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Overcoming Opioids: How To Help Your Adult Child

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The greatest pain a parent can go through is watching their own child achieve their biggest dream and then have it ripped away. The worst part was wondering if my son would end up in jail or, even worse, dead.

From Triumph To Tragedy

As a parent, one of my proudest moments was watching my son’s passion for football. All of the games, practices, and late night drills showed his commitment and determination.

opioid addiction among adultsIt made giving up my schedule as a single mom to be at his games worth it. What I didn’t know then was the destructive path the game would lead to.

It started with a full ACL tear from a hard landing during a big game. It was so hard to watch my child in pain from the stands. I knew this might be the end of his football days, but never did I imagine what else it would bring.

He had to have surgery, which came with a Vicodin prescription. I figured it was the doctor’s orders, so I didn’t think anything of it. I started hearing from him less and less, and when I did, I could tell he was depressed.

He had lost connection with his team and his greatest passion in life. He didn’t know if he would be able to play again. All of it pushed him into a deep depression.

Soon enough, I found that some of my pills went missing. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I confronted him about it, but all I got was denial and excuses. I decided to let it go just this once.

Later on in the week, news spread about a party in the area that was busted by the police. It was called a pharm/skittles party. I learned that this is a new trend where kids take whatever pills they can find, put them all in one big bowl, and take them at random.

I thought back to my missing pills. Soon enough, I got a call from the police explaining that he was one of the kids at the party.

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I discovered that the problem was much more serious than I had realized. He was stealing, using others’ prescriptions, and seeking out random pills to get high.

I was shocked and scared. First he lost football, and now his future and life were at risk. As I started desperately trying to figure out what to do, I felt more and more powerless. I realized that he’s an adult, which means there was little I could actually do.

I couldn’t force him to let me in or force him into treatment. Eventually, all I could do was wonder if he was OK and if he had a roof over his head.

Every time the phone rang, I wondered if it would be the police again or if someone found him dead. And there was a part of me that hoped it would be my son on the other end of the line, finally reaching out.

Opioids And Overdoses In Ohio

assorted prescription pillsThis story is not uncommon. At Vertava Health of Ohio, we hear stories of opioid addiction just like this all of the time.

Opiate/heroin use is a severe issue in our communities. In Ohio alone, 3,764 people unintentionally died from drug overdoses in 2018.

One of the biggest culprits in these deaths is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid for severe pain. Fentanyl was a culprit in a whopping 73% of opioid deaths and 80% of heroin overdose deaths. Many of the drugs that people see as “harmless fun” because they are a prescription don’t take into account the number of pills that are counterfeited and laced with an even deadlier drug.

And opioids aren’t exactly hard to get. In 2018, out of every 100 patients, Ohio providers wrote opioid prescriptions for 53.5.

Across the nation, it isn’t much better. The national average is 51.4 prescriptions out of every 100 patients. Worse yet, in 2017, 1.7 million Americans had a substance use disorder from opioids and 652,000 had a substance use disorder from heroin specifically.

While opioids are clearly a problem, the next question we should be asking is why it’s an issue.

Why Are Opioids Such A Problem?

The problem started in the late 1990s, when opioids started to be widely prescribed for pain, making them easy to obtain and basically “free” if you had a prescription.

While opioid prescriptions are still high, there is now more knowledge about them. The CDC has an opioid prescribing guideline for providers and there are state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP).

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It’s also important to consider the risk factors that drive opioid use. These include:

  • Low income/poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Family or personal history of use
  • Personal history of crime or legal problems
  • Youth
  • Being around risky people or environments
  • Risky behavior
  • Mental illness
  • Stressful situations
  • Prior drug/alcohol rehab or heavy use of tobacco

People typically turn to opioids to manage pain and/or cope with the symptoms of a mental illness or trauma.

However, just because someone uses opioids doesn’t mean that they’re addicted. After all, they are prescribed for a reason and can be taken responsibly. In fact, the vast majority of individuals take prescription opioids without a problem.

How can we tell the difference between opioid use and actual addiction?

Is It Drug Use, Misuse, Or Addiction?

It’s important to know what classifies as an addiction so that we can start to be able to identify it.

Many people take and use opioids to manage pain. However, opioids can also be used illegally. Drug use is defined by any use of illegal drugs. It doesn’t mean addiction.

Next, there is drug misuse. This is when substances are used in ways other than prescribed, such as for pleasure, stress, or other reasons; it is being misused.

Addiction is when substance use can’t be controlled, even when negative consequences arise. This is also known as a substance use disorder.

But then how do we know if our child has a substance use disorder? What are the signs?

Signs And Symptoms Of Opioid Addiction

We want to be able to notice the behaviors that could indicate an addiction. That way, we know what’s going on and can get a better idea of how to help. 

When someone has an opioid use disorder or addiction, they will likely:

  • Not be able to control use or cravings
  • Experience drowsiness
  • Experience changes to sleep or exercise patterns
  • Lose weight
  • Have recurring flu-like symptoms
  • Have a lower sex drive
  • Lack hygiene
  • Isolate or steal from friends or family
  • Have sudden financial problems

Sound familiar? If so, it’s then important to consider ways to help your child, even if they’re an adult. But how is that possible?

adult with opioid addiction

How to Help In Any Situation

If your child is a grown adult but is struggling with an addiction, it can be hard to know what to do. They’re on their own, but you don’t want to stand by and watch them suffer. So what can you do?

Avoid the mindset that the drug use isn’t that bad or is just a phase.

One of the best things you can do is address the problem early on before the addiction results in negative consequences. This increases the chances of recovery, especially for young people.

You can get a screening to determine if your child is struggling with addiction by reaching out to a licensed professional. They can also help you determine the best course of action.

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We are here to help you through every aspect of recovery. Let us call you to learn more about our treatment options.

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Maybe the right question to ask next is what you shouldn’t do. 

  • Don’t sweep the addiction under the rug. That will only lead your child to believe that they don’t have a problem.
  • Don’t make them feel worse about the situation, because it’ll only further their shame.
  • Don’t let them borrow money. You don’t know where it’s going and it could enable their addiction.

But there are also things you can do. 

  • Point out the behavior, but don’t judge the child. Explain how their behavior makes you feel.
  • Support them in seeking treatment, researching centers, and asking how you can help.
  • Get involved in family recovery and maybe even get support for yourself, too. Addiction affects the entire family. We can’t help others if we’re not in a good place ourselves.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I help an adult addict?

Don’t ignore the problem, but also don’t attack your child. You don’t want to push them away, but you do want to support their recovery. So, help with things that are good for them such as treatment programs and encouraging their abilities. But at the same time, don’t enable them by letting them borrow money or taking care of their every need.

How do I know if my child is addicted to heroin?

Physical signs include constricted pupils, track marks, slow heartbeat, breathing, or digestion, dry mouth, and blue lips or nails. Behavioral indicators are stealing, risk-taking, and neglecting relationships and responsibilities.

Is there a difference between substance use and substance use?

Substance use refers to simply taking illegal drugs and does not imply addiction. Substance use refers to improperly taking substances for purposes other than what is intended. A licensed professional can perform an assessment that can determine if substance use has turned into a full-blown addiction requiring treatment.

At Vertava Health of Ohio, we know how hard it is to watch a child struggle with addiction. We’re here to help your child through every step of the recovery journey. When they’re with us, you can have some peace of mind knowing that they are getting evidence-based, individualized care as they continue to grow. Start today or learn more by calling us at 888-601-8693.