Addiction is a serious problem that affects millions worldwide. In the US, about 30% of adults have had an illicit drug use disorder characterized by a chronic and compulsive drug-seeking habit that eventually causes irreversible damage to the brain and the body. This compulsion occurs despite the harm done to oneself and others.
The types of drug addiction are as many as there are classifications of drugs. These can be classified based on effect, chemical makeup, or legal categories. Some of the misused drugs that are associated with addictions are opioids (pain pills), benzodiazepines (sleeping pills), and stimulants (cocaine, methamphetamines, or Adderall).
Because the effects of drug addiction are chemically driven, you can expect a drug user’s behavior to be unpredictable and, at times, destructive. It’s going to be tougher if you live in the same home with this person. If you believe that you are married to someone who has a substance use disorder, there are ways you can help your loved one recover. Keep reading to learn how to help your husband or wife with drug addiction.
Identifying Drug Addiction in a Spouse
Identifying drug addiction in a spouse or partner and acknowledging that a problem exists is one of the most complex situations about dealing with addiction, but it is an important first step to recovery. Many spouses and partners fail to recognize the signs of drug addiction in their partners out of love for the person and denial that such a problem could happen in one’s family.
Some things to look out for when identifying drug addiction in a spouse or partner are:
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits. Drug addiction often disrupts sleep or increases sleep, depending on the classification. Additionally, some drugs can significantly increase or decrease appetite.
- Changes in their eyes. Bloodshot eyes and dilated or constricted pupils are one of the earliest signs of an addiction.
- Chronic itching. Some drugs interact with the body’s histamine response, causing incessant itching all over.
- Physical marks or the hiding of physical marks. Drugs, especially those that are injected, can leave puncture marks at the injection site. People abusing substances may intentionally try to hide these by wearing long-sleeved clothing all the time, regardless of the weather.
- Change in behavior. Though this seems vague, significant changes in any behaviors can be attributed to drug addiction. If your loved one is typically jolly and then suddenly becomes dark and moody, or the other way around, something could be up.
Identifying drug addiction in a spouse or partner by watching out for these signs will help you move forward to the next step of seeking help for recovery. While these manifestations are by no means conclusive, they highlight the case for a possible addiction and should be looked into immediately. The last thing you want to happen is to only acknowledge that the problem exists when the person has truly gone on a downward spiral—which might be too late.
Steps to Helping and Living with a Drug Dependent Spouse
If you’re living with a spouse or partner who has a substance use disorder, it is vital to understand that there are steps that you can take to help this person get out of the situation and eventually get better. Living with someone who suffers from drug addiction is physically and emotionally overwhelming. Fortunately, there are resources and support systems in place where you can find strength and help.
One of the most important ways to help a drug-addicted spouse or partner is to educate yourself. Drug dependence is a complex illness that can’t be fixed overnight. Learn about the signs and symptoms of drug addiction so that you can understand what they are going through. In addition, learn how to communicate with your spouse or partner in a loving way. Using terms like “drug addict” or referring to them as your “drug-addicted spouse” has negative connotations and can cause shame or embarrassment. Instead, acknowledge their struggle and minimize shame with more understanding terms like “person suffering from substance abuse.”
As you continue your research, it is helpful to learn what to do in case of a drug-related emergency, like an overdose. First aid and CPR training may also be useful tools to support your loved one.
Take Care of Yourself
To provide a solid support for a drug-addicted spouse or partner and others in the family, it is essential to first take care of your physical and mental health. Some ways to implement self-care are:
- Finding time for yourself. Even if it is just a few minutes in the morning before everyone is awake, find some time to reflect and be at peace with yourself.
- Seeking the help of a therapist who specializes in support for spouses and families of persons with addiction.
- Continuing your healthy eating habits. Many people tend not to eat or are inclined to overeat because of the stress of living with a drug-addicted spouse or partner.
- Getting enough sleep. Try not to stay up all night worrying about your significant other. You can only help if you are well-rested and in the right state of mind.
When you first find out that your loved one is struggling with addiction, your first reaction might be empathy. However, as that spouse struggles with their drug abuse, it is easy for the partner to feel resentful.
Drug addiction can cause arguments, financial trouble, and problems with maintaining relationships. Though resentment is a natural reaction, it is crucial to understand that it will not help the situation improve.
Take Action Early
Many times, families wait until their loved one hits rock bottom before seeking help. This is portrayed frequently in movies, as well, sending the wrong message. It is better to address issues early once an addiction problem has been identified because this increases the chances of maintaining open lines of communication and accepting the situation.
Raise the Subject
Bringing up the subject of how to help your husband or wife with drug addiction can be the most anxiety and conflict-inducing aspect of dealing with the situation. However, it may also be the most critical. Many people don’t know how to start openly discussing the situation.
Here are some tips on raising the subject.
- Before you start, make sure that you have educated yourself using resources readily available about addiction and how to cope with it.
- Set the tone. Find time alone with your spouse or partner to talk. Be sure that neither of you are under the influence during this time.
- Start by emphasizing how much you care for their well-being
- List the various things you have noticed without placing blame. The goal is to express concern, not judgment.
- Try to stay calm, and do not let emotions take over the conversation.
Remember that this conversation is not intended to fix the issue overnight but to begin the process of acknowledging that a problem exists and, eventually, accepting treatment. Likely, your spouse or partner will not feel that there’s a problem, and that’s expected. If you encounter resistance, you can always ask to revisit the conversation at another time when emotions aren’t too high. Expect that this will not be an easy process. Having the talk itself can take several attempts before you can succeed, so you need to be extra patient and committed to helping your spouse get the help needed.
How MATClinics Can Help
You don’t have to carry all the weight on your shoulders. We understand how stressful the situation can be and want you to know that we can help. MATClinics focuses on medication-assisted treatment and behavior therapy for drug addiction. We specialize in treating opioid dependence, including prescription pain medications and illicit street drugs like fentanyl and heroin. We can also help those wondering what to do with a drug-addicted family member.
At MATClinics, patients receive individualized, one-on-one support from the combined effort of case managers, doctors, and counselors. Is your wife or husband addicted to pain pills? Talk to them about starting recovery with MATClinics. To learn more, contact us today for more information.