Heroin addiction is a devastating disease, destroying marriages, partnerships and families as well as individual lives. As an opioid drug, heroin exerts a powerful effect on the human brain, creating sensations of profound sedation or euphoria when it binds to opioid receptor cells. The allure of this high is so seductive that millions of users have fallen into the trap of heroin addiction.
Watching someone you care about abuse heroin can be both heartbreaking and terrifying. But that doesn’t mean that you’re helpless to fight this disease, or that you shouldn’t reach out to offer your support. Supporting without judgment and encouraging treatment while maintaining healthy boundaries are important parts of the process. Here are a few ways to help a heroin addict without harming yourself or your loved ones in the process:
- Don’t face the problem alone. Heroin is a potent, dangerous drug. You’ll be much better prepared to help a heroin addict if you have a strong support system. Seek help from family members, support groups, community health programs, online forums, 12-Step programs and addiction treatment specialists. Fellowships like Nar-Anon support the families and partners of addicts who are struggling to find hope and healing. If you’ve tried and failed to talk with your loved one about heroin addiction, a professional intervention counselor can help you form a strategy to get him the help he needs in a safe, compassionate manner.1
- Don’t believe stereotypes about heroin abuse. The stigma of heroin addiction can make you feel isolated and alone. You may be reluctant to reach out for support because you don’t want to admit that someone close to you has a problem with this dangerous drug. But the image of a skid row heroin addict is an old, outdated stereotype. Heroin abuse affects people from all socioeconomic groups, from the homeless to the very wealthy. According to CNN, more than 33,000 Americans died from heroin overdose in 2015, the last year for which statistics are available.2 Heroin addicted is at epidemic proportions across the United States, and no socioeconomic group is free from the grip of the drug. Learning about the realities of heroin addiction will help you confront the disease.
- Offer support without enabling. The spouses, partners and parents of heroin addicts often enable the user without knowing it. There’s a big difference between providing support and helping a loved one continue their destructive behavior. If your help allows the addict to keep using or avoid the negative consequences of drug abuse, you could be enabling instead of supporting. Examples of enabling include loaning the addict money to pay bills, calling an employer on their behalf when they’re too sick to work, or repeatedly bailing them out of jail so they don’t have to face incarceration. Examples of supporting include educating yourself about the disease, helping the addict get into rehab, or going to counseling sessions with addiction therapists.
- Seek help for yourself and your family. Heroin addiction can swallow up entire families, creating conflicts that drive you and your loved ones apart. As you reach out to help an addict, take time to seek counseling for yourself and the other people in your household. Addiction is not just an individual problem, but a family disease. To create a supportive, drug-free home, you need the guidance of a professional addiction counselor.3
Drug rehab programs offer intensive family counseling, 12-Step meetings and educational programs for the loved ones of substance abusers. The clinical staff members at Black Bear Lodge have extensive experience at helping families like yours recover from heroin addiction. We provide intervention coordination as well as counseling services to guide you and your loved ones through the healing process. Our admissions coordinators are here to answer your questions and give you support at any time. Call us now.
1 “What’s Nar-Anon?” Nar-Anon Family Groups. 28 Oct. 2017.
2 Harlow, Poppy, et al. “City’s morgues are full, thanks to opioids.” CNN. 8 Aug. 2017.
3 “Family Behavior Therapy.” NIDA. 28 Oct. 2017.