How to help a drug addict?
November 22, 2012 6:06 PM   Subscribe

How to support someone trying to overcome an addiction?

A person I care about has recently admitted to abusing prescription painkillers. This revalation came about because he was stopped for speeding, and his car was searched. He was charged with felony possession of four pills (but not driving while intoxicated, as he was not using them at the time). This has been a wake up call for him and he legitimately wants to make a change to his own life. He has been sober now for seven days, but has admitted to trying to quit before and succeeding for a couple weeks before relapsing. What can I offer him that might be helpful in this situation?

Also, I don't expect to be able to affect his legal situation, but what is a realistic outcome for someone with charges like these in California?
posted by tylerkaraszewski to Human Relations (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not a lawyer, but I suggest that anything that he does proactively/preemptively will be very helpful when he goes to court. He should immediately seek medical attention for his addiction and I suggest seeing an MD first. An MD will be able to help him decide whether or not he needs a full on rehab or maybe some counseling with medical supervision.

Documentation of this will support his case and show that he's taken responsibility for his actions and doesn't need to court to intervene.

There are lots of missing details here, like; was this a stolen prescription? Borrowed? Is he involved in a prescription drug scam?

He should be prepared to answer those questions in a way that supports his innocence and willingness to "correct" his lifestyle.
posted by snsranch at 6:31 PM on November 22, 2012

Yeah, I think most judges look askance on people who claim to have gotten sober but who are not in any formal treatment; I guess you can't blame them for this.

As far as supporting him, really any social connection to people who don't use is good. As a person recovering from alcohol abuse, I, however, have gotten the most vital support from others in the same situation. I don't care much for people making a big deal out of "oh I'm so proud of you" or anything like that, but maybe that's just me. If he wants to talk about it, listen. If he doesn't, then just be a normal friend, not an amateur therapist.
posted by thelonius at 6:50 PM on November 22, 2012

Addictions are different things for different people. His success will be connected to his desire to stay sober. You can go with him to a self help group but ultimately it is his decision that will make it happen. Took me many long years to finally understand I was not an addict. I mean I am prone to abuse substances but the desire to abuse has simply left me. Years of struggle were necessary for me to learn the Jedi mind trick. I finally understood at the deepest level that I don't have to abuse drugs. No one starts out with the knowledge that they are an addict over time you might get some idea that you could have a problem then one day you accept yourself as an addict. Once that happens you have a built in reason for your continued abuse an excuse to hide your choices behind, that is what we lose the ability to make a choice. Supporting an addict isn't the thing to do, caring deeply for an addict is an invitation to heartache. You can be a positive influence but you also need to let him know you are not going to enable his abuse. I wish your friend all the best and if I could teach him all I learned and understood about addiction he would still have to make the decision to stop abusing himself it is normal to be sober. He should be evaluated for depression often addicts are self medicating, an anti depressant or mix of them might help him think more clearly. Talk therapy can be of some use anything that helps you focus on the addiction on a regular basis can help you understand you do make a choice to remain addicted even when you feel you have no choice.

IANAL: Your friend should have legal council. He should make efforts to demonstrate his commitment to sobriety. 30 meetings in 30 days can't hurt. he may be offered an education/diversion class he should take that. It isn't cheap but if he graduates he may receive a suspended sentence.
posted by pdxpogo at 7:01 PM on November 22, 2012

Sorry, my dog is messing with me and keeping me from issuing the usual pleasantries. So, I apologize if this is direct. I don't speak for any group or anything, so anything I state as fact is just personal opinion. For example. People who care about addicts generally have the most difficult time getting an addict to deal with his addiction. Fact. I mean, just my opinion, lol. So, my sympathies are with you during this difficult time.

I strongly recommend he seek legal counsel and I also suggest he consider going to consult with a therapist, a doctor, and/or AA. In California, it is not uncommon for people to obtain a "court card" and attend AA even prior to being asked to do so by the court. I am not a lawyer, but a lawyer may be the one advising you to do this. The more support, the better.

If you want more IANAL advice, the prison system in CA is so full that they have essentially released a lot of non-violent first or second time (drug) offenders. So when it comes to new non-violent first-time drug offenders, judges are required to offer probation plus drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration. So your friend better take that option.

There is a very strong recovery community in California. Depending on the severity of your friend's problem and economic situation, he could look into sober living, inpatient treatment, therapy, meetings, the list goes on. Sobriety might sound like it sucks but it's really a lot better than doing painkillers just to maintain and getting busted by the police. The next time he gets in trouble it's just going to get worse, not to mention who really wants to live that way.
posted by phaedon at 9:49 PM on November 22, 2012

When someone close to me was struggling with an addiction, he often wished people would be available just to talk. Along with being a generally private person he was dealing with the shame and secrecy that comes with addiction, so when friends would ask "so, how are you doing" in a way that let him know they meant for him to talk about it, he was grateful.

Be careful not to do things for him that he could/should be doing for himself.

Good luck!
posted by lyssabee at 5:40 AM on November 23, 2012

I also suggest he consider going to consult with a therapist, a doctor, and/or AA.

AA would only be of use if he's an alcoholic and wants to stop drinking. If his problem is drugs and he wants a recovery fellowship, he needs NA (Narcotics Anonymous).
posted by essexjan at 8:25 AM on November 23, 2012

Right now, your friend may be finding the world a bit flat and grey, as his mind and body adjusts to not having the quick hit of pleasure from the pills. While he goes through this phase (which you can reassure him is temporary), you can be an excellent ally by helping him get into activities that are healthy and happy-making.

Activities where he can get outside, and out of his head, and get some endorphins bubbling are highly recommended (assuming his physical state allows for it). Easy hikes, swim in a heated pool, playing with puppies at the dog park...that kind of thing.

This will gently steer his focus toward the positives of being pill-free, and away from urges to go back to the drugs.

This is a win-win for you and your friend -- you'll be helping him dial up the quality of his life, while enjoying the pleasure of his friendship.

The professionals (counselors, MDs) can help him with the muck and murk of early sobriety -- you don't need to take that on.

SMART Recovery has a strong presence in California, and offers a CBT-based approach to behavioral change involving substances, including pills.
posted by nacho fries at 11:45 AM on November 23, 2012

If this is his first drug-related charge, he should be eligible for Prop 36 treatment instead of incarceration. I'm not a lawyer and it's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the intent of the law. The state no longer pays for the treatment so availability varies from county to county. A good lawyer can help make sure he gets into treatment if he is eligible for it and you can likely help find treatment that he can afford. That may help with both the legal problem and the desire to make changes in his substance use.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:46 PM on November 23, 2012

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