend turned to her and said, “That’s not perfume. That’s marijuana.”

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Do not allow yourself to be abused

It is all too common for family members of drug users to end up being abused in various ways. Emotional abuse is probably more than norm than the exception, given that irritability and labile moods are common in those who are using drugs. Drug users often steal to support their use, and family members often present the easiest target for theft.

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Don’t “enable” the behavior by colluding with the user in some way or covering up the abuse

Allow the user to suffer some of the consequences of his or her drug abuse and do not cover-up or collude with the user. Thus, for example, I would not lie to employers about why the individual can’t come into work, make excuses to creditors, or pay off bills.

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If any essential aspect of your own life is in jeopardy, seek professional help

If you are so beaten down by the drug use in the other person that any essential aspects of your own life is in jeopardy—such as employment, housing, ability to put food on the table, etc.—then by all means you should seek out professional help.

Attend to your own health and well-being

Although this might seem selfish, I strongly believe that it is hard to be present for others and/or be able to make the best decisions possible if you are not ensuring that your own health needs are being met. Thus, eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, and keeping up your doctor’s appointments—along with attending to all of your health needs—puts you in the best position possible.

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