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Common questions about drug interventions

How can I bring up the subject with the substance user?

People often worry that initiating a discussion will lead the person with the problem to take drastic steps. He might make a scene in front of other family members, move out of the house, drop out of school, drink or use other drugs even more and hide it from everyone, or retaliate against them or other family members.

However, you might find the conversation to be a wonderfully productive experience. Perhaps the person simply hasn't noticed behavior changes or didn't realize that his or her substance use was a problem or was causing problems. And, without change, the problems might become so severe that the same drastic outcomes can result.

How can I get someone to stop using?

Although you probably want the substance use to stop as soon as possible, immediate abstinence has certain risks, including withdrawal symptoms with serious medical consequences. Many people need to be admitted to a detoxification center to help them physically withdraw.

Even if detoxification is not necessary, a formal, structured treatment program is often vital for sustained abstinence. A health care professional or substance use counselor can help you and person in need assess your options.

To encourage the person to stop, you might want to tell them ways you would be willing to help make it easier -- for example, going to counseling together or providing transportation or childcare.

How does substance abuse affect the family?

How much a family is affected by a substance use problem depends on how long they have lived with it, how advanced it is, how much shame and secrecy surround it and the roles and responsibilities of the person with the disorder. If the problem is left untreated, family members will also develop destructive behaviors, such as denial, enabling and co-dependency.

There are a number of resources available for families to get help. Al-Anon, a Twelve Step program whose meetings are readily available in most communities across the country, provides support and guidance for family members, whether their loved one accepts treatment or refuses to get help.

Many human service agencies provide help, including counseling and guidance centers, mental health clinics and substance use treatment programs.

Your family physician might be able to provide a referral. Employee assistance programs are also very experienced with addiction. Ask your human resources department for assistance.


Web posted on Thursday, October 22, 2009

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