By Beth Krueger
“But all I said was that we’d love to hear from her more.” She’d called her younger relative as she had so many times over the years. They’d always been so close and enjoyed their frequent conversations. This time was different. The response was, “I don’t need that crap.”
There was a problem with alcohol, family members came to learn. There was no sign of the drinking at family functions, but it was happening behind closed doors in a major way. There was a trail of interactions—some positive and some troubling— heartaches, problems on the job and elsewhere. Some family members didn’t initiate phone calls anymore. Things were unraveling.
Down the road, there was intervention with family involvement, treatment, years of sobriety and helping others. And more conversation, including this thought from that younger relative, who had become a grandmother thrilled that she was now trusted to watch the grandchildren: “I thought I was keeping a secret. I was only keeping it from myself.”
Molly Insogna, BSW, CASAC, a counselor with St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center (SPARC), defines “addiction not as how much or how often someone uses but rather what happens when they use. Generally, as the progression of addiction sets in there tends to be negative consequences that occur more frequently.” Part of St. Peter’s Health Partners, SPARC provides care and services for individuals and families affected by drug or alcohol abuse, treating more than 5,000 annually at its eight Capital Region locations (www.sphcs.org/addictionrecoverysparc). I
nsogna notes that family and friends may notice such signs as:
• A change in attitude and routine;
• Isolation—not being around loved ones as much—usually because there is something to hide;
• A change in appearance.
“Unfortunately, loving an addict is not going to get them well,” she observes, recommending that the individual be encouraged to get professional help. She also suggests that family members obtain their own support through a resource such as Al-Anon. “This is a place where people are going through the same thing and they can learn to love with limits.”
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA) underscores that alcohol and drug abuse are medical conditions that can be effectively treated. In its resources for families, SAMHSA discusses the issue of denial by the individual and problem of coming to grips with the gravity of the situation. “Most individuals who abuse alcohol or drugs have jobs and are productive members of society creating a false hope in the family that ‘it’s not that bad.’” It is critical to recognize that the problem affects the family, including children.
What is misunderstood about alcohol and drug addiction, Insogna says, is that “often people have the idea that it can’t happen to me or my family, but it can and does every day.”
Resources: Al-Anon – www.al-anon.org Alateen – www.alateen.org National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – www.ncadd.org NYS OASAS – www.oasas.ny.gov (includes treatment center info) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – www.samhsa.gov
Safeguarding prescription meds
Do you know what prescription and over-the-counter meds are in your cabinet? Do you know the quantity in each bottle? Is that a good place to keep them? The figures and consequences are startling when it comes to accessing drugs that were designated for someone else. The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) reports that one in five teens abuse prescription drugs and many believe that such drugs are safer than those that are illegal. Seventy percent of prescription drugs come from friends or relatives. Prescription drugs are the third most abused substances by youth, following alcohol and marijuana. The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 15 million people aged 12 or older used prescription drugs non-medically in the past year, and 6.5 million did so in the last month of the survey. While much information focuses on youth, Abuse of medications, including access to others’ meds, is not confined to kids. OASAS and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids identify ways to protect your medications: 1. Place medications in a safe location in the home – ideally keep prescriptions in a locked place only you know about. 2. Monitor the quantities to ensure amounts are not being accessed by others; keep a list of the medication and date you took the inventory in a safe place so you have a record if needed. 3. Don’t keep old or unused medication on hand; dispose of them properly. 4. Ask family and friends and parents/caregivers of your children’s friends to safeguard their medications 5. Educate yourself – and, in turn, talk with your youth about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter medications. 6. If your teen is prescribed medication, monitor the dosages and refills 7. Be a role model –properly use and safeguard medications and dispose of old and unused quantities.
Resources: NYS OASAS – www.oasas.ny.gov National Institute on Drug Abuse – www.teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-drugs Partnership for Drug-Free-Kids – www.medicineabuseproject.org Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – www.samhsa.gov/prescription-drug-misuse-abuse/publications-resources