The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 948,000 Americans used heroin within the previous year. Furthermore, nearly two out of three of those heroin users met the diagnostic criteria for heroin dependence.
That means that there are hundreds of thousands of American families touched by heroin addiction. Heroin addiction in families wreaks havoc in the lives of the addict’s loved ones, often doing damage that can last a lifetime.
Heroin Addiction Impacts Parents and Spouses
The parents and spouses of individuals suffering from heroin addiction often experience extreme feelings of guilt over being unable to help their addicted loved one. This often leads to many adopting an unhealthy caretaker role in the addict’s life. While the decision to begin using heroin ultimately belongs to the addicted person, the spouse or parent will frequently take the blame upon themselves, which often only makes the problem worse.
One issue commonly faced by the heroin addict’s family is whether to provide support, both emotional and financial, to the addicted person. Addicts are guided by one thing, and that’s the urge to get high. Heroin addicts often use emotional manipulation to take advantage of their loved one’s guilt in order to support their habit.
Heroin addicts tend to keep their parents or spouse locked in a cycle of enabling behaviors though comments and arguments such as:
- “If you stop helping me, I’ll end up on the street.”
- “Your support is the only thing keeping me alive.”
- “If I have problems, it’s because of the way you raised me.”
- “I’m going to quit using soon. I just need a little more time.”
- “If you really loved me, you would accept me for who I am.”
- “What kind of parent can just sit back and let their child die?”
Heroin Addiction Impacts Children
The risks associated with being the child of a heroin addict begin in the womb. Pregnant mothers who inject heroin using dirty needles run the risk of contracting blood-borne diseases, which can then be passed on to their unborn child.
In addition, the physical toll addiction takes on a person’s health can negatively impact the physical development of an unborn child. Furthermore, countless babies are born every year already addicted to heroin as a result of their mother’s use of the drug.
Growing up with an addicted parent creates a toxic environment for children. Research shows that the children of addicts are twice as likely to develop substance use disorders during their lifetime compared to other children.
Even if the child does not become an addict later on in life, the emotional stress and fear of living with an addicted parent can leave lasting scars. These can damage a child’s emotional and social development well into adulthood.
The children of heroin addicts often report that their adolescence was characterized by anxiety, neglect and instability. These early experiences often shape a child’s idea of what a normal relationship is. This tends to lead to serious problems later in life, such as:
- Fear of abandonment
- Low self-esteem
- The inability to distinguish love from pity
- Compulsive behavior
- Reactive personality
Children of heroin addicts are also more likely to experience both emotional and physical abuse. In fact, a recent study by the World Health Organization found that 35 percent of parental child abuse cases involved drugs or alcohol.
Helping Your Family Member Addicted to Heroin
Anyone with experience dealing with a heroin-addicted loved one knows that one of the biggest hurdles toward recovery is getting them to accept the fact they need help. Addicts are masters at rationalizing their destructive behavior, and trying to confront them alone often does more harm than good. This is why it is so important to seek the help of an expert interventionist in the early stages of addiction recovery.
Below are four crucial benefits of professional guidance during the process of staging an intervention.
Interventionists Provide an Outsider’s Perspective
After months or years of manipulation, it is nearly impossible for an addict’s family to think about the situation objectively. An interventionist, on the other hand, will provide direction and structure without the clouding influence of emotional attachment. Interventions can quickly become argumentative and unproductive, which is why it is so important to have someone there who can remain calm and keep things on track.
Interventionists Help Families Address Their Own Problematic Behaviors
Family members can enable their loved one’s addiction without ever realizing it, and may even bear some responsibility for creating a toxic environment in which the addiction thrives.
An expert interventionist will have years of experience in identifying and correcting any problematic behaviors among the addict’s friends and family. This creates a solid foundation of support during the addict’s recovery.
Professional Interventionists Provide Ongoing Support
In addition to the intervention itself, an interventionist will help families create a complete approach to recovery, from choosing the right rehabilitation program to providing ongoing counseling, guidance and recovery compliance.
Interventionists Can Identify Co-Occurring Disorders
It is common for heroin addicts to suffer from one or more co-occurring mental health disorders. Common co-occurring disorders include PTSD, depression, OCD and bipolar disorder.
By interviewing and working with the addict’s family, the interventionist may recognize the need to stage an intervention for both addiction and mental illness. Taking a holistic approach to recovery from day one greatly improves your loved one’s odds for successful rehabilitation.
While the interventionist can’t officially diagnose the co-occurring disorder, they can help send your loved one to a treatment program that can – and one which will address and accommodate the mental disorder.
Our Approach Is Family First
If you have a family member addicted to heroin, you understand that everyone in the addict’s life pays the price. This is why, at Intervention Helpline, we believe that when it comes to treating addiction, the family should always come first. Contact us today to discover how our expert interventionists can help your whole family heal.