The opioid epidemic in Canada is affecting thousands with each passing year. Percocet, fentanyl, OxyContin, and Vicodin are a few notable examples of opiates people develop an addiction to.
If you have a loved one who has an opioid addiction, chances are you are in a difficult position without much of an idea of how best to help them. That’s not surprising, seeing as there are often inadequate resources provided by Canada’s treatment programs and rehab facilities, which aren’t adequately regulated or overseen.
Fortunately, there are ways you can effectively reach out and plan a course of treatment for your loved one. Keep reading for advice on how best to approach and address an opioid addiction.
Take Time to Properly Assess the Addiction
Naturally, when you find out someone you care for has an opioid addiction, you may want to help but don’t know how. Many panic, avoid the situation, or, worse, become confrontational with their loved one. While it’s understandable that you’ll want to address the addiction straightaway, it’s important that you assess the nature of their addiction first.
There are two major definitions of addiction. The first is the (now dated) definition that a person needs the substance to prevent withdrawal and to continue functioning in day-to-day life. The second definition is, according to experts like The National Institute on Drug Abuse, that a person compulsively uses a drug regardless of any negative impacts on their health. Another related term for this definition of addiction is physiological dependence.
Those struggling with an opioid addiction become affected by physiological dependence over time. Your loved one might not be at a life-threatening stage of their addiction, but they are at risk if their dependence is matched with compulsive use of opioids and perhaps other drugs in conjunction.
Be Gentle about Intervening
Before you intervene, you must take stock of what else might be contributing to your loved one’s opioid addiction. A majority of drug addicts struggle with a pre-existing mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of their mental health conditions may have led them, in part, to their use of opioids.
Another possibility is that your loved one has been suffering from chronic pain for a long period of time and has had to up the dosage many times to adjust for their system’s tolerance of opiates.
When you do intervene, make sure it’s gently and with professional guidance. Seek compassionate therapy that addresses all aspects of your loved one’s addiction. If they are dealing with a mental health issue, counselling is recommended. If there’s chronic pain involved, you should look into physiotherapy or other wellness services as alternative treatment options for your loved one.
Medical Cannabis to Address Addiction
Fortunately, there’s also the option of medical cannabis to consider when addressing an addiction as well. There are medical practitioners your loved one can consult who can authorize the use of specific strains of cannabis that may help your loved one reduce their physical dependence on opioids over time.
Medical cannabis may be taken in much smaller dosages than opioids, and with proper consultation and follow-up, may possibly take the place of painkillers. There’s also evidence that medical cannabis may address mental health issues like anxiety and PTSD. In conjunction with a treatment plan that addresses any past injuries or conditions, cannabis stands a strong chance of countering the opioid crisis.
You aren’t alone in worrying about your loved one’s addiction, but know that helping them through it will be an ongoing process.