Dealing with an Addicted Loved One

Dealing with an Addicted Loved One

Having an addicted loved one can be hard and recognizing the signs of addiction and getting treatment can be daunting. Prescription painkillers are some of the most commonly abused drugs in the world. These medications, which are derived from opium, work by affecting the way the brain processes and manages pain. When used properly, opiate drugs are considered safe and effective in treating moderate and severe pain; however, misuse can often result in physical dependence and, ultimately, addiction.

Opioid medications, which include drugs like Vicodin, Lortab, Percocet, OxyContin, and Morphine, can be highly addictive and result in untold complications to virtually all areas of life. From physical health to emotional well-being, opiate abuse significantly decreases the quality of life. Relationships, as well, suffer as a result of opiate addiction. The following is a guide for loved ones of opiate addicts, which includes information on recognizing the signs of substance abuse and suggesting treatment.

Recognizing the Signs of Addiction

The first step in battling prescription drug abuse is understanding the problem. Common opiate effects include signs and symptoms like the following:

  • Constricted, or “pinned,” pupils
  • Red, drooping eyes
  • Nodding off or often sleeping and at odd hours
  • Scratching or picking at the skin
  • Narcotic-seeking behaviors, such as obtaining several different prescriptions or visiting multiple doctors, which is also known as “doctor shopping.”
  • Stealing, forging, trading or selling prescriptions
  • Severe mood swings
  • Hostility, agitation or irritability
  • The refusal to discuss prescription drug abuse or the possibility of addiction
  • Continued use of prescription drugs even when negative consequences are apparent

Avoiding Codependency

In relationships with a drug-addicted partner, codependency is a common occurrence. This condition is characterized by an unhealthy reliance on another individual and often involves extreme manipulation, feelings of guilt and other abusive or destructive behaviors. A good example of a codependent relationship would be a wife who despises her husband’s drug abuse but continues to provide financial support or otherwise make excuses for her spouse’s addictive behaviors. Codependency is a sign of an extremely dysfunctional relationship and can make the effective treatment for addiction challenging or, in some cases, impossible. Thankfully, there are several ways to avoid codependent behaviors, a few of which include the following:

  • Setting boundaries. When it comes to a loved one’s substance abuse problems, clear and definite boundaries are essential.
  • Setting limits on issues regarding work, finances, children and overall behavior helps make it clear that there are direct consequences for certain actions.
  • Seeking support. Loved ones of addicts may find it helpful to seek professional help to deal with the emotional stress associated with addiction.
  • Seeking enjoyment. It’s easy for spouses of addicts to put their lives and enjoyment on the back burner. This, however, can worsen the ties of codependency and often results in anger, resentment and other negative feelings.
  • Hobbies, outings, and activities that do not involve the addicted spouse can promote a healthier, more balanced lifestyle, thus improving quality of life for everyone involved.

Treating Opiate Addiction

Without effective treatment, addiction to prescription narcotics can result in various hazards and complications to physical health, psychological well-being and overall quality of life. And although some addicts can achieve and maintain sobriety without outside help or treatment, studies show that professional rehabilitation methods can provide significant benefits when it comes to addiction recovery. For example, most rehabilitation facilities use methods like these below when treating prescription drug addiction.

Supervised Detox

Detoxification is usually the first step of inpatient treatment. In cases of opiate addiction, detox serves to rid the body of all traces of opiates. Since opioid drugs result in physical dependence, detoxification can lead to the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the severity of addiction, opiate withdrawal symptoms can be quite extreme and may last for several days. For example, the following effects are all common in cases of opiate detox:

  • Fever, chills and profuse sweating
  • Aches and pains in the muscles and joints
  • A headache and sensitivity to light and sounds
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High blood pressure which, in severe cases, may lead to stroke and other complications
  • Increased risk of seizures

Because of these effects, supervised detoxification is a major advantage of inpatient treatment. Here, the patient is provided with the care, knowledge, and support of trained professionals, which minimizes the risks associated with opiate detox.


Counseling is a major part of rehabilitation. Here, opiate addicts are provided with the tools necessary to sustain sobriety and improve the overall quality of life. Plus, many facilities offer family counseling, which will help repair the damage done to relationships as a result of addiction. For example, family counseling can help partners work through issues like codependency, guilt, resentment and more.


For recovering opiate addicts, continued care is essential in preventing relapse with narcotic drugs. Common aftercare methods include follow-up sessions with counselors, continued family counseling and other types of support.

How to Suggest Treatment to an Addicted Loved One

A common concern among loved ones of opiate addicts is how to approach the subject of treatment. Many addicts are in denial about their substance abuse and therefore, won’t even entertain the notion of addiction treatment. Thankfully, there are several ways to encourage a loved one to seek treatment for opiate addiction. The following tips will help spouses and family members approach the subject of addiction treatment.

Prepare. Since denial is common among substance abusers, planning for a discussion about treatment is essential. A great way for loved ones to prepare is by writing down how addiction has affected their relationship, as well as the various complications associated with substance abuse. Other ways to prepare include gathering information on treatment facilities, their methods, benefits, costs, etc.

Call in reinforcements. Some people find it helpful to gather reinforcement in the form of friends and family members. Not only will this help thwart denial but will also help the addict to feel supported and loved.

Be calm. Addiction can be overwhelming for all affected parties; therefore, it’s not uncommon for these types of discussions to become heated. However, arguments and upset can cause the addict to feel threatened and defensive. Instead, it’s helpful to remain calm and supportive, yet firm on the subject of treatment.

Consider a professional intervention. In some cases, professional interventions are necessary. When led by trained addiction specialists, interventions are often more effective in encouraging an addict to get help.

Although opiate addiction can have devastating effects on relationships, effective treatment can help repair the damage done by substance abuse. The methods listed here will help loved ones of addicts recognize the signs of addiction, avoid codependent behaviors and play a role in the recovery process.


Comments (3)

  1. Zsofi H Reply

    Thanks for this article. I think many people need this to know how to deal with this situation. It`s the worst thing to see your loved one going down the road. There is solution don`t wait help your loved one to get his or her life back.

  2. Trent Reply

    Oh wow, I am all too familiar with this article. It is often hard to spot the signs of addiction, but if you pay attention you can see that something is not right or has changed in your loved one. If you suspect they are using most likely they are. It’s a really tough thing to go through but we have to support our loved one’s and help them all we can. Addiction is not an easy thing to break.

  3. Elizabeth J Reply

    A great article. I really appreciate articles like these that make it easier for family members and friends to recognized that their loved one’s have an addiction problem and that they need help. It can be very difficult to know that someone is using if you don’t know what to look for, so it is always good to read about the symptoms and behaviors that an addict displays. And then the tips for loved ones to help the addict, by taking care of themselves, are also very very important. I do think that in patient treatment facilities are the way to go. You have intensity, you don’t have to worry about anything else than recovery, you don’t have temptation or access to drugs, you have a strong support system and medical supervision over detox, etc. and you have counseling and other activities and therapies that can help you get to the root of your problems and make a full recovery from addiction. I don’t know what more you can ask.

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