How To Help A Loved One With A Drug Abuse Problem

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By: Stephanie Pappas

Published: 10/23/2015 02:37 AM EDT on LiveScience

Former NBA player Lamar Odom has emerged from a coma after being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel, allegedly after several days of using cocaine and unregulated supplements that some call “herbal Viagra.”

Odom’s experience echoes the worst nightmares of the friends and family of people with drug addictions: a downward spiral, a medical crisis and even the possibility of death. And because people with addictions often deny their problems or avoid seeking treatment, loved ones can feel helpless.

But experts say that friends and family are among the greatest resources drug-addicted people have to help them recover. Convincing someone to seek treatment is often difficult, but it can be done in many cases — and friends and family don’t have to wait for the person to hit rock bottom.

“The strongest thing that is helpful is having a system of care that can surround the person,” said Dr. Kelly Clark, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Addiction is a chronic disease, which means it persists over a long period of time. In this way, it resembles other conditions, like diabetes, Clark told Live Science. And like people with diabetes, those who are trying to manage drug addiction require day-by-day support. [The Drug Talk: 7 New Tips for Today's Parents]

“People don’t do well managing their diabetes if their family has ice cream and cake every night,” Clark said.

Barriers to care

The comparison of addiction to a chronic disease like diabetes is an important one, researchers say. One of the biggest barriers to care for people with addiction is the stigma of being labeled an “addict.”

In fact, this stigma can even prevent people from getting science-based treatments, said Brendan Saloner, a health policy researcher at the —> Read More