The recent defamation trial between movie stars Johnny Depp and Amber Heard highlighted a global problem – intimate partner violence. However, addiction was also widely discussed as cause and trigger for the discussed (and alleged) violent events.
We asked addiction experts from Substance Rehabilitation UK, a leader in the addiction treatment field in the United Kingdom, about the ways to communicate our care and worry when our partner is suffering from an addiction.
What Are Opioids?
Opioid medications are used to manage severe chronic pain. These include morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, tramadol, fentanyl, tapentadol, buprenorphine, methadone, and propoxyphene (Darvon), and meperidine (Demerol). Based on addiction potential and consequences to the nervous system and the brain, the most dangerous of these drugs are morphine, heroin, oxycontin, and Vicodin.
When your loved one is taking opioid medication, they may have side effects that can make them feel out of control or agitated. In fact, some people who take opioids get addicted to them. This happens because opioids affect how the brain works by blocking certain chemicals, which leads to changes in behaviour. When you’re with someone who takes opioids long term, it’s important not to try to change their mindset or lifestyle. Instead, focus on providing support and understanding.
How Are They Feeling?
When one is addicted to an opioid, they will feel helpless without them. While illicit drugs are abused by default, prescribed medicine is originally there to heal, to help the body function normally. This is where addiction to prescription painkillers becomes a much more difficult problem, socially, emotionally and psychologically.
They experience anxiety, hopelessness, anger, fear and despair, all of which worsen if their use continues. If you notice any of these symptoms in your loved one, remember that you should be patient, kind and encouraging. You want to reach out to them — but don’t force them to open up if they aren’t ready yet.
When one becomes dependent on prescribed medications, their normal habits will become harder to handle; they will need to re-learn how to handle their job, relationships, and life. This is where their partner’s support becomes invaluable.
You can provide this support by listening carefully to what they say and showing them empathy, even though they might seem angry at times. Listen closely to understand their feelings, then talk about how you can work together to find solutions while still respecting each other’s differences.
Starting arguments, feeding quarrels and trying to record them when vulnerable is probably going to make the situation worse. For example, they will begin hiding their problems more, consider you as an enemy, and be afraid to share their pain with you. Consequentially, you will lose their trust, and helping them will become very difficult.
Where to Seek Help?
Addiction treatment is available in many places around the UK. Some people prefer to seek outpatient treatment, and others choose to go into inpatient rehab programmes. Both options offer similar benefits and services. However, there are also several factors that must be considered before choosing either option.
In order to determine whether outpatient or residential inpatient treatment is best for your loved one, ask yourself:
- Is your loved one ready to receive help?
- Does he/she want to commit himself/herself to a specific program?
- Are they willing to follow through with treatment?
- Do they have access to transportation?
- Are they prepared to live independently?
If you answer “yes” to the above questions, especially if to more than one, then residential addiction treatment could be the better choice. If they are struggling with dependency issues and you know that his/her mental health condition has reached a critical level, then immediate help is needed.
The first step should always be to contact your or their GP, if they are different. They will know previous medications, as well as current prescriptions and medical history and be able to recommend treatment in your area.
In addition, you can also reach out to a private addiction treatment provider who will help you with a consultation and free assessment. In the UK, most private rehabs will allow a few free calls and consultations before they begin discussing payments.
Supporting Your Partner through Detox and Rehab
If your loved one prefers to go through an outpatient detox, as the one Mr Depp discussed during the televised trial, then they will be cleansing their body at home. Supervisors from the treatment centre will be on-call, as were his, and available for advice and urgent needs. However, this kind of detoxification will put extreme stress on you, if you choose to be the one handling the process at your home. Not being medically trained, you may encounter conditions which would be too difficult to handle yourself. In such instances, you must call the supervising medical personnel right away. This is a very vulnerable moment for them, as well as for your relationship.
Once through detox, residential or at your place, your partner will need therapy. Make sure you support them through this process, as they will begin to feel more in control, and successfully work towards improving their relationship capabilities. Which will also benefit you personally.
It is important to keep in mind that recovery is a long term process, so it will take time to see results. It is recommended to stay positive and supportive throughout this period, even though some days might seem harder than others.