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Motivating a Loved One to Seek Treatment for Opiate Abuse

Table of Contents

Older woman comforting younger woman.

Although the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association estimates that 23.5 million people in the United States need treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, only 11.2% receive professional help.  Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers to seeking treatment is fear or denial.  Individuals suffering from opiate dependency often feel ashamed of or frightened by their behavior, causing them to resist seeking help.
As a person close to someone struggling with opiate abuse, you can motivate him or her to seek treatment.  Although staging an “intervention” always works in the movies, real life interventions may make your loved one feel cornered or defensive.  Instead, you have an option to try to increase motivation to seek treatment by having a calm, compassionate conversation with the person abusing opiates.
Keep the following positive and negative suggestions in mind.

Positives:

  • Keep things about you.  Saying, “You’re always high from your pain meds, and it’s breaking up our family!” is sure to put your loved one on the defensive.  Instead, use “I” statements that focus on your own concerns, needs, or feelings.  For example, you might say, “I have been worried lately when I talk to you and you seem out of it.  I am concerned that your medication may be addictive and that it could hurt you.  I’d like to talk to you about how you’ve been feeling.”
  • Be specific and concrete.  Using vague or exaggerated language, such as “always” or “never” will make your loved one look for counterexamples that negate what you said.  Instead, provide specific examples of ways you have been hurt.  For example: “When you showed up to Sophie’s birthday party two hours late and didn’t talk to her, it really hurt her feelings and mine.  It made me feel as though we weren’t important to you.”
  • Use compassion and non-judgmental language.  Remember, your loved one is more than the disease.  No matter how frustrated, isolated, or upset you feel, try to feel compassion for their situation.
  • De-stigmatize opiate dependency.  Many people struggling with opiate abuse are too ashamed to get help.  Come prepared to talk about the number of people who suffer from opiate dependency and the types of confidential treatments available.

Negatives:

  • Motivating a Loved One to Seek Treatment for Opiate Abuse - NegativesMake accusations. Accusations immediately cause the other person to shut down logically and emotionally.  Express your understanding that addiction is not the person’s fault.
  • Directly disagree with the person.  Whenever possible, avoid direct disagreements with your loved one.  Instead, listen and firmly reiterate your position.  For example, if your loved one says, “I can control how much I take,” you might say, “I understand that.  I believe that you feel as though you’re in control.  However, your use is hurting my ability to trust you.”
  • Become defensive.  Be prepared for your loved one to lash out.  Discussing addiction make people feel cornered and upset.  No matter what your loved one says, avoid becoming defensive or lashing back.  Stay firm in your commitment to helping the person get help.

Perhaps most importantly, always remember that addiction isn’t logical. Your loved one’s resistance to seek treatment isn’t about you. It isn’t because he doesn’t care about your family, or because she no longer loves you. Addiction is a disease that affects the person’s ability to make rational, healthy decisions.
If you’re feeling lost and unable to help your loved one seek treatment, you are not alone. For more information on choosing an opiate detox program for a loved one, please feel free to contact our office directly. The Waismann Method is a safe and proven treatment for opiate dependency that utilizes the most advanced medical techniques available.

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