help me help a junkie kick it
November 14, 2010 9:55 PM   Subscribe

My friends sister is on smack and she wants me to help her kick it. Do-able?

I'm letting my friends sister crash here until she can get a job. Today she told me she has a drug problem and she hates herself for it. I told her I would do whatever I could to help her, but I've never done anything like this before. She said something called "suboxone" is way better than methadone, but I can't afford to take her to a doctor for prescription. Really just any advice you can think of. I know I'm stupid for getting involved, but I feel sorta committed now.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This one is sending up red flags all over. Do-able? Yes, but think carefully as to whether you have the time and resources to commit to seeing her through this.

I'm also a tiny bit suspicious that she's told you she has a drug problem and right off the bat told you she knows what kind of treatment she needs. A cursory googling suggests that suboxone (despite being FDA approved) is reportedly being abused by drug users.

Good luck.
posted by arnicae at 10:01 PM on November 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

She needs rehab, not an enabler. Does your friend's sister have living parents? Does your friend know her sister is an addict? You need to contact those people. She is not your responsibility. If worse comes to worse, you should contact a hotline in your city so she can get professional assistance from someone who is licensed to help someone like this woman.

If it were me, I would not get involved unless you are prepared to be dragged down into the hole with this girl. You are a saint for giving her a place to stay, but you may be in for a hell of a lot more trouble than you may realize if you a) let her continue to stay with you while she's using, b) provide her with an alternative substance. My roommate in college became a junkie and she endangered my belongings and my life more than once to get a high, and it broke my heart not to be able to support her during this time, but it was not something I could get involved in without serious, you'll-be-in-deep-shit-long-term personal risk.

I am sure other MeFites will have better suggestions, but these are my two cents as someone who was once in your place.
posted by patronuscharms at 10:09 PM on November 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't thin this is a problem you can possibly solve on your own. Drug addiction can be tremendously hard to beat even with professional help. Certainly medicines can be useful, but this isn't the kind of problem she can solve by taking a pill every morning. I think you need to get together with your friend and engage one or more specialists in addiction treatment. Does she have any other family that might be able to support her and pay for treatment? A social worker in your area would be able to help figure out what's available and within your budget.

You say you're letting your friend's sister stay with you until she gets a job. What if that takes her six months? A year?

Perhaps you can tell us where you are (by contacting the mods so they can update this post) so people can point you towards local resources. Good luck to you and your friend's sister!
posted by zachlipton at 10:17 PM on November 14, 2010

Detoxing is very medically dangerous - she needs to have medical supervision, not a crashpad on your couch. Please help her get some professional help.
posted by tristeza at 10:39 PM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Shit, edit window: "Detoxing CAN BE very medically dangerous....."
posted by tristeza at 10:40 PM on November 14, 2010

Some people skip withdrawl with one ibogain ordeal. Methadone is worse than heroin in some ways.
posted by hortense at 11:11 PM on November 14, 2010

Don't go into this naively. Expect to be taken advantage of, lied to, and stolen from, at a minimum. Maintain your own protection firmly in mind when dealing with addicts, even when they are beloved relatives. She's far better off with professional help and it will be safer for everyone concerned.

I'd turn my own mother away from my home if she showed up addicted to heroin and asking for a place to crash, even if she said it was to get clean. Especially if she said it was to get clean. For lack of a better way to put it, in a lot of ways, these people become heroin. It's all they are. Every single heroin user I have known that wasn't a chipper pretty much became a machine dedicated to obtaining heroin by any means necessary.

As a great philosopher once said, never trust a junkie.
posted by Sternmeyer at 11:21 PM on November 14, 2010 [14 favorites]

Agree to one thing only: Driving her to an inpatient treatment facility. Expect that she will not accept this option. Expect that she will attempt all manner of manipulation. And expect that she won't stay in the facility if she does agree to go. Do note that I said "drive her to the facility" and not "agree to pay for treatment."

And, you're not committed. You feel like you are because you've sunk some time into this and you've formed an emotional connection. But that's sort of part the point of her coming to you in the first place. This is also why you shouldn't do anything that costs you any money at all -- the more this starts to look like something you've invested in, the more you'll feel like you have to see it through.

Don't get involved. Just say no.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 11:58 PM on November 14, 2010 [10 favorites]

Realistically she's looking at waiting for a place in a publicly run rehab facility. Depending on where you are that could be months. Then she does 21 - 90 days of inpatient rehab, and gets out and needs a place to stay while she does out patient follow up rehab and tries to get a job/ not hang out with her junkie friends/ stay clean etc. Say 6-8 months of that. She might get some kind of maintenance medication either an opiate substitute like methadone or suboxone or psychiatric treatment. Either of these scenarios will involve a ludicrous amount of paperwork, visits to clinics (daily for methadone), and waiting around in publicly run health facilities. For months or years. Then maybe she'll get a job.

And that's if she's serious about getting clean. If she's looking to score suboxone? She's not serious.

Do you really want to get dragged into all this crap?
posted by fshgrl at 12:09 AM on November 15, 2010

When my junkie housemates stole $1100 worth of everybody's rent money, at least they were gracious enough to leave an apology note in the kitty tin.

Made of Star Stuff's advice is sound.
posted by flabdablet at 12:37 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can I save you some time? No, not do-able. Get help. Post the place you're in so mefi can help you locate adequate professionals. And why isn't your friend the point person for his/her sister, instead of you?
posted by filmgeek at 2:52 AM on November 15, 2010

Two things:

1. Find your local chapter of Narcotics Anonymous. At the very least, it's a start and will give her some contacts if she's serious about being clean. They may be able to give you better, more specific advice than strangers on the Internet (not knocking Mefi, but it's true). Especially if money is an issue, I think this is a good idea.

2. I know you didn't ask for this, but you might want to read the book Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. If nothing else, it could bring home to you--and your friend--that recovery is a long, difficult process that's going to have ups and downs for the addict and everyone around her.

Get professional help. Addiction is a powerful force and well-meaning as you are, you might make things worse.
posted by j1950 at 3:11 AM on November 15, 2010

You will be manipulated. Shes not doing it to hurt you, its a symptom of her disease.

Now offer to drive her to someplace where she will get actual help rather than enabling her.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:14 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, assuming she's over 18, you won't be able to commit her to rehab unless she wants to do so herself (and can afford it, or has insurance that will pay for it etc.). Keep that in mind--there's really little value to pulling a Michael Scott and driving her to a treatment center against her will. If she is dead set against it, taking her to professionals might be counter-productive.

Last point: Think about yourself. When dealing with troubled people we care about, we often ignore our own feelings and emotional needs. If her dependency starts to hurt you, put yourself first. It's neither selfish nor uncompassionate to make sure that your mental health and physical security are your first priority.
posted by j1950 at 3:26 AM on November 15, 2010

You will be manipulated.

You are being manipulated.

I feel sorta committed now.

For example.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:14 AM on November 15, 2010 [10 favorites]

Quick bit of advice: addiction turns people into very short term thinkers. This is where the manipulation comes from- they will say or do whatever they think you want to hear to get their short term goal.

I'm not doubting this person's motivations to want to get off the junk. But it's not really a do it yourself kind of thing.

The withdrawal is bad, but it isn't nearly the whole picture. This person has to reprogram their thought processes so that drugs are no longer a solution. Since they are drug-seeking, they probably aren't there yet.
posted by gjc at 5:28 AM on November 15, 2010

Your stuff is likely to be stolen and sold. I'm sorry.
posted by Savannah at 5:47 AM on November 15, 2010

Sorry, posting from phone makes for terse answers. Your personal possessions are likely to be stolen and sold for drugs.

This addiction is a huge issue that people who a terribly committed to the addict often can't help to kick, people like parents.

You do not have a close relationship to this person?

I would advise you to do whatever you can to get this person out of your home. You are putting yourself at risk here, no matter how kind you are.

My only experience is a friend's partner's son, who stole from the family home more than once, selling items of great sentimental value to buy heroin. He did not care about what it did to his family, what hurt it caused. He only cared about getting more heroin.

The family did everything they could out of desperate love for this son, but they could not save him.

This isn't even your friend or your sister. Run.
posted by Savannah at 5:54 AM on November 15, 2010

who a terribly

Should be "who are terribly".

I will stop posting now.
posted by Savannah at 5:54 AM on November 15, 2010

N-thing NO WAY. The odds for recovery are against her, the odds for relapse are high, addicts WILL fuck you over, and you really don't want to meet the world of hard drugs if you can help it.

Feeling like an asshole for breaking your "commitment" is nothing compared to how you'll feel after voluntarily inviting this kind of shit into your life. Run.
posted by Rykey at 6:16 AM on November 15, 2010

My brother is a heroin addict. He's been on suboxone--started abusing it day one. The methadone program he was on? Kicked out in a week because he tested positive for the heroin and other drugs he was using on the side. He has sold everything he owns to buy drugs, including the clothes on his back. Stole well over five THOUSAND dollars from our mother to support his binges in the past eight months. Hy mom had to borrow money from her partner to cover her mortgage. He stole my iPod (still pissed) while I was visiting my mom last month. Let me repeat -- this is my BROTHER. Like others said, expect your stuff to be gone if you let her stay.

He's been to four different inpatient treatment facilities and a couple outpatient support programs over the past two years. He relapsed about a month ago, while on the methadone program, and in one of his more sober moments he asked us to help him get clean. He found the program himself -- it is free and run by the state.

What did I do? I drove him to the hospital to detox, after the treatment facility refused to admit him due to the sheer volume of drugs in his system at the time (pre-rehab drug binge). After that, I drove him to the state-run treatment facility a week later. That's all you can do -- no place to stay, no money, no undefined support commitments. Listen to the people in this thread, you, personally, cannot help a person "beat" their addiction. There is a reason that professional rehabilitation programs exist. Free ones, state-run ones--they are out there. Any inpatient treatment program will help her find long-term support solutions. That is not your job. Her recovery is not your job. I have had to sit by and watch my mother's life absolutely disintegrate because she refused to accept that fact and continued to enable his addiction. She goes to NarcAnon now, which has helped her deal with the guilt and sense of responsibility for my brother's addiction. You should absolutely check it out, since you are already feeling guilty and responsible for this girl.

Good luck with this.
posted by ailouros08 at 6:30 AM on November 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

The above advice is (in my humble opinion) accurate. I have had the misfortune of knowing some drug addicts, who were incredibly dishonest and troublesome people who abandoned human decency that we expect others to have, in the relentless (and senseless) pursuit of drugs.

I will add a note about Narconon, recommended by ailouros08 above. (Actually the recommendation is for NarcAnon but I think that this is just a misspelling.) This is a drug rehabilitation project of the Church of Scientology. Religious fantaticism is one of the few psychological mechanisms which is strong enough that it can sometimes succeed in overcoming drug addiction, but religious cultism is often as destructive as drug addiciton so it is not necessarily an improvement. Approach with caution, any organization which boasts of using "LRH technology". But other than that, the warnings given by ailouros08, and others, are correct. Drug addicts are very dangerous and you should not be taking on those kinds of risks.
posted by grizzled at 8:02 AM on November 15, 2010

You can help this person a lot. Help this person find a rehab clinic, Narcotics Anon, or other competent helper. You are genuinely compassionate, which is admirable, but you are not the best source of help. Be caring and supportive, visit them in rehab. But, no, don't bring a junkie into your home. No matter how sincere she is, without really competent help, the addiction is likely to be stronger; that's how people get to be junkies. Part of the problem is that are there are waiting lists for free programs. There aren't easy solutions to this difficult problem.
posted by theora55 at 8:10 AM on November 15, 2010

I passed this question along to a friend's mom who is a chem-dependency counselor at a rehab facility.

She advised that you have this handled professionally. Depending on the severity of the addiction, improper de-tox can actually kill you.
posted by Thistledown at 9:28 AM on November 15, 2010

She's a heroin addict. She's your friend's sister. Kick her the fuck out.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:33 PM on November 15, 2010

Your friend's sister has to be committed to getting clean for this to work.

Right now, it sounds like you don't know if she's really committed, or if she's just trying to get suboxone to abuse it, which may not even be possible. (Suboxone and methadone are long-acting opiate-based medications that do not produce a high like short-acting illegal opiates like heroin do. They bond to the opiate receptors and take away heroin withdrawal symptoms. I am not sure what "abusing" either one of these medications would look like other than an overdose chasing a high that won't happen).

I know a fair amount about heroin, methadone, and suboxone and I'm happy to talk to you more about this over MeFiMail.

I know someone who was in the position of your sister's friend, and this person tried 12 steps, Salvation Army Christian rehab, and a small, ineffective dose of suboxone before resorting to methadone. The person went to a cheap clinic and was started out on a small dose of methadone. Doses were adjusted up and down until the person was stabilized. Their clinic offered suboxone but the patient chose to use methadone because it was cheaper. Your friend's sister can probably find mental health resources to help her pay for it.

This patient continued to use heroin while at first on methadone, because the methadone dose wasn't enough to take away the withdrawals. Gradually, they reduced their heroin intake to none as their methadone dose was stabilized. Their clinic did not have a zero tolerance policy as some do, because this pattern is quite typical of new methadone patients. Recovery doesn't happen overnight.

They stayed on methadone for several years and gradually reduced it to nothing through a clinically supervised taper. While on methadone, they were committed to getting clean from heroin and thus willing to tolerate its side effects of reduced sex drive and weight gain. These side effects disappeared several months after getting off methadone.

The person used the time they were on methadone to rebuild their life, getting a good job, making drug-free friends, and becoming artistically productive. They had a very supportive partner who tolerated the ups and downs of the early days of treatment. This was key.

This person was highly committed to getting clean, also. I can't stress this enough. They were willing to do methadone for the long haul.

I have found the website A.T. Watchdog to be extremely informative for friends and loved ones of opiate addicts, as well as a great source of support for people recovering from opiate addiction.

It wasn't easy for my friend's partner to deal with their addiction and recovery process, but educating themselves instead of believing all the popular "wisdom" about heroin addiction helped tremendously. Please browse the site and think about how committed you are willing to be to this woman's recovery. Also, think about your limits. This is not your partner or family member, so you have to decide what you're willing to do and not do. I wish you and your friend's sister the best of luck.
posted by xenophile at 2:39 PM on November 15, 2010

I've heard good things about Ibogaine. It's technically illegal in the states, but it's pretty obscure so I don't how safe it would be to order some. If anyone else knows more maybe they'll chime in.
posted by ambulocetus at 4:46 PM on November 15, 2010

posted by hortense at 8:55 PM on November 15, 2010

This is a tough spot to be in. I'd echo what has been said here about getting in touch with any support network of family and friends she has. The key is, don't let her dictate to you. You just need to do. You're are not going to be able to help her much if she is still using, doesn't want to kick, and is really just looking for a way to score again. I had a similar experience with an ex-girlfriend's sister. The drug was coke though, but she was screwed up beyond all recoginition. Just thinking about some of the stuff she confessed to us at the time gives me chills (and I'm by no means an anti-drug person).

I did what I could. Gave her a temporary place to stay, removed her from a dangerous and life-threatening situation (with the help of my go-to team of thugs - cause that's just how I roll) and immediately called her parents, her friends, man, eventually the police became involved because some drug addled "friend" of hers said we removed her against her will. The police chose to believe the non-drug-addled upstanding citizens without much convincing. This was all very tough, and I wasn't even the person at the center of it, I can imagine it was hell for my ex's sister. But from the moment we removed her from her situation, there was no going back, she reluctantly agreed to a treatment program in another state and last I heard was doing much much better. This person needs to be williing to be helped, even if reluctantly, and then things can go much smoother, but do not go at this alone. Everyone she knows that actually really cares about her needs to be involved, sometimes that is all it takes. In my situation I think it was but a few nice comments and a show of support from friends in family that put this poor girl over the top, she just couldn't refuse the help after seeing that.

Tough times. I wish you and her the best of luck.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:47 AM on November 16, 2010

In case it wasn't clear, and it probably wasn't, between the lines in my above response it says - this woman needs professional help.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:51 AM on November 16, 2010

To be a little more concrete with my advice upthread:

One of the forms in which you are likely to find the manipulation people are warning you about here involves putting you in situations where you have to decide between sticking to the terms you've both agreed to, and feeling like a really shitty human being.

For example: you get a call at work from this woman. She's made it to one of her treatment appointments all right, but the person who was supposed to give her a ride home couldn't make it. Yeah, you both agreed that you wouldn't be giving her any rides (assuming that was one of the agreements, of course), but... can you give her directions so can walk the 8 miles back to your apartment? So there you are, trying to decide whether to say, "Yeah, I told you I wouldn't be helping you with rides, so here's the directions," or "Well shit, I'd just as soon come get you than to have you walk 8 miles." If you decide, as anybody with a heart would, to give her the ride in violation of your agreement... you've just handed all your cards to a person not capable of taking your interests into account.
posted by Rykey at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2010

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