For Affected Others

Q: Is addiction really a disease?

A; Yes. It may seem counter intuitive or hard to believe, but we assure you it is. The American Medical Association, The American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, and all other respected medical organizations have decreed this for many decades now.

Q: Can I force my loved one to receive treatment?

A: In nearly all cases, no. In the United States, the only way a person can be forced to receive treatment is through involuntary commitment to a medical/psychiatric facility. A qualified physician or clinician can, in very limited circumstances force an individual to receive treatment, but only for a period of 72 hours. After three days, only a court order can maintain involuntary treatment. If an individual can meet the legal standards of being capable to give consent, they are free to leave a hospital or clinic Against Medical Advice (AMA).

Q: Are interventions worthwhile?

A: Our experience is that this depends largely on the goals of the intervention. We caution folks not to judge their efforts by the immediate outcome of the gathering. The opportunity to plant a seed and deliver a clear message has value whether your loved one chooses to go into treatment at that moment or not.

Q: What tends to make interventions most successful?

A: Being a unified front with all present and delivering a clear message of what will and will not occur from this day forward. This is an excellent opportunity to set new boundaries and deliver a message of concern. We encourage family and friends to agree to a basic message to convey. If an active addict has the opportunity to deflect of to create dissent amongst others, they will likely do so.

Q: How do I make the addict in my life understand how their actions affect their loved ones?

Our experience is that the best approach is to ask that they be willing to simply listen to our concerns. Ideally, these will be stated directly and succinctly. Avoid lengthy descriptions, guilting, making threats, or offering bribes. We caution against any approach designed to shame your loved one as this will at best be redundant (addicts already live with shame whether they are in denial or covered in it).

Q: Should I bail my loved one out of jail?

A: Our experience is that to do so is often an unwitting disservice. For as terrible as it may seem to have your addicted family member incarcerated it is a potential turning point. Very often it forces a period of abstinence, which creates new possibilities.

Q: Should I pay for them to get treatment?

A: There is no definitive right or wrong answer to this. Treatment creates the potential for change and we find it worthwhile to support any positive/healthy pursuit our loved ones are open to.

Q: How do I talk with my other family members?

A: One of the biggest pitfalls for families occurs when we try to protect individual members from painful truths. With the obvious exception of children, we urge you to come together as a family and to actively support one another.

Q: How do I explain this to the children in our family?

A: We encourage you to deliver the message as best you can in an age appropriate manner. This is best done by explaining addiction as being very sick. Differentiate "sickness" from what the child experiences (colds, flu) and explain that sometimes when people get very sick we have to wait very long times because we're not sue when they'll get better.

Our experience is that children almost always know more than we think they do. It's also likely that your kids have seen addiction portrayed in television, moves, and video games. Please consider this an opportunity to educate them about the dangers of substance abuse and the risk factors of being genetically predisposed to addiction.

Links:

Nar Anon: http://www.nar-anon.org/

Al Anon: http://al-anon.org/

PAL: http://palgroup.org/