Initiating a Discussion on Drug Abuse

Initiating a Discussion on Drug Abuse

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2012 24 million Americans aged 12 or older reported abusing an illicit or prescription drug the month before the survey. This figure represents 9.2% of the population. While marijuana was the most commonly abused illicit drug, painkillers led all prescription drug abuse, topping sedatives, tranquilizers, stimulants, hallucinogens and inhalants combined. Hydrocodone, a narcotic compound, is a leading analgesic used in painkillers like Vicodin, Lortab, Norco and Zohydro, yet even medical use of this drug has the potential for abuse. Per NIDA Director Nora Volkow, 3% to 5% of people that take painkillers become addicted to them. If people abuse painkillers, then their friends and loved ones may need to address that problem.

Before discussing a loved one’s substance abuse, it is important to understand the following basics of addiction:

  • Predisposition to drug abuse is at least 50% rooted in genetic vulnerabilities
  • Addiction is a brain disease that affects memory, motivation and reward structures
  • Neurobiological changes from substance abuse affect decision making and perception
  • Drug abuse is often accompanied by co-occurring mental health disorders, like depression
  • Stigmas may discourage acknowledgment of the addiction. One stigma is that drug abuse stems from moral weakness or poor character, but this is patently false.

People may also discuss hydrocodone addiction better if they know about rehab options. For example, addicts can choose between full-time inpatient and part-time outpatient treatment, and many health insurance plans cover such treatment.

One-on-one discussions with a drug user may work, but, if the discussion fails, it may become necessary to hold a group intervention. In such cases, it helps to consult or utilize a professional interventionist. Popular intervention models include the Johnson, CRAFT and ARISE methods, and even informal discussions can benefit from the following intervention principles:

  • Avoid condescending, judgmental, patronizing and negative tones
  • Write down exactly what you intend to say, and practice saying it
  • Cite examples of how the addiction affected others without placing blame
  • Discuss ways to address drug abuse
  • Consider fostering change in the addict by making your own lifestyle changes
  • Do not allow the addict to bait you into an argument

By understanding the science of addiction and appropriate intervention principles, people are better able to initiate talks on drug abuse. The following tips can help you start the conversation and determine what to say:

  • Set up a time to speak with the addict in a private, comfortable place
  • Discuss the drug abuse like a friend showing love, concern and support

Be prepared for denials or reasons why the drug helps with a particular problem. Acknowledge that problem without trivializing or dismissing it., then gently explain that there are better, safer solutions to those problems than risky drug abuse.

The goal of any discussion about drug abuse is to encourage treatment. If the addict absolutely refuses to seek help, then you can still take the following steps:

  • Stage a group intervention with loved ones
  • Ask the addict to join you in an addiction recovery meeting
  • Encourage a medical examination with the addict’s doctor
  • Keep the discussion going by asking to talk again next week

It can help to develop a support network for the addict, but conversation must always be occur in a spirit of love and concern. If you need help talking with someone about drug abuse, then call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now. Our admissions coordinators can discuss drug abuse conversations, provide printed materials and even look up health insurance benefits. Our staff knows how to help, so please call now to get and stay well.