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Addiction and Substance Abuse

Sister`s addiction

12/04/2006

Question:

My sister is 43 y.o. and has had a problem with addiction to vicodin. She got in trouble about 5 yrs ago for forging prescriptions and had outpatient therapy. She is now using some type of drugs although I am not sure what. She has lost everything including voluntarily given up her children as she has no interest in them at all.She thinks we are stupid and that we don`t know she is using drugs. If asked, she denies that she is using. I suspect she is using crack or meth. As a very concerned family, is there anything we can do? We feel helpless. She lives in a motel at times and then goes to her husband`s family. I live in another state but saw her last week at thanksgiving. She looks terrible and will be gone for several days at a time where no one will know where she is. She has admitted to prostitution to get drugs ( she says for her husband).I know that she has to want to change but is there anything we can do? Her boys (18 and 14)are really hurting and angry. They are with other family members now. Thanks for your help. Any information would be appreciated.

Answer:

A very difficult and painful situation ... and sadly NOT rare.  Also thankfully not rare, so many others have been through somewhat similar situations and have sort of "blazed some trails".

I would suggest several possible resources to help you and the family at this juncture.

1) There is a little book, written by Ron Rogers and Scott McMillan entitled "Freeing Someone You Love From Alcohol or Other Drugs" that I have found many families really appreciate.  It gives practical tips for what you really might be able to do.

2) A book entitled "I will Quit Tomorrow" (several volumes) can also be helpful at times - though less so than the one above by Rogers and McMillan.

3) Working with a counselor from a local treatment program who can do "interventions" can be a very useful step.

4) Finally, trying to get each member of the family to intervene WHENEVER THEY CAN, and AS OFTEN AS THEY CAN with brief messages of support and hope for her ... while at the same time indicating no tolerance for the behaviors associated with the disease.  This is difficult to do, but a good model is actually found at 12-step meetings.  They are exceptionally good at demonstrating unwavering positive regard for the humanity of the soul and voicing hope for the future ... while showing intolerance for any behaviors associated with continued using of the addictive substance.

IF family members can provide this message as often as possible, you can in effect increase the chances of the person returning to treatment and returning to sobriety.

Incidentally, it does sound like her current addictive behaviors are most consistent with active addiction to one of the more potent stimulant drugs - methamphetamine or cocaine ... especially in the smokeable form known as crack.  Be that as it may, addiction treatment is just as effective for people addicted to stimulants as it is for people with alcohol or other drug problems.

For more information:

Go to the Addiction and Substance Abuse health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Ted   Parran, MD Ted Parran, MD
Associate Professor of General Medical Sciences
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University