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Addiction: Not just a Hollywood Problem

June 9, 2014

The tragic death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman due to an apparent overdose of heroin has highlighted the complex issue of addiction and relapse, particularly to opioids. Opioids, whether they are prescription painkillers such as Vicodin or Percocet, or heroin, are extremely addictive, making recovery difficult and relapse easy.  Hoffman’s death was so shocking because many people did not even know that he struggled with addiction; he had been clean and sober for over two decades since going through recovery successfully when he graduated from New York University at the age of 22. According to reports, Hoffman took some prescription painkillers, which triggered the brain to remember the high, and the craving for more kicks right back in.

Prescription opioids are killing people at more than five times the rate that heroin is according to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.These drugs are initially prescribed for pain from an injury, surgery, or a medical condition. However, addiction can develop even when the drugs are prescribed. Users start to doctor shop for new prescriptions, buy the drugs on the street illegally, or use heroin to satisfy the craving.

Dallas family attorneys encourage family members to question loved ones about their prescription drug use, particularly if that person has a history of substance abuse. Be alert for signs of misuse of medication, or of a relapse into addiction.  Although many times warning signs are behavioral and mood changes unique to the person- known as “drug relapse signature”-there are common warning signs of relapse, such as:

1.  Appears anxious or worried;

2.  Seems to be depressed;

3.  Acts irritated, quick tempered or openly aggressive;

4.  Has problems with concentration;

5.  Has dramatic changes in eating or appetite;

6.  Has changes in sleeping patterns;

7.  Withdraws socially;

8.  Experiences extreme mood swings;

9.  Talks about taking drugs again; or

10. Feels suicidal.

It is crucial to address drug relapse in its earliest stages. Recovery is a process, and when a family member has relapsed and is in recovery, it is a process for both the addict and the family.  Dallas family attorneys offer some suggestions on how to help a family member who is in recovery:

1.  Behave as if the addict has a serious illness–because they do;

2.  Educate everyone on addiction and recovery;

3.  Try not to judge;

4.  Try to reduce triggers;

5.  Encourage attendance at support meetings and join in when possible;

6.  Do not enable and set boundaries

7.  Provide financial support if needed in the form of food and shelter and services,

not money that could be used to buy drugs; and

8.  Understand that new behaviors need to develop for the addict and family.

Out of tragedy, good things can happen. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in eerie foreshadowing, commented that if he ever died of an overdose, the publicity would save 10 people. Dallas family attorneys hope that his death acts as a wakeup call to many more than 10 people. A Dallas family attorney at Goranson Bain, PLLC can help when issues of addiction intersect with Divorce and Custody issues.

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Thomas A. Greenwald

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