To intervene or not intervene
Dyan Kolb Says...
Hello. Yes, tough situation indeed. Try to keep in mind that although your intentions are caring, sometimes the addict needs to really hit their rock bottom. Sounds like the person that you are referring to has trouble with opiate addiction. At the worst of the addiction, the individual is only using at this point to avoid withdrawals from the drug, which is an incredibly painful experience, both physically and emotionally. Also keep in mind that the suffering addict is consumed with their drug of choice, and its likely that any conversation you have with that person is a conversation with the drug. The person you know and love can't really hear you so to speak.
Some people approach situations like this by evaluating the ways in which loved ones are enabling or supporting the addict in ways that they aren't realizing. For example, sometimes family members allow addicts to live with them, fearing that their family member will be in danger on the streets. Loved ones don't often realize that housing that person is often harmful as well in the context of supporting their use. Tough decisions are hard to make, but setting firm limits and boundaries with the addict is often a wise move.
Also providing that this person is an adult, remember that you can't force someone into treatment unless they present as gravely disabled (unable to provide for his basic needs i.e., food, clothing, shelter) or a threat to themselves (suicidal) or others (homicidal). If they are able to keep it together enough, so to speak, they have the right to use drugs. That is called self determination.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to enforce limits and boundaries around how the addict is effecting your life both emotionally and financially (if they are dependent on or asking you or others for things) and what you and others will and won't stand for in terms of having this person involved in your lives. It may sound harsh or as if you are turning your back but it's more about not being held emotionally hostage by this person who is making an active choice to continue to use substances and burn his bridges, rather than be open to hearing about treatment options.
Also, please consider attending al-anon support groups - these are nationwide groups that offer support for family and friends of addicts and alcoholics. You may also want to look into safe needle exchange programs in your area if your loved one is an IV heroin user. If the addict is unwilling to quit at this time, at least provide him or her with information to help reduce risk of IV transmittable diseases.
I hope that this has at least provoked some thought and possibly answered your questions.
Best of luck,
Page last updated Oct 31, 2013