Concerned family and friends. We know that a family member or someone you care for, with an alcohol or drug issue can be disruptive, have a negative impact upon relationships and even cause you to live in fear.
Ngā whānau me ngā hoa e māharahara ana.
E mōhio pū ana mātou ko tētahi o tō whānau e raru ana ki te waipiro, te tarukino rānei. Ka ara mai ko tētahi tangata weriweri, tangata tōraro, tangata whakamataku i te oranga o te tangata anō hoki.
I’m worried about someone’s drug use
It can be frightening and lonely when someone you care about is struggling with their use of alcohol or other drugs. Stress is put on your relationship with this person and potentially other family members. The worst thing is that it can feel like there’s nothing you can do.
- Loss or increase in appetite, changes to eating habits, unexplained weight loss or gain
- Poor physical coordination, slow or slurred speech
- Irregular sleep patterns, inability to sleep, awake at unusual times, unusual laziness
- Red, watery eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual, blank stare
- Extreme hyperactivity, excessive talking
- Changes in overall attitude or personality with no other identifiable cause
- Changes in friends, sudden avoidance of old friends, friends who are known drug users
- Change in habits at home, loss of interest in family and family activities
- Difficulty in paying attention, forgetfulness
- General lack of motivation, energy or self-esteem, ‘I don’t care’ attitude
- Sudden oversensitivity, temper tantrums, resentfulness, moodiness or irritability
- Paranoia, excessive need for privacy
- Unexplained need for money, stealing money or items
- Finding equipment (paraphernalia) used to take drugs
WHAT CAN I DO?
Choose a time and place where the other person is relaxed and not on drugs. It is better to ask a question than to make a statement. In this way you avoid appearing critical or judgmental. It is common for people to deny they have a problem. Remain calm and avoid arguing with the other person.
If you are unsure of how to approach another person you might consider calling the Helpline (0800 787 797) for advice and guidance.
You could encourage the other person to contact the Helpline or any other source of help.
Remember, you cannot fix another person’s problem. They can only achieve that in their own time and for their own reasons. Sometimes fixing the problem requires skilled help. In the meantime you can be a friend or a ‘mate’, provide encouragement to make positive changes to their lifestyle.
Your support as a friend may not be welcomed and you may not always feel appreciated. Your ongoing support will have a positive impact and can increase the chance the other person may seek help.
You are not alone. As a support person you are welcome to call the Helpline for guidance and advice.
Consider setting some boundaries or limits. Think about behaviour that is vital for you to have trust, stability and respect in your home or relationship. Without boundaries, you end up feeling helpless. What will you tolerate?
If you are a parent, reiterate that you pay the rent or the mortgage or own the house. The drug user would be at a disadvantage without a place to stay. Though they may pretend it wouldn’t worry them to be on the streets, it would.
Where do you start with setting boundaries?
Define the boundary and consequence that everyone agrees on and can live with.
Set the boundary and communicate the understanding of all parties.
Keep the boundary.
Boundaries will change as circumstances change. With each change, make sure the new boundary is clear. Boundaries encourage a drug user to take responsibility for their actions, help them develop awareness of how they are affecting others, protect the rest of the family from the substance use and behaviours, and break the cycle of family drama, such as mums always rescuing their sons.
Read up on treatment options and talk to your loved one about options which might suit them. Offer to support them, but make sure they know that support is conditional on them following through.
You might think enabling is just a term from the movies. But it’s very real.
Enablers remove the natural consequences of a person’s drug use. They smooth things over so the person using drugs is not hurt or exposed. You, and other people in your family or friend circle, might be filling this role.
So, you might tell people at a barbecue that your wife has stayed home because she has a migraine, but in fact she’s hungover. You might buy gifts on your brother’s behalf at Christmas time because you know he’ll spend everything he has on drugs. Or you might continually allow the drug-free rules of your house to be broken because you don’t want to follow through with kicking your daughter out of home.
While these acts are well-intentioned and might help maintain a sense of calm or order, they are not helping. In fact, they are robbing the person using drugs of what is known as the “gift of desperation”.
Evidence has shown that an addict who experiences the damaging consequences of their addiction has powerful incentive to change.
A person who is dependent on drugs will feel they have hit rock bottom once friends and family stand back and let them feel the confronting consequences of their actions.
So, you tell people at the barbecue that your wife is hungover. You let your brother be the only person who doesn’t contribute to Christmas. And you stick to your guns if the daughter you let come back does not respect your wishes by bringing drugs in to your home.
Alcohol and drug addiction are considered “family diseases”. What that means is that the drug dependence weighs heavily on the family, but also that the family plays a key role in recovery.
This is why many of the formal rehab centres offer educational programmes for family. The residential facilities usually invite families to visit. Family and friends have their own support group in the AA family of fellowships. Al Anon provides companionship with other people who are watching someone battle addiction, practical advice on how to address a loved one’s drug use, and education about addiction, enabling and the recovery process.
For more information, call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797. You do not need to cope on your own.
If you plan to cut down, it can be easier to first stop completely and re-establish what normal feels like. How long that takes depends on many factors unique
to you, but two months could be a good place to start. After that, think about the effect meth had on your life before you decide to use again. If you do use again,
decide how often and how much you can use without it causing problems.
If meth isn’t obviously causing problems at the moment, it can still be a risky strategy. Exactly how risky, depends on the level you hope to maintain. Meth affects everyone differently, but if you’re using more than once a month, you may not be giving your brain enough time to return to normal.
Creating and sticking to rules can help override urges and limit use. Examples:
- Only use with someone else (i.e. not alone)
- Only use on long weekends
- Stopping if you haven’t slept for 24 hours
What are your rules? Write some down to protect the life you enjoy, commit to them, and refer to them regularly.
1. When taking meth, eat something every 4 or 5 hours; drink more water than normal; and if you’ve been awake longer than 24 hours, have a break.
2. Brush your teeth after eating food or drinking sweet drinks.
3. You can’t sleep on meth; if you want to sleep later don’t use it after 3pm.
4. Avoid mixing meth with other drugs or medications, especially hallucinogens and antidepressants. It’s hard to predict how one affects another in your system.
5. Protect yourself from HIV and STIs. Meth can make you really sexual and a bigger risk taker at the same time.
6. Swallowing meth allows your body to use its own filters. It saves your lungs from damage, produces a smoother and longer lasting high, and you’re less likely to use more.
7. If using a glass pipe, clean the inside regularly to remove burnt residue which could be inhaled.
8. Glass pipes become brittle and get damn hot. Be careful with it to avoid burns or cuts, and use a Pyrex pipe if possible.
9. Injecting meth is risky. It requires experience to reduce the chance of abscesses, collapsed veins, and infections like Hepatitis C or HIV. If you plan to inject, always use a new needle and never share any equipment (See Needle exchanges on page 20).
10. Meth is illegal. It’s also illegal to own a pipe. Be discrete and only keep less than 5 grams for personal use.
Talk about it
Talking is a great way to gain perspective on how meth is affecting you. Talking to someone who also uses meth could help, but they may not challenge you if that’s what you need. On the other hand, chatting with one or two friends or wha ̄nau members you trust, who don’t use, could help you keep a clear view of the situation.