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Aug 29 2017
Family support during addiction treatment is critical.
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Ask a Healthcare Provider

Question:
I have a close family member who is struggling with drug addiction. How can I get my loved one the help that he needs?

Answer:
HFM Behavioral Health has been working with families and those recovering from addiction since 1999. We have seen how addiction can cause chaos for entire families. Addiction has no boundaries. It affects people from every walk of life, every culture, and from every economic status. 

According to the National Center of Disease Control, alcohol consumption ranked third in the leading causes of death in the United States, 90% of Americans have used drugs or alcohol, and per the Wisconsin Department of Health Services there was an economic burden of $6.8 Billion in 2013 resulting from alcohol consumption alone. 

The 2017 Manitowoc County Youth Survey found that 28% of high school students reported alcohol use in the last 30 days and 20% reported use of marijuana. While these statistics may be alarming, mental health and substance abuse treatment have achieved successful outcomes.

Many people believe that those who develop an addiction have some defect in their moral compass or simply choose to continue use despite severe consequences. Recent scientific research, however, has determined that addiction is a chronic physical disease that injures key brain networks. The brain networks involved in the injury include those associated with reward and motivation, learning and memory, impulse control, and behavior modification. While a person may initially choose to experiment with drugs or alcohol, prolonged consumption harms the brain and weakens a person’s ability to choose. 

Furthermore, like other chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma, addiction can be controlled but it cannot be cured. Did you know that less than 50% of people with chronic medical diseases take their medications as prescribed; and fewer than 30% make lifestyle changes recommended by their doctors? It is important to be aware that although we utilize an abstinence and evidence based program, we accept that relapse is part of treatment. We address relapse immediately and directly. At the same time, we know relapse will occur in treatment of addiction as it does in treatment of any chronic illness. Research informs our practice and indicates that consequences of substance use increase over time without treatment often resulting in serious medical conditions and in some cases death. For this reason, it is critical to encourage those with addictions to return to treatment despite their relapse or prior attempts at treatment.

Whether you are a friend, spouse, parent, or child of someone who has an addiction, please understand that there is hope. We know that struggling in silence is very difficult and can have disastrous results. Early intervention is helpful and can decrease both the level and length of treatment. 

A crucial component of successful treatment involves family support. Family members can lend support in the following ways: 
• Spend time with them and keep lines of communication open
• Lock away or safely dispose of prescription medications and alcohol 
• Do not lend them money 
• Do not nurse them through withdrawal symptoms 
• Do not make excuses for their behavior
• Be honest with them about your feelings and how it affects you
• Accept their addiction as a disease
• Participate in treatment, attend AA/NA groups 
• Attend Al-Anon groups where you can learn how to care for yourself

HFM Behavioral Health can provide you and your family with treatment and support during the recovery process. If you have any questions on how to help a loved one dealing with drug addiction or to schedule an appointment, call (920) 320-8600 for an appointment.  

Bonnie Halper, LPC, SAC, is a clinical therapist at HFM Behavioral Health. 




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