What can you do if someone you love is struggling with opiate addiction?

1. Carry Narcan- You can pick it up at any pharmacy and at your local community health center

2. Learn how to use it- I have heard people say “I don’t think I could stab someone”, This is not what you saw in Pulp Fiction. This is a nasal spray, most new ones will come preloaded, you will place the tube in the persons nostril and press the button. It is important to remember that it is likely to wear off before EMTs get to the person, you may have to do it again. I have also heard “I’m afraid if I don’t know why the person is unconscious I could hurt them by giving them Narcan”, If the person is not using opiates Narcan will do nothing. It will be like spraying water up someone’s nose.

3. Stop judging/shaming- Very very very few people (if any) get help through shame. Names like “Junky”, only lead people to use in secret which leads to more overdose deaths.  

4. Know all the treatment options- Unfortunately people who have been using opiates need more treatment than just detox. One mistake well-meaning family and friends can make, is thinking that after a person does a 5, 14, or even 30 day stay in detox they are “cured”. First thing first: There is no cure for addiction, only ongoing treatment. Second: Opiates change the brain’s chemistry and structure, this change does not get fixed overnight. Third (and the most scary part) is after a short detox the person is actually more likely to overdose due to a decrease in tolerance when/if they relapse. Another mistake is thinking that Suboxone, methadone or Vivatrol is just another way for your loved one to get high. This is 100% False. Do some people abuse Methadone and Suboxone? Yes. Some people abuse Benadryl too. I am willing to bet that there is someone in your life, whether it is a friend, family member, co-worker, healthcare worker, person that you get your coffee from every morning, etc, that takes methadone or suboxone and you have no idea. A person who is taking their medications correctly will have no signs of use at all. Another option is going from a detox to a long term residential program- I’ll be honest the amount of beds available do not match the need, but if you are interested in this option please contact your local detox, your Community Health Center, or reach out to me, I’ll be glad to point you in the right direction.

5. Love Them, Love Them, Love Them- You may hate some of the things they are doing, but remember you still love them. Be that person that they feel like they can come to if they want to talk or if they want help. You may be the only one they have left.


Published by psychkatlife

Katherine Carter is a licensed mental health counselor practicing in Massachusetts. Katherine is the former Director of a residential program for women working towards recovery from drugs and alcohol. Katherine is currently working in private practice assisting individuals, couples and families meet their goals. Katherine's clinical interests include Addiction, Empowerment, LGBTQ and gender issues, mindfulness and chronic illness.

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