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Friday, January 16, 2015

Can You Save an Addicted Child?



Opioid addiction kills beautiful young people. These deaths, the fallout of heroin and prescription pill addiction, are unspeakable. The shock of the death of a child along with the aftermath of family grief and incurable pain are perhaps the worst tragedies a family can suffer.


I know parents who have lost a son or daughter to accidental overdose, to violent murder, to suicide, to abduction, and to the many devastating physical effects of the disease. So many webs of danger exist in the drug abuse culture that an addict often cannot escape an early grave. No youngster should give his life to poisonous substances that take complete control. That, unfortunately, is not the case in the real world.


What would you do if you knew your child were dependent on lethal substances and on the road that leads to addiction? Even though your love for the child is unconditional, how could you prevent your enabling love from pointing the child toward an early grave? Answers to these questions seem to be so cruel and so unusual that many parents cannot force themselves to commit to a plan that has proven most successful. I am no expert, yet I have intimate knowledge of some damage done by enabling.


Taking care of an addicted child is not as simple as loving him, helping him, and supplying his basic needs. If you do things that the addict can and should do for himself, then you are enabling the addiction to continue. Sometimes the drug user is actually calling the shots and has no intention of stopping the abuse. Addictive personalities can be master manipulators as they morph from a loving family member into a controlling substance.


I can't imagine trying to reason with a son or a daughter who is dependent or addicted on powerful chemicals. I do know many such parents say: "You feel helpless because nothing works as you use everything you believe will help. You literally become ill themselves while trying to help your child escape addiction."


And, of course, often it is much easier for you to deal with things yourself rather than to deal with the hassle of getting the child to work or to contribute. However, it is highly unlikely that the drug abuse will stop on its own. The bottom line is, if you go on doing what you are doing for the child, you will go on getting increasing amounts of the addictive behavior you see.


A dependent user will not independently change enough to affect the balance that leads to recovery because he realizes that he holds the advantage, so you, the parent, must change.


Consider that you might be "addicted," too -- you might be addicted to the plight of saving your loved one with what appears to be loving interest. Yet, in giving all of yourself, you actually may be contributing to the problem. Saying "yes" to a user's needs can temporarily keep the peace; however, overcoming your own internal conflict and saying "no" can prevent a growing addiction from continuing its existence in a safe space where it stays settled and eventually becomes permanent.

Dr. David Sack, a board certified psychiatrist and CEO of Promises Treatment Center, said. "How can you look at a mother whose child is smoking heroin and say, 'Yes. It's OK. Don't do anything. Nothing's going to happen to your child.' That child is at risk of overdose."


Sack advises that the time to use tough love approach is when the person is ignoring you. "Then you have to say, 'We love you very much, but we're not going to spend money so you can go buy drugs and end up in a worst predicament. We're not going to support your habit,'" Sack said. "So it means no money, no car, no food, no shelter because ultimately those are the things that can be converted to drugs."

And, what if no more money means your child goes without food, threatens to harm themselves, or ends up on the streets?

Experts advise parents to follow a few key guidelines including giving the child a new set of rules for what's no longer acceptable in the home, making it clear that you are serious and will follow through with consequences, and finally getting professional help -- no one can do this alone. Many clinicians believe tough love is a useful tool because a lot more is known today about addiction.


Sack stresses that cutting off financial support is not by itself treatment, and certainly not a fix-all; however, "it's a first step toward moving that addicted individual toward reality."


(John Quinones and Christine Brozyna. "Is 'Financial Tough Love' the Right
Approach for Drug Addicts?" ABC News. February 15, 2010)


Nothing is foolproof, and experts warn that tough love can do harm when handled incorrectly.


"We found that the major impacts of treatments that involve a lot of confrontation and tough love are to drive people away from treatment," said Richard Rawson, associate director of UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs. "It's exactly the opposite of what we want to do."
 
So, most experts say the key is balance. Parents should insist the addict change behavior, stop using drugs and get treatment. But the family should still be willing to offer some lines of support. Also importantly, loved ones should get good advice and not try to go it alone.

"We don't want them to bottom out," said Tom McLellan, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control, said. "They've lost when they've bottomed out."
 
Author Maia Szalavitz, a recovering addict herself, says cutting all ties should be a last resort.
"If the person is stealing from you or if the person is engaging in behavior that's hurting you, you may have to cut them off for your own good," Szalavitz said. "But don't think that that's going to fix them either."

(Deborah Roberts and Robert Haberl. "Parents Face Difficult Decisions When Dealing
With a Drug-Addicted Child." ABC News. February 16, 2010)

I sincerely believe too many parents tend to think their adolescent and teen-aged children have completed the maturation process sufficiently to handle all the snares of the drug culture that the children face. I can tell you with complete certainty that this is not true. I can also attest to the tendency of teens to take dangerous risks, falsely believing they have chance after chance if bad results do occur.

Teens who abuse can live simultaneously with their family roles and with an underground that conceals the effects of their hideous addiction. They become thieves, whores, mules, dealers, perpetrators of violent crimes, and human slaves. Any user -- even one in recovery, one fresh from rehab, or one freed from jail -- becomes a permanent target of the drug culture.

Quite frankly, treatments for recovery often fail. If you have failed one or more times to achieve lasting sobriety after rehab, perhaps after spending tens of thousands of dollars, you’re not alone. And some say chances are, it’s not your fault. People with serious substance abuse disorders commonly require care for months or even years contrary to the 30-day stint.

Of the 23.5 million teenagers and adults addicted to alcohol or drugs, only about 1 in 10 gets treatment, which too often fails to keep them drug-free. Many of these programs fail to use proven methods to deal with the factors that underlie addiction and set off relapse.

According to recent examinations of treatment programs, most are rooted in outdated methods rather than in newer approaches shown in scientific studies to be more effective in helping people achieve and maintain addiction-free lives. People typically do more research when shopping for a new car than when seeking treatment for addiction.

(Jane E. Brody. "Effective Addiction Treatment." The New York Times. February 4, 2013)

Whether accidental, disease-related, suicidal, or criminal, the drug death of children must be a top priority for you and me. As soon as we realize that we owe every young person proper protection, we take the first step toward stopping this tragic epidemic. We cannot ignore our duty to erase the biggest threat to their existence -- fighting drug abuse. You can believe me or not, but the youngsters and the parents cannot do the job alone. The poison is too prevalent and too strong to ignore.

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