I heard that our current President of the U.S. was going to talk about the national problem of opioid addiction in the U.S. and the tremendous problems it is causing, not to mention deaths. Add to this tragedy, the recent interview with DEA officials last week aired on 60 Minutes, and it is not difficult to understand why the three major drug companies who disburse pain medication to Dr.’s’, pharmacies, clinics etc. have one goal. That is the almighty dollar and the amount of money they can make from pain medication, legally and illegally.
On the smaller scale of individual families and this problem affects them and their children I thought this would be a timely blog. How do you know when it is the right time to discuss addiction with a child? Is there a right age? I recommend that a concerned relative, caregiver or sibling who is not an addict do some research and see what they find that might be helpful and comfortable for them. They can do a Google search under help for families of addicts.
To say the least, this is an extremely difficult topic, and yet, like many other illnesses, some which are even terminal, at some point, it must be discussed with a child. I would recommend an approach where the child is made to understand that the addict is not well. That is the truth. They are sick. Of course, the difficulty is in knowing at what age a child can understand sickness, death and dying.
When people talk about cancer, that discussion includes information about the disease being in remission when it is. I believe it is the same premise for addicts who are not using, that they are in remission one day at a time. While reading books cannot take the place of real-life experiences, there are a number of good books written for children that can be found on Google that may help them understand the disease even more.
I recall when I was fourteen years old that a good friend died instantly in a car accident coming home from the beach. She was the only one who died when a cement truck crashed into her teacher’s car that also had other students. I attended the funeral which all seems a blur to me now and that was the first time I had learned about death. I don’t exactly remember what my parents told me, but on some level I guess I was comforted because life went on although to this day I never forgot about Judith.
The reason I highlight a discussion on death in addiction is because there are all too many examples of many people dying from the disease, especially opioid addiction in the United States. If children can be made to understand physical chemical dependency, then that is one hurdle overcome. I also really recommend a children’s group for families of addicts.
When I lived in Delray Beach, I co-directed a program called LEAVE, Learning Effective Alternatives to Violent Approaches. This was an approved court-ordered program that my business partner and I facilitated and directed. We had 8 groups a week for men and women who were arrested for inappropriate violent behavior; from burning someone with a cigarette, to physically abusing them or beating them up in a bar. 90% of the arrests were also dual diagnosis, meaning that there usually was some substance abuse involved besides the violence. That was over 20 years ago and unfortunately, the problem still exists.
In closing, if we as a society and individuals can accept that addiction is a part of life, then it might make it a little bit easier to accept. I look forward to your emails or calls if I can be of service in any way.
Deri Joy Ronis, Ph.D.
Florida Supreme Court State Certified Family and County Mediator
Licensed Hypnologist and Pastoral Counselor
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