How to help a loved one addicted to prescription drugs

An addiction to prescription drugs can start innocently, with a doctor prescribing medicine for a medical problem. Then the addiction can creep up on you and soon you're out of control. As an addict of prescription drugs in recovery and having been in two rehabilitation centers, I offer the following:

Help the addict see that life can go on without the drugs. This may involve using several new doctors. In my case, this involved leaving the family-practice doctor I had been using and seeing an internist and a psychiatrist, as well as a therapist.- Help the addict, through your health insurance, to get into a rehab center. In my case, the first rehab was a 28-day program. The second program, 11/2 years later, was a detoxification program of only three days with two weeks of returning every afternoon. Before that, I had believed I could simply check into a hotel and withdraw "cold turkey." I probably would have gone into seizures, which possibly could have been fatal. Receiving the proper medical attention while detoxing is crucial to the addict's health.

Love the addict. The addict is scared and humiliated. Check with the rehab center concerning family night or a special time geared to helping the family understand what has happened and how they can help.

Encourage the addict to attend a 12-step support group. The 12-step group helps the addict to cope with life.

Let your bishop help the addict and the family. The ward can also help by being supportive. The love of my ward and the blessings I received touched my heart, which had been somewhat hardened by the use of the drugs. Because my heart was touched, I was probably much more willing to try to remain clean.

Ask the addict to read Mosiah, chapter 27, the story of Alma the Younger. The addict needs to be reminded that Heavenly Father and the Savior love him/her with infinite love; they will help him/her to resolve his/her problem.

Realize the addict is never "fixed." I need to remind myself, daily, in a 12-step meeting, that I am an addict. The great blessing is that I am in recovery of over one year. - Name and location withheld

Worthy of love, help

When our daughter was found to be addicted to prescription drugs, the biggest problem was finding a program that could help her professionally. Getting better is one of those situations where "if you could do it yourself, you would have already done it."

The next major problem was for our daughter to know that we loved her and would love her in spite of what she had done. We told her that when she could understand this, she would then be an adult. She also had a hard time feeling that she was worthy of our love and concern and the support of her Church leaders. It took three years for her to realize our love for her was real, but she finally reached that point, and now, finally, things are going quite well. - Cris McBride, Pinetop, Ariz.

Never tried to `fix' her

I didn't really know what a problem my family had until Mom entered treatment for drug addiction 10 years ago. Before she sought help, I wanted out of the house - forever. Right before she came home to live with us again after a month of treatment, I remember my Mutual leader asking me to promise her I'd support my mother any way I could. And so I did. Instead of reminding Mom of all the times she wasn't there for me, I made sure I was there for her. We would drive 30 miles every other day for her to attend 12-step support groups, and then she'd tell me about them on the way home. I never tried to "fix" her. Although her actions had greatly affected my life, I learned through my own 12-step group there was nothing I could do about that now. I had to take care of myself and let everyone else do the same. Letting go of Mom's decision to stay clean or to relapse released me from bondage. It took away my guilt for her choice and helped me know she is responsible to live the Word of Wisdom, as I am responsible for that same choice.

I love my mom and am so grateful for her, my father and brother. I am grateful we stayed together today in the hopes of being together forever. - Michele Hudson, Salt Lake City, Utah

Resources available

Learn all you can about drugs, about addiction. There are many resources available, such as at the library. If you know someone who has had experience with those things, seek him out and ask him how they handled it. Also, don't forget priesthood blessings. - Name withheld, Washington

Determine addiction

Determine if your loved one is really addicted to the prescription drug. If he/she is doubling the dosage of the prescription, taking it more often than prescribed, and/or being secretive about it, then there is probably an addiction.

Read everything you can about the drug being prescribed. Knowledge is a great defense and weapon in helping your loved one.

Voice your concerns to the doctor or health care provider in charge.

Be patient. Your loved one may be in denial about his/her addiction. People often think prescribed drugs are safe "because my doctor gave them to me."

Be prepared. "Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith . . . . (Jacob 3:1.) - Eugenia Hancock, Novi, Mich.

Seek solution

The impact on the family of a person addicted to prescription drugs is exactly the same as it is for any addict. The substance of choice is not the issue, the behavior is. When we take responsibility for the behavior and choices of someone else, we become part of the problem and not part of the solution. We cannot heal someone's addiction any more than we can give someone a testimony or make him righteous.

The most effective tool for a family with an addicted member is to do a "family intervention," with the help of a trained professional. People who love the addict come together in a spirit of love to share their love and concern with the family member. Each one speaks directly to the addict about the abuse and the impact on their relationship. They urge treatment and arrange for the addict to enter a treatment center.

When family members take responsibility for the addict, they become enablers and are in need of treatment as well. - Laura Lee Edwards, licensed clinical social worker, Pottersville, N.J.

Hold fast

Put the addict's name in the temple. Hold a fast with those who care about your loved one. There is tremendous power in this. Have faith; never give up on them, no matter how long it takes. They need you. - Cynthia Prusso-Bartlett, Chehalis, Wash.

How to checklist:

1 Determine extent of addiction; read, gain knowledge.

2 Love the addict, don't judge; pray, fast for help, guidance.

3 Get professional help; seek support groups, if necessary.

4 Be patient; realize you can't force loved one's recovery.

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Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to supplement your regular income," "How to rear children in light and truth," "How to avoid greed," "How to be more resilient in day-to-day life."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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