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Health Hotline: Treatment for chemical dependencies requires support from family, friends

Published: Saturday, Dec. 8 2012 1:44 a.m. MST

While patients are attending meetings on a daily basis through the first several weeks of treatment, Frederickson said, family members are also invited to attend twice a week to learn about the disease of addiction and co-dependency. (Shutterstock) While patients are attending meetings on a daily basis through the first several weeks of treatment, Frederickson said, family members are also invited to attend twice a week to learn about the disease of addiction and co-dependency. (Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY — Chemical dependency is often a family affair and at least one local treatment facility requires support from family and friends to help patients overcome their addictions.

"The disease is way too big to handle by yourself," said Jan Frederickson, an addiction substance abuse disorder counselor at Intermountain Healthcare's LDS Hospital Dayspring Treatment Center. She said the more support a person has, the more successful they can be.

While patients are attending meetings on a daily basis through the first several weeks of treatment, Frederickson said, family members are also invited to attend twice a week to learn about the disease of addiction and co-dependency.

"As they begin to understand and use the recovery tools themselves, their lives get better as well," she said. "It is very difficult for patients to try and do recovery on their own. Families have to recognize that they, too, play a part in the problem."

Frederickson and Dr. Ken Wander, a psychiatrist and medical director at the hospital's inpatient psychiatric unit, will address questions from the public regarding chemical dependency and treatment during Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Health Hotline. Anyone interested is welcome to call 1-800-925-8177 between 10 a.m. and noon for confidential professional advice.

Treatment and aftercare, which Wander said is the "hard part" of overcoming a chemical dependency, often follow a medical detoxification in a hospital setting. Detox, he said, can be painful and bring on various withdrawal symptoms that can be hard to deal with, but the real trial begins after a person decides to forgo whatever substance they're addicted to.

"What gives meaning to going through all the pain of detox is what they do afterwards," Wander said. Ability to stay away from the chemical of choice and financial obligations are often barriers to access of treatment, but the motive of any program is to prevent relapse or decrease the damage done by it, if it occurs.

Treatment helps individuals identify risk behaviors and things that lead them to drugs. Most often, it is simple, Wander said. He said any time a person is tired, hungry, lonely or thirsty, they are drawn to use.

"None of us can stay attentive to something at the same level at all times. Treatment teaches people when they have to be attentive," he said. "Individuals are weakest when they are not focused."

Successful treatment and recovery requires a long-term and often lifetime commitment.

Wander said he has seen "many brave individuals" who have kicked their drug habits themselves. But for those patients, it is more likely that they will relapse.

Treatment is difficult, Frederickson said, because "it isn't as much fun as using. You don't get the same effects or the escape from life."

But, she said, those who stick with a program — available in varying lengths of time depending on the need — develop higher self-esteem and a greater potential to succeed.

"Addicts who get into recovery and stay in recovery really make better citizens than most people," Frederickson said. "Generally, they become very productive citizens, their family life improves, they become peaceful, lose the judgment and attachment issues associated with being a victim and stop placing blame elsewhere. They start taking responsibility for themselves and become very interesting people to be around."

She said a change takes place in a recovering addict not only emotionally, but also spiritually, as a person learns to rely on a higher power for assistance and see the errors in their previous ways.

"They shift their way of thinking, a light dawns on them for the part they played in this," Frederickson said. "It is wonderful to see that."

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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