Relationships with Drug Users: Love Them or Leave Them

relationships with drug usersValentine’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the love and connection you have with your partner. Unfortunately, this can be difficult if your partner abuses drugs. Over two million people in the United States struggle with substance abuse disorders involving prescription painkillers. The question becomes, how can you help your loved one become free from opiate dependence?

Choosing Between Drugs and Love

Being in a relationship with someone who abuses opioids can often make you feel like an irksome 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 abusers often don’t treat their partners as are expected to. However, it is important 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.

Despite 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 it can happen to anyone. Drug users can come from any social level and any from any biological background.

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. In addition, 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 have to make on their own. Firm boundaries are necessary, in order to support the person and not feed their addiction. Learn to differentiate 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 towards recovery yet. As horrible and as 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 the 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 actually a very important distinction between “addiction” and “physical dependence.” Addiction is a serious condition resulting in overwhelming cravings and an inability to control the drug use despite the risks and negative consequences. With addiction, a drug user might get fired from their job, be unable to take care of their family, or even act erratically.

Physical dependence, on the other hand, occurs when the body ceases to produce enough endogenous opioid (endorphins) and relies on an external source of to prevent withdrawal syndrome. The tolerance increases and the body become 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 the withdrawal syndrome when drug use is discontinued.

Additionally, a person develops tolerance, causing the person 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 the humanity from a person. Instead it identifies them solely by their disease. Furthermore, many “addicts” might not be “addicts” at all.  Rather 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 Abuser

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 they might be scared of 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 important 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 that there isn’t a uniform solution for everyone. Understanding your partner’s condition and individualized needs can be critical to a successful approach for treatment or even helping someone save his or her lives 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 a tough journey for both of you. However, if you truly love this person, it is a journey you both need to take in order to find long-term happiness.