He’s on drugs, what can I do?
What are the attitudes to adopt? The ones to run away from? What to say or not to say? He’s on drugs what can I do? These questions and many more find their answers in this Q&A with an addictologist who preferred to remain anonymous.
All of the former addicts you met had a common attitude in their decision to quit.
Addictologist: We thought that former drug addicts could share their experience with us: to tell us how they had managed to rebuild their lives, to let us know about their journey.
We realized that all those who really got off – who don’t make up for it with alcohol or anxiolytics – had a common inner attitude.
In fact, they all had a kind of trigger: at a certain point, the product they were taking no longer met their demand. In short, 1 threshold of suffering exceeded the threshold of pleasure. There was no more compensation.
How does this click happen?
This is where parents or relatives can play a decisive role. If they manage to start a real dialogue they can remove the feeling of guilt, they can say, for example: “You alone hold the keys but you need help. And we’re here to help you”.
In the United States they try to provoke this trigger, this rate of suffering.
In specialized centres, drug addicts find themselves confronted with their close entourage: family, employer, work colleagues, friends… These “meetings” serve to break down the wall of “denial”.
You highlight the need to accept reality, to break down the wall of “denial”…
“I’ll quit tomorrow” “I’ll quit whenever I want” “I haven’t taken one in four months”… It’s a speech you hear quite often in the mouth of the addict.
In the United States, an employer will be able to say, “I know for a fact that when you go to the bathroom, you use cocaine. And by the way, your job performance sucks.”
It may sound harsh, but the addict realizes that no one is fooled.
What can you tell people who live with an addict?
If you say something like, “It’s gonna be okay, honey, you’re gonna be okay,” you unintentionally reinforce this denial aspect of the disease.
The family and friends of an addict need to help him or her to talk and listen so that he or she can gradually regain a sense of meaning in life.
One of the first roles of the entourage is, on the contrary, to open the eyes of the person who takes drugs. There must be no complacency. The more clearly parents or close people say things – “I found this syringe in the toilet”… – the clearer the dialogue will be, the more it will be based on a statement of fact.
How do you deal with someone who takes drugs?
First of all, you have to believe in him deeply, trust him. But you must not be blind. In life, everything can be fixed, things like the body. You have to get parents or relatives to admit that saying “no” will help the healing process.
By remaining firm, they will, on the one hand, avoid “destroying” themselves, and on the other hand, set an example of firmness. The more autonomous they are, the more they teach autonomy.
Parents should not support the illness, but the recovery of their child. There’s no use, for example, complaining: “poor of us”, “we’re not going to make it”, “what you’re doing is very serious”…
And stop all the acts that prevent him from regaining his independence, like paying the rent, giving pocket money…
We need to take the addict out of his comfort zone, put him face to face with his realities. Help him to talk, listen to him so he can ground himself in reality, find meaning in his life. Of course, this is not easy and that is why parents and loved ones need help.
Is the support of a third party so important?
It is crucial. Parents must not think that everything will be settled over the years. They need to turn to professionals (family doctor, therapist…) or to a friend, a teacher, a self-help group… The sooner they seek help from a third party, the sooner the therapeutic process will begin.
We must not forget that things of life and death are at stake here.
The presence of an external person is therefore indispensable. It is a real disease of the bond. We must refer the parents to their own addiction, to see if, in their own history, there is not a systematic tendency to flee from emotions or pain (abuse of medication, alcoholism and tobacco…).
Does someone who’s been on drugs better meet a former drug addict who’s gotten away with it?
In any case, when we talk about wanting to get off drugs, the advantage of former drug addicts is that they embody what is after drugs.
We can always say, “Stop!” But then what? What’s “after”?
The former addict understands what the person says when they’re in withdrawal. He can say, Don’t worry, it’s a passage. Today I’m healthy, I’m working again, I’m living well.” At that moment, the desire to stop can be awakened. The old one experienced suffering. It’s a difficult step to take, but I’ve done it.
Is a former drug addict definitely safe from reoffending?
If he has become aware of his relationship with certain products, especially those that allow him to escape from emotions (alcohol, anxiolytics…), if he has admitted defeat in front of them, he can face abstinence. When the work of bonding with another has been done, the risk of recidivism is reduced or even disappears.
In this regard, we heard a moving story that perfectly illustrates the importance of the bond. A former drug addict, who had been under the care of a doctor for a few years, had found a job and started a family.
One night he called a therapist to tell him that his wife and children had been killed in a car accident. He said, “But I’m not going to go back to sleep again”. In that dramatic moment, he understood that he had to use the connection he had made with his doctor.