5 Tips for Family and Friends of Opiate Addicts

No “negative enabling.”

Do not engage in “negative enabling.” Negative enabling is a term that refers to giving an active opiate addict some form of resource that allows the addict to progress in addiction.

The two most common forms of negative enabling I see are giving an opiate addict money or a place to live. It also includes any form of resource, like transportation, that allows an opiate addict to maintain the lifestyle.

Family and friends should learn to say no and stick to it. Saying no is perhaps the most powerful ally in attempts to bring about change in an opiate addict. Do not expect an opiate addict to respond positively when this tactic is put in play. People with addiction grow accustomed to getting what they want. If they have difficulty getting what they want, addicts tend to resort to manipulative behavior. In response to family and friends saying no, an opiate addict might say things like, “you must want me to be homeless… you know what will happen to me if I don’t have a place to stay… I thought you loved me… if you loved me you would…” Statements like these represent emotional booby traps designed to return family and friends to negative enabling.

Say no, and stick to it.

  1. Seek outside support.

Family and friends of those with opiate addiction should seek outside support from qualified professionals, such as therapists, or support groups like Al-Anon. These individuals and organizations can offer guidance for people in emotionally volatile circumstances.

When these support pillars are in place, family and friends are less likely to return to negative enabling. I am often shocked at the rate of behavioral relapse in family and friends of opiate addicts. There are times when family assures me they will no longer provide money or shelter to an opiate addict, and a few months later, they return to “old behavior.” This form of relapse bears remarkable similarities to opiate addict’s relapse.

Family and friends who work with qualified professionals and support groups have a better chance of staying the course when it comes to refusing to participate in negative enabling.

You can find meetings of Al-Anon family groups here, and search for licensed addiction therapists in your local area here.

I have also added a list of helpful educational resources at the end of this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *