How many times have you heard similar questions from your son or daughter, even if they don’t exactly articulate it out loud?
You’re not alone; prescription pill abuse has become a public health crisis in California, and across the United States. Over 130 Americans die every day of an opioid overdose, and in 2017, there were 2,199 overdose deaths involving opioids in California.
Sometimes you’ll even hear that your loved one needs to “hit rock bottom” before treatment can be effective. Believing that one has to hit rock bottom in order to receive professional help is one of many dangerous myths that’s commonly circulated. If you’ve sent your loved one to treatment before, as most have, you’ve certainly heard this at least once. Or maybe you’ve thought it yourself after the last round of treatment didn’t seem to work yet again.
Because prescription pill abuse has become a major crisis nationwide and everyone seems to have advice or opinions on the best solutions – whether they are experts or not – many misconceptions have been floated around. As a parent seeking what’s best for your child, you need to separate fact from fiction.
Here are four common myths that do more harm than good:
Myth #1: Addiction Is an Either/Or Situation
Many tend to look at addiction in a black or white scenario, you’re either addicted to a certain substance or you’re not. In reality, those who are abusing drugs go through a progression of experimentation, which can lead to a more dangerous path if the behavior continues.
Addiction exists on a spectrum and the danger it poses to one’s life can increase over time based on continued use, life struggles, underlying mental health disorders, and the influence of the people one hangs out with.
It’s safe to say that most people who take an opioid of some sort do not have the intent of becoming addicted and potentially ruining their life. In fact, most people who take opioids do not become addicted. A lot of people you know have probably received some kind of pain pills from your dentist, a doctor, or after surgery, for example. They didn’t end up addicted.
But just because most people don’t end up getting addicted, doesn’t mean it isn’t a very serious problem for those who do. The good news, however, is that, if you catch addiction in its early stages, it’s much easier to treat and the probability of a successful outcome after treatment is much higher!
People can become addicted to opioids in a number of ways. Maybe it was offered to them by a friend and they were curious to try it, or maybe they had been prescribed a pain reliever and became addicted after a period of time. Whatever the situation may be, the most important thing is to note changes in behaviors and if continued opioid use has caused any of these changes in their life.
Again, these are not black and white answers to whether or not your loved one is addicted, but there are many signs that things have gone too far.
- Is drug use causing problems in relationships with friends and family?
- Have they lost a job or are they about to?
- Did they get kicked out, did they drop out, or are they getting poor grades in school?
- Do they seem to spend most of their time and money using drugs?
- Have they lost interest in hobbies they used to enjoy?
- Have they gotten criminal charges due to their drug use, are they on probation, or have they spent time in jail?
These are all serious problems that can be addressed through effective treatment. If any of these problems are occurring, the drug use has already gone too far, and it’s time for them to get some kind of help.
Once it’s established that drugs have contributed to serious changes and problems in one’s life, the next step is to decide if seeking professional help is the best route to take. In many cases, recovering from addiction on one’s own probably won’t work. How many times have you heard, “I can quit if I want to,” only to see them using again in short order?
Unfortunately, a lot of shame and stigma around drug use still exists in America. If someone is struggling in math, are we embarrassed to get a tutor? If we want to be a successful athlete, are we embarrassed to hire a coach or trainer? Of course not!
But we tend not to look at addiction the same way. When someone is struggling with drug addiction, extra help from licensed professionals is often the best route. It’s no different than hiring a tutor or coach in another situation. That’s what experts are there for.
Myth #2: Drug Use Is Normal for Young People, So I Shouldn’t Be Worried.
After all, lots of people drank heavily or smoked pot at one point in their lives. According to statistics, depending on when you went to high school, at least 50% of students in particular decades experimented with heavy drinking or drugs.
So it’s not uncommon for many young people in their high school and college years to experiment with drugs and alcohol. The number of young adults using drugs in high school and college is not that much different than in the past.
However, what has changed are the kinds of drugs people are addicted to and ultimately dying from. Besides marijuana, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused drug; about 6.5 million Americans currently abuse pain relievers, most of them younger adults ranging in age from 18 to 30.
This issue has been widely reported on due to how common it has been for those who abuse opioids to mix a prescription drug with fentanyl, switch to heroin use, or to ultimately die of an overdose.
Although the amount of people experimenting with drugs and those who abuse drugs hasn’t changed much, the kinds of drugs people are more likely to be addicted to now are much more dangerous. In the past, maybe you had five to 10 years to try and get through an addiction on your own or with professional help. But now, many people are dying before they have that chance. That’s why it’s critical to seek help before the problem becomes more serious.
The chance of overdose and death are much higher from opioids compared to other drugs. Opioids – mainly synthetic opioids – are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths. Opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths nationwide in 2017, which was 67.8% of all drug overdose deaths.
Another fact about the opioid crisis that may be surprising to some is that more Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 than the number of American lives lost in the entirety of the Vietnam War, which was about 58,200.
Based on these statistics, it’s clear that the use of opioids has risen tremendously and is becoming a serious problem in California just as it is in the rest of the country. Although the experimentation and abuse of drugs have not risen much overall, overdose and death rates have, and cannot be ignored if we want to help our loved ones.
Myth #3: My Son or Daughter Is “Fixed” After 30-90 Days of Treatment
Many loved ones of those who experience addiction believe that, after sobriety is achieved, their addiction has vanished. This could not be further from the truth.
In reality, addiction occurs on a spectrum, similar to mental illnesses and other diseases. Depending on how severe the addiction is, and how much support they have from family and friends, relapse is a very real concern following treatment.
Staying sober after entering treatment is a lifelong pursuit for most, but it is not an impossible goal to reach. Those who exit rehab facilities with a strong support system have an increased chance of resisting temptation, overcoming cravings, and avoiding unhealthy situations.
Rebuilding mental health is no different from working on your physical health. You can’t go to the gym for 30 days and then suddenly lose a lot of weight or be fit for the rest of your life. It’s a long process and one that needs to become a life-long habit.
It’s important to realize that after your loved one’s time at rehab ends, their recovery is ongoing. Helping them with motivation and encouraging their success helps them get their life back on track.
As a parent, you can help your son or daughter post-treatment. In fact, your love and support is probably the single most important resource they’ll have once they get out.
Nowadays, a lot of people worry about enabling behaviors. They think helping may only make things worse, which is, unfortunately, an impression some treatment programs give. But this is not the case in many situations.
Here are a list of things you can do to help your child:
- Help them with a job search or getting back into school. This doesn’t mean doing it for them, but helping them write a resume, connect with potential employers, or talk to school counselors can be a huge help.
- Listen to them. It’s OK if they talk about a desire to use. That’s normal. Let them talk to you about it and help them through those difficult times where they may be tempted to use again.
- Listen to them about the challenges they’re facing in their life. Provide a shoulder to cry on if necessary. Most importantly, let them know you love them, and are cheering for their success.
Myth #4: Addiction Is the Root Cause of the Problem
Addiction definitely causes a lot of problems in people’s lives. But what causes addiction in the first place?
When one is addicted to opioids, or any other substance for that matter, some may believe that the addiction is the sole issue with no other factors coming into play. In most cases, this is false. About 53% of those who abuse drugs have at least one serious mental illness, and around 50% of those with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse. Of those seeking treatment, generally about 80% have some kind of underlying mental health issue.
It’s common to see individuals who have suffered from some kind of trauma or serious mental health disorder attempt to numb their pain with drugs or alcohol.
Seeking help for a substance abuse problem while not treating underlying mental health issues will not produce the most successful results. If a dual diagnosis, as we refer to addiction and other mental health issues together, is recognizable and creating serious problems in one’s life, it’s important to seek help for both issues.
This is why finding a treatment program that employs master’s level clinicians is essential. Only a master’s level, licensed clinician, has the ability to diagnose serious mental health issues that may be driving addictive use.
Seeking Help for Prescription Pill Abuse and Other Addictions
If you’re currently abusing prescription pills or know someone who does, it can be difficult to admit that professional help is necessary, but this is perfectly normal. Going to a high-quality addiction treatment center with specialized care can help make the recovery process easier. At Michael’s House, several different forms of treatments are offered for patients and their unique needs.
Dual diagnosis treatment is necessary in order to get to the root of patients problems; therapy with an emphasis on mental health issues helps patients understand their behaviors and problems more clearly. Black Bear Lodge also provides holistic therapy options to ensure that patients are being treated physically, mentally, and spiritually.