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Professionals play an important role, but when one member of the family has a substance abuse problem, everyone in that family carries the effects of that problem as well as the responsibility to help and assist their loved one to overcome his or her problem.
Helping a family member overcome substance abuse, be it alcohol, cocaine, heroin, crystal meth (Tik), marijuana or other drugs, is truly a group effort. Together with professionals, the family plays a huge role in the recovery of their loved one – from recognising the problem right on through to aftercare.
Quitting the abusive use of drugs is always difficult because the addict invariably denies being addicted and usually insists that he or she can quit any day. Only those who have some sort of "inner realisation" are able to quit drugs on their own. Most people need help to quit and, more importantly, to stay drug-free.
Treatment involves a long process that extends to a lifetime of accepting one's proneness to addiction. The first step is to motivate the addict to quit taking drugs, which may be done by friends, family or by professional counsellors or ex-addicts. The subsequent stages of treatment are as follows:
This is done in a specialised set-up equipped to handle drug-withdrawal by appropriate medication, to prevent complications of sudden withdrawal (such as seizures, dehydration, delirium, severe insomnia), and to treat other disorders caused by drugs (such as liver cirrhosis, respiratory problems, infections). The duration of the treatment is two to three weeks.
Psychotherapy and counselling
Aimed at altering addictive behaviour, the treatment includes individual therapy as well as family therapy to help family members of recovering addicts learn new strategies to cope, resolve conflicts and prevent relapse. Also included is group therapy with other recovering addicts, help with craving control, relaxation techniques, leisure time planning and lifestyle review discussions.
Psychosocial rehabilitation is required to bring the ex-addict back to the mainstream of life. Carried out in specialised settings, a person may be required to stay admitted for a period of time.
Anti-craving or antagonist medicines
Certain medicines that reduce drug craving (naltrexone in alcoholism and opiates) or block the high of a drug, or those that produce an adverse effect by reacting with the drug (disulfiram with alcohol) or mimic the action of the drug (methadone in opiates) may be used to 'buy' time to effectively rehabilitate the addict. Always consult a medical practitioner on the best medicines required.
As relapsing into an addiction is fairly common, effective aftercare and relapse prevention programmes have to be followed. These require follow-up at treatment centres for about one to two years. These programmes aim at addressing outstanding issues, reducing stress, reviewing treatment gains, taking up new responsibilities and producing lifestyle changes that help a person grow.
The road to recovery does not end here, as it is a continuous journey. Although the risk of relapse decreases with the passage of time it can still occur. The treatment enhances the client's capacity to cope and progress on a drug free life.