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Family Participation at Heroin Treatment Centers

Family Therapy at Heroin Treatment Centers
Family Therapy at Heroin Treatment Centers

You probably know by now that heroin treatment centers offer effective strategies for beating a heroin or opiate addiction. Whether you became addicted to pain pills like hydrocodone or oxycodone and moved on to heroin, or if heroin has always been your drug of choice, you understand first-hand how horrible withdrawal symptoms can be. You have experienced the struggles to avoid using when cravings take hold of you and shake you like a rag doll.

But your family doesn’t understand any of this. They have no way to comprehend how compelling the cravings and withdrawal symptoms can be. The question that many family members ask substance abuse treatment professionals is this one: “Why don’t they just stop?” Someone who has not walked down your road cannot possibly understand your journey.

Here’s the Short Answer

Families need to know that heroin treatment centers succeed because they help people who cannot stop using heroin, pain pills, or other opiates. Methadone programs allow people to take back control of their lives by providing relief from the overwhelming symptoms associated with heroin use. When an addict cannot kick their drug habit on their own, then it’s time to consider addiction treatment at one of the approved heroin treatment centers. According to guidelines put into place by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the methadone program staff must be able to verify that a client is currently using opiates and has been using them for a year.

What Families Really Need to Know

Unfortunately, your loved ones may give you a difficult time about your admission into one of your community’s heroin treatment centers because they just don’t understand the controls that the government puts into place to help you recover. Besides ensuring that your addiction is undeniably documented, these programs are also responsible for following other criteria. Here are just a few:

Heroin treatment centers are not fly-by-night programs. Staff including doctors, nurses, and counselors must all comply with the licensing guidelines of their own professions and they also must have at least a year’s experience in opiate treatment. For those who do not have that year of experience, there must be a written plan explaining how that experience will be gained. The programs are inspected regularly by the government.

Patients who enter heroin treatment centers must meet criteria established by SAMHSA, including a tolerance to the heroin or pain pills they’ve been using. Substance use professionals typically ask questions to verify that your drug use has become central to your life, derailing your regular daily activities. They will want to know about times when you faked symptoms in order to get prescriptions from medical doctors or dentists. They need to ascertain that you cannot stop using heroin without help, even if you or your family members suffer from awful consequences.

Heroin treatment centers offering methadone or Suboxone treatment must document a method for tracking the medication dispensed or prescribed for patients. Staff are well aware that patients abuse the medication ordered for them. That’s why it takes so long—typically, 90 to 120 days—to earn take-home doses of methadone. If you’ve earned take-home doses, you should pat yourself on the back, because you’ve proved to the treatment staff that they can trust you. Suboxone patients must comply with medication counts on a moment’s notice.

So What Do Heroin Treatment Centers Do For Families?

The same SAMHSA guidelines for heroin treatment centers that we’ve been discussing also look after the needs of family members. Licensed, certified heroin treatment centers must provide a strategy for families to participate in treatment. But this family involvement cannot take place as soon as the person enters into treatment. The initial weeks of therapy are for the client, who needs to meet with a counselor, become adjusted to the medication dose, and become stabilized physically. Clients have to get their heads into the idea of going without their drug of choice, and everything they say is confidential. Family involvement usually does not begin until the patient is becoming adjusted to his treatment regimen.

But then the time comes, with the patient’s approval, for the family to participate. In fact, it’s vital for families to become educated about opiate addiction. Your loved ones cannot possibly understand “why you don’t just stop” unless they understand the nature of opiate addiction, including the way opiates stimulate the brain’s receptors and the effects of opiates on the production of endorphins, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters. Heroin treatment centers provide ways for families to get that education.

When families understand that opiate addiction is a medical diagnosis, they can move beyond the resentments they feel toward you for the disruptions created in all your lives. They can accept that heroin treatment centers provide necessary therapy and discard their suspicions that you are going to a methadone program as just some new way to get drugs.

For clients who are parents, family involvement becomes an even greater priority. SAMHSA requires heroin treatment center counselors to make referrals for children affected by their parents’ opiate abuse. Many parents need to be refocused on their natural parenting skills. In many cases, the children of addicts—even grown children—may have a history of physical or sexual abuse at their parents’ hands, and addiction recovery means healing those wounds as well.

For all family members, the education provided by heroin treatment centers can help them understand if they’ve enabled the heroin or opiate addiction, either by ignoring it, overlooking lies, or even by providing money for it. Counselors will help with referrals for birth control issues; addiction recovery is not the best time to extend the family.

Above all, however, your counselor will maintain your confidentiality while you are in treatment. While it is important for your family to understand where your head is and where you’re going, none of the above will take place until you sign an authorization permitting your counselor to include the family. Your privacy comes first.

Just remember that your family is important in your recovery. Some people say they got themselves into this and they’ll get themselves out of it, but it’s not realistic to think that you will fight this battle alone without the support of others. Addiction is a family illness. You will want to embrace your family, get their help, and help them become educated…when the time is right.

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