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Tough Love: How to Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction

If a loved one has a serious problem with drugs or alcohol, wanting to help them is an admirable aim. Nevertheless, doctors have a primary recommendation in mind — you should take the time you need to help yourself first.

Finding a support group for yourself should be your first step. Al-Anon, an offshoot of AA, helps friends and family of alcoholics who feel overwhelmed. AlaTeen is a support group meant for children and teenagers who are affected by addicted parents or relatives. Both support groups are excellent sources of information when it comes to helping a loved one overcome addiction.

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Tough love

A number of approaches exist to getting a person with an addiction into rehab. While some recommend confrontational interventions, others recommend softer methods, with the patient getting a say at every step. In some cases, people who are addicted agree to rehab simply because they have been arrested, or face a felony drug conviction, and have the option of court-mandated drug rehab. Not infrequently, employers deliver employees with termination letters with the option of accepting treatment if they want to keep their jobs.

Whatever approach works for your loved one, there’s plenty of work that you have ahead of you.

Find great drug addiction treatment

Studies indicate that while scientific research over the past two decades has completely overhauled its understanding of drug addiction and treatment, none of the treatments offered at the vast majority of drug rehab clinics is informed by it. One report in the New York Times finds that if celebrities such as Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan seem to always be in and out of drug rehab, it’s because expensive, celebrity rehab centers offer poor quality care that is far from evidence-based. Studies find that free, government-sponsored rehab centers offer far more scientific care.

Here’s what you need to look for

The facility that you choose for your loved one should be accredited by the state that it is in. Accreditation and licensing alone, though, do not guarantee excellence. You need to read reviews, and do your homework to find out about the following.

Dual diagnosis: A significant proportion of all drug and alcohol addicts suffer from a major mental health condition as well, such as depression, OCD, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. These conditions tend to push patients towards addiction. The dual diagnosis approach to drug and alcohol addiction favors investigating patients for co-occurring mental disorders, and offering simultaneous treatment. Not every rehab is equipped for treatment of this kind, though; you need to find out.

Relapse prevention: Addiction treatment is done in two steps — detoxification and therapy. The detoxification stage runs a month or longer, and helps patients with medications while their system recovers from its former exposure to drugs. Once detoxification is completed, patients are given the skills to cope with the constant cravings that turn up, and direct their energies to positive pursuits. Extensive individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy help. You need to make sure that the rehab center you choose offers extensive therapy of this kind to prevent relapse.

Look for the outpatient option: Many privately run rehab centers attempt to steer patients towards accepting expensive residential treatment — they offer round-the-clock monitoring in a drug-free environment. While this may sound like a good idea, in most cases, it is statistically no more successful than the cheaper outpatient option.

Read up

To most people, addiction is a mystery. Their ability to help a loved one through an addiction, then, is seriously compromised by a lack of knowledge. For instance, most people have no idea that medical science considers addiction a serious mental disorder, rather than a character flaw. Reading up on addiction and rehab, then, is one of the best ways that you can help a loved one. The National Institute on Drug Abuse publishes plenty of quality materials.

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