It’s no secret that opioid abuse is a growing problem in our country. An estimated 2.4 million people in the United States abuse prescription painkillers reports psycom.net. And, according to latest information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 11 percent of Americans aged 12 or older were using illicit drugs in the last month.
“A majority of those surveyed used drugs recreationally or for non-medical reasons,” reports the National Drug Helpline. “But many others used them because they were dependent on the substance or were struggling with addiction.”
Addiction does not discriminate. When people start experimenting with opiates, they never intend to become addicted. For some people, it happens fast, while others may go on for a long time, using an opiate from time to time without falling into the need for constant use.
Often substance abuse issues go hand-in-hand with a history of anxiety or depression. It’s a dual-diagnosis situation and it is important to treat both issues concurrently. One issue (depression/anxiety) causes issues (addiction) with the other.
Traditionally, therapists work with substance abuse issue first, then address the mental health issues after. But, I believe you need to treat them holistically – both at same time.
First, find the trigger for a mental health issue and treat that. The trigger may be a trauma related issue, like sex abuse or verbal abuse, or a significant loss in the person’s life. Looking at a person’s mental health issues (i.e. the number one being depression) can bring clarity as to how to (secondly) treat the substance abuse. For example, ‘Are they depressed because of substance abuse, or, did they use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate?’
This dual-diagnosis relationship between opioid abuse and depression means that suffering from one increases the risk of the other. Taking a close look at that dual-diagnosis can identify the key issues that have triggered the opiate abuse. For example, did the client lead their addiction to drugs by asking their doctor for their meds? Once you identify such triggers and behaviors, you can best come up with ways of coping to prevent a relapse.
If you’re not sure whether you’re abusing opioids, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you take opioids for longer or in larger amounts than your prescription?
- Has cutting back your use been unsuccessful?
- Are you constantly craving the drug?
- Does the drug use interfere and affect your work, school, and/or home life?
- Do you continue using even though the drug causes negative behaviors and problems in your relationships?
- Are your finances being negatively impacted by your drug use?
When you want to help with opiate addiction, it’s important to understand what recovery from opiate addiction is like. Addiction is complicated, and some people are even more susceptible to addiction and dependence. and. Opiate abuse effects adults of all levels – adolescents and the elderly population who are prone to drug use for aches and pains. There’s a danger of becoming addicted to opiates without realizing you are. Addiction can creep upon you, especially if there’s a family history of depression. You often don’t realize what’s happened until you can’t stop pill popping. No-one wants to become an addict when they first take an opiate.
The following factors may increase your likelihood of having a drug or alcohol addiction:
- Family members and relatives who have struggled with addiction
- An abusive, neglectful or traumatizing upbringing
- Mental health disorders
- Drug or alcohol use early in life
How to cope with substance abuse/opiate addiction recovery. Use these tips to help you through your recovery:
- Breathe. Use breathing techniques to breathe through the issue and calm down.
- Learning how to be able to relax without using drugs. Try a new hobby.
- Use a manta – a word or short phrase that will help you calm down when you’re struggling.
- Exercise – Exercise improves blood flow and memory; it stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood and thinking.
- Therapy – When substance abuse begins to take over your life, the best course of action is to seek professional help. It is never too early to seek help – don’t wait until you’ve hit rock bottom.
- Support groups – find a local support group and give it a go. Drug abuse is more common than you think, so don’t feel that you’re alone.
- Call an addiction hotline. Making the call can be tough. Addiction is a disease that can affect any type of person in any walk of life. Calling and talking is a great first step to recovery. The National Drug Helpline is 1-888-633-3239 and is a 24/7 service.
- Try an AA Meeting – Anyone can attend an open AA meeting. An open meeting is open to the public, while a closed meeting is for members only. A typical AA meeting is a topic discussion meeting. The person leading the meeting chooses a topic and members to take turns sharing their experience on the topic. Whether you’re struggling with alcoholism or substance abuse, these meeting can be a great source of support.
- Building your social network – Social support can be a very powerful and beneficial force in the recovery process. A sense of belonging will give you a sense of safety, security and inclusion.
- Repair the burnt bridges with family/friends. An addict often does and says things to family and friends of which they are ashamed. Addiction is a family disease. By making amends to those you’ve hurt in the past and dealing with the negative influences and results of your addiction, you can grow emotionally, repair some of those relationships and you will feel the weight of your guilt lift.
Recovery is a lifelong process This means an addict has to get help themselves to use and build those positive coping skills and stay away from triggers. It’s important to let your family doctor know what’s going on and make sure they know if you have a history of addiction. The recovery process also depends on client’s needs. With dual-diagnosis you need to get clean time under your belt before you can then deal with a trauma related trigger issue. It may be a couple months, or a year or so, until you feel have a good foundation to be in a safe and strong position to then deal with your trauma issue, so you can continue therapy without going back to drug addiction.
But, recovery and healing are possible, and your best chances for both are to seek immediate treatment that address both the drug abuse and trigger symptoms together. Take that first important step today and reach out to someone who can help you move towards a drug free healthier life.