Valentine’s Day is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the love and connection you have with your partner. Unfortunately, this can be difficult if your partner abuses drugs. The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that in 2019, 38.7 million individuals aged 18 and older in America suffered from substance use disorder (SUD)1. The question becomes, how can you help your loved one become free from substance dependence?
Choosing Between Drugs and Love
Being in a relationship with someone who abuses opioids can often make you feel like a tedious third wheel, always tagging along where you are not wanted. In fact, you sometimes may feel like your partner loves drugs more than they love you. While they might not come out and say something as ridiculous as this, their actions might often speak louder than words.
Drug users often don’t treat their partners as they are expected to. However, it is essential to remember that in many cases, it is not your partner choosing to act this way – but the effects of the drugs (or lack thereof). While they might want to choose you over drugs, when it comes down to it, their physical dependence and drug cravings are more than they can control.
Even though the myths and stigma society has placed on drug addiction and its victims, it is crucial to understand that addiction is not a disease of character, spirit, or circumstance. It is a human condition with very human consequences and can happen to anyone. Drug users can come from any social level and from any biological background.
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With that said, how do we know if our loved one really wants to become opiate-free?
Understanding Substance Abuse
A person suffering from drug addiction often has a distorted view of reality. It is tough to reason with them. Their lies might be what they believe to be true for them. Also, their self-destruction might feel like their only way of survival. The will to change usually comes when other options have become too scary. Sadly enough, it is a decision they must make alone. Firm boundaries are necessary in order to support the person and not feed their addiction. Learn to differentiate between what you can change and what you cannot change.
In some cases, you might even have to accept that they are not ready to move toward recovery yet. As horrible and scary as this sounds, there is not much you can do about it. You can try to keep some sanity by gathering knowledge and resources. So, when the time comes, you can help guide them effectively. Learn about dependence, addiction, and mental health. Review available options and understand the differences.
Often patients fail treatment because they feel misunderstood. In many cases, they do not receive adequate care based on their individual needs.
What is the Difference Between Drug Addiction and Physical Dependence?
While the terms are often used interchangeably in today’s world, there’s a significant distinction between “addiction” and “physical dependence.” Addiction is a severe condition resulting in overwhelming cravings and an inability to control drug use despite the risks and negative consequences. With addiction, drug users might get fired from their job, be unable to care for their families, or even act erratically.
On the other hand, physical dependence occurs when the body ceases to produce enough endogenous opioids (endorphins) and relies on an external source to prevent withdrawal syndrome. The tolerance increases and the body becomes dependent on those external opioids to maintain its equilibrium.
How Do Physical Dependence and Addiction Develop?
Opioids work by attaching to the receptor sites in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. This causes a person to have a reduced perception of pain and an increased sense of well-being. With repeat use of opioid drugs, the production of natural endorphins is inhibited. This results in a withdrawal syndrome when drug use is discontinued.
Additionally, a person develops tolerance, causing them to need more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect they did on lower doses. Eventually, opioid dependence quickly becomes a painful reality that can develop into an addiction if not properly treated.
Why You Should Avoid the Term “Addict”
While the word “addict” might sound harmless enough to you, yet it can demean a person who uses drugs. “Addict” acts as a harmful label that removes humanity from a person. Instead, it identifies them solely by their disease. Furthermore, many “addicts” might not be “addicts” at all. Instead, they may be opiate-dependent. Regardless of the label, if your loved one desires a life without opiates, they still may need your help overcoming opioid abuse.
How to Love a Drug User
Your love can be a great tool in helping your partner go back to a drug-free lifestyle. In most cases, people want to stop abusing drugs but might fear withdrawal or failing themselves and their loved ones. Some people may even be afraid to give up drugs because it is helping to mask their emotional distress. Regardless of the reason, each type of drug abuser will need reassurance and emotional support to guide them.
1. Empathize With Their Situation
One crucial aspect of any relationship is empathy – trying to know and understand your partner’s feelings and situation. This is especially important for drug abusers. By sharing their feelings and understanding the reasons behind their drug abuse, they will not feel so alone, and you will become much closer.
2. Educate Yourself on Dependence and Addiction Issues
No two people are the same, meaning there isn’t a uniform solution for everyone. Understanding your partner’s condition and individualized needs can be critical to a successful approach to treatment or even helping someone save his or her life from drug addiction.
3. Discover Treatment Options, Find Freedom from Opiates
Whenever your partner is ready, assist them in the search for a treatment center or rehab program that’s right for them. At the end of the day, it will be an arduous journey for both of you. However, if you genuinely love this person, it is a journey you both need to take to find long-term happiness.
Don’t Ever Put Your Self at Risk
It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of love and excitement, but when you meet a new love interest, it is essential to listen to your instincts, especially if substance abuse is present. If you notice that someone has trouble owning their mistakes, gets angry quickly, or lashes out with hurtful words, these are all indicators that this person might not be a great partner for the long term. It can be difficult, but understanding your boundaries and those of your partner is essential. If you introduce someone new into your life who does not respect them, it is best to tread carefully—and ultimately run away if necessary.
Communication is critical here; simply talking openly with your potential partner will help make clear whether accountability or criticism are cornerstone traits of their personality or mere momentary flaws. Being safe rather than sorry should be priority number one.