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Kehler Counseling Blog

What to Do with a Drug Addicted Young Adult

I have seen my county statistics of how many people are served through our Drug/Alcohol programs - including those forced in through incarceration and my phone in private practice matches the county number - at least 2 a day call for help.
I try to help who I can and work with physicians to coordinate care.  
Do you suspect your child is abusing drugs?   You may not.   You may be denying it with rationalization that 'he sleeps all the time because he's up all night' or "he's a teen- that's what teens do - sleep."   "She's just going through a phase."  " It's the boyfriend - if she would just get rid of him".   "She got arrested for shoplifting again."   "She's either angry or sleeping," . . .
What I see on the front line - when young people share about their drug use is that when they are what they call 'nodding' - we see it as 'being sleepy'- that is when they are MOST high!   That is why this drug use is right under our noses.  We're thinking 'it's harmless' - who doesn't want to take a nap??   
Sure your drug using loved one is also lying constantly, scamming you and other family members for $20 (3x for a day's fix), missing work, school and events, hanging around with mysterious others, doesn't leave the house or disappears for hours at a time.  
  • Are you noticing money missing?
  • Are you noticing DVD's, CD's, jewelry, electronics, old cell phones, computer equipment, hobby equipment, musical instruments, tools, weapons or special collection items missing?     If it can be pawned or sold - a drug habit is behind it.
  • Are they dealing with a 'flu', stomach virus, food poisoning, stomach aches, or just in the bathroom more than ever?
  • Are they using up large amounts of Tylenol, over-the-counter pain relief medications? 
  • Are they keeping their bedroom locked, extremely messy, or just in it all the time - rarely making contact with others?
  • Are you finding burn marks, scratched surfaces, spoons, lighters and strange odors in their private space?  
  • Are they having difficulty caring on a carrying on a conversation because they seem too tired to get through a sentence?  
  • Have they been pulled over for driving offenses? Shoplifting? Going through cars in the neighborhood?
  • Are they talking about being in surrounding urban areas -or give you reasons to be there but not coming home with evidence of shopping or movie tickets?
  • Have they lost a known person to a drug 'overdose'?  How did they know that?
  • Do they have a girlfriend/boyfriend who seem to be acting the same way?  Nodding off, sentences dragging, can't hold a job, seem to be attached to the hip?  
  • Do they seem to be living what I have heard called a '6 block life' - that might actually be smaller - never going anywhere - doing anything - not even doing the usual 'teen'activities you would expect?   
  • Have the 'better kids' dropped out of sight in their lives?  
  • Are they constantly asking for a 'little' money? $20 $10?  for reasonable excuses - have you asked other family members if they're also being asked?  $30 a day can keep an opiate user away from withdrawal.
  • Are you catching them in bold faced lies that they address with more bold faced lies and explosive anger?
  • Has their appearance changed?  Significant weight loss or wasted looking?  Poor hygiene- stopped caring about their hair, body odor, clothing?  How is their complexion?  Sores, pimples, scabs, 'picking' at their face and arms, and disregard for how it looks is a obvious sign of use.  It only goes away when the drug use stops. 

Is there someone in your family who needs pain medications for a recent surgery?  Cancer treatment?  Work injury?  Dental work?  Chronic illness? 
Is your loved one spending a lot of time at their home - helping them out - running their errands- helping clean their home - but never did those things before?
I also want to add that some kids don't use the drugs they have access to - they may be selling them for other drugs or for money for clothing or other activities.
This "Drug War" is very different from previous battles in that it doesn't require an "addictive personality" or "addiction history" in the family.  The opiate drugs start with a physical dependence - with a very nasty withdrawal - that can occur as quickly as 10 days of use!  This is what people are not 'getting' - this is why 'good people' - good kids - are getting hooked.   It can start with a sports injury, dental work, a simple outpatient surgery.  A conservative physician will give only enough to get through the initial significant pain - then encourage the use of over-the-counter medications.   If the injury or surgery is serious -the person may stay on them longer - but reality strikes - they have to return to school or work - and when their prescription runs out they are mysteriously dealing with really troublesome digestive ailments, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, and needing to visit a toilet almost non-stop.  They can't go to work or school dealing with that - so they call for a renewal for the prescription - to keep withdrawal away 
Deaths are a result of combining multiple substances - especially alcohol with opiates as BOTH depress lung functionThey simply stop breathing.  Opiates over time also destroy lung function.  Deaths are often not due to quality but how and when they are mixed.   You don't die from withdrawal - you just want to die  because you feel so miserable.  It is more dangerous to withdrawal from alcohol dependence.  There are 'detox' methods -under hospital care - for opiates that do assist with managing the 'ugly' of opiate withdrawal. 
Now you have to maintain enough opiates in your system to keep the 'ugly' away. 
The physician knows you need to function - so more often than not - they comply with your request.  Then the cycle begins. . . their 'job' and how they are assessed as 'successful' is that their patient is pain free.  The use of physical rehab, exercise, or alternatives are passed off- because the withdrawal would still have to happen. 
So what do you DO when you realize that this is happening in your OWN home?
#1 GET REAL - get serious and get help.   Stop blaming, screaming, lecturing, scolding, shaming, and ignoring.   
#2 - PICK UP THE PHONE - the first call can be the same MD that prescribed them in the first place - don't attack or scold - especially not the receptionist or office staff - make an appointment and address with the MD personally - they know what to do to help - and should be responsible for giving the new prescription for opiate blockers so that the desire to use is blocked and the body can slowly withdrawal from the physical dependency.   These are safer than illegal use of anything else and have to be supervised - a good MD will set up a phone check system for the initial doses.  Insurances may not cover this treatment - fight for it - but even if you have to pay cash/credit card - this process is cheaper than full rehab.  
#3 - USE INSURANCE IF YOU CAN BUT don't let not having it stop you from treatment.  Use your local phone books to get referrals to government agencies that may coordinate the help you need - even send the person to a detox center and long term rehab!   It may be needed.  
#4- ONE MINUTE - ONE HOUR - ONE DAY AT A TIME!   That's it.  Don't project into the future - just get through today.  Coming off a drug or alcohol life is NOT easy.  It will be one of the toughest challenges everyone near will deal with.   The user has to ride through the agony of physical discomfort - and the only way to do it - is get through the minute - that becomes an hour - that becomes another day CLEAN.  Don't even think about the consequences, fears or missed opportunities of the future.  Try not to rehash all the 'crap' of the past - that comes later - to keep a person clean...  but keeping the user in a negative state of mind doesn't help. 
#5 - GET BUSY - because opiate use - even heroin is what I call a 'lifestyle' drug - the user has a LOT of day to fill!   Their entire days were focused on pursuing their supply, coordinating resources to get the supply, setting up the ability to use, actually using, getting through the 'high', crashing after the event, then managing the physical withdrawal until it can be started all over again.  The 'tiny' life is because their whole entire day is consumed with getting, using, and avoiding withdrawal.   Now you have to fill in all empty time!  This is where attending 12 Step meetings is another essential time 'filler' - it's another place to feel positive, less rejection, less shamed, less different. . .
#6 - GET MORE WORK! - SERIOUSLY.  Most users are young.  With opiate blockers they can function - now they need to WORK.  No more excuses.  Start with one job - anywhere for any amount pay, for any number of hours - then add another job to fill in the other gaps.   I say this because not only does a young person have energy - but the more variety they add to their day - through work - they will also meet NEW people who they can spend time with - who are not drug users.  The more places they work - the more they are going to gain skills from - making them more valuable in the years ahead.  The more different places they work - the more they will need to stay clean for employment drug testing. Let them be the 'police' not you.   The more variety - the less bored they will be.  The more income they have coming in or saving - the more choices they will have to do the things that young adults SHOULD be doing - going on beach vacations, adventures, concerts, trips to 'nowhere' - getting recreational equipment, focusing on a hobby or sport.  That all takes money - so work is necessary.   
WORK SITES OFFER VARIETY, CHALLENGES, NEW FRIENDS AND POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT.  Even if it's just getting a paycheck at the end of the week - but in the workplace - you get an 'audience' that will give you compliments, coaching, mentoring, encouragement, laughs and acknowledgment that doesn't happen if you're sequestered in your bedroom or on the couch fearing withdrawal! 
Without a job and income - you will NOT attract a 'good' partner!  Just think about it!  Who wants to 'fall in love' with someone with no income?  Prison time?  Steals from their family?   Lies constantly?   Spends all their time using or in the bathroom?  Seriously. . . 
Life is usually a lot better when it's shared with another healthy person!  Drug use and unemployment scare the 'best' away!  
AFTER FILLING UP AT LEAST 50 HOURS A WEEK ON EMPLOYMENT - and it can be ANY employment - as long as its paid work.  If you have to start with volunteer work then start there - and meet more people - get the positive reinforcement you need - young men should sign up for their local Fire Company - and get busy in training - they NEED young people and it offers a great place to be truly useful in the community.  
VOLUNTEER - SET UP TIME FOR FUN - CHALLENGES - ADVENTURES - PHYSICAL GOALS. Young people should be ACTIVE AND PHYSICALLY FIT!  Stop making excuses and sign up for physically challenging activities - whether for fund raising, a physical goal or enjoying competition.  Make a goal and sign up to formalize it.  Run a 5K, then a 1/2 marathon, a full marathon.   Check out "Spartan" and "Mud Runs" - get involved in off road racing, hiking, trails, hunting, target shooting, join a sports team or coach a team.  Get physical - get back in tune with your physical self - instead of worrying about a case of the 'runs' get sore and build some real muscles that will impress others a whole lot more than the 'wasted' body that drug users often have.  
GET CREATIVE - Get back to what you stopped doing - write lyrics, poems, stories, blogs, paint, draw, sketch, play an instrument, learn to play another, learn a new creative activity - take an art class, photograph a special person, place or event.  You have hours to fill - these are often the 'quiet' things you can do when other options are less available.  Join groups and meet creative others.  Get back to what you loved in high school and stopped doing . . . 
I'm going to stop here today.  Lots to think about.  If just one person, parent or patient wakes up today and realizes that there is a way out of drug abuse - I will be thankful - and joy filled because I know the agony of dealing with an addiction - but I also know the pure enthusiasm and passion that comes with a life without addictive drugs.   
Decide today.  
If you need help - you can contact me at karenkehler@ptd.net
- through my website/facebook contact.  You are not alone - your issue can be managed.  Denial makes it worse.  

4 Comments to What to Do with a Drug Addicted Young Adult :

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Marijuana drug test kit on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 1:26 AM
It's very important to understand about the drug addiction, the causes,the harmful effects and how to overcome it.Thanks for sharing about all thanks and keep blogging.
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fashion design on Sunday, January 05, 2014 1:35 AM
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Best 4 Drug Test on Sunday, January 10, 2016 11:57 AM
Many people do not understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. It is often mistakenly assumed that drug abusers lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop using drugs simply by choosing to change their behavior
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