One person’s struggle with a substance use disorder can affect an entire family system. Often, family members feel unable to help.

Supporting Families Affected by Substance Use Disorder

Addiction is sometimes referred to as a family disease. One person’s struggle with a substance use disorder (SUD) can affect an entire family system. Often, family members feel unable to help.

As a physician, your patients rely on you for more than just a diagnosis. They see you as a resource for health information and may ask you for guidance on how to handle a loved one’s substance use. By talking with them using person-centered language — with empathy and without stigma — you can make a difference.

It can be difficult, but the path to treatment and recovery starts with a conversation. When a patient brings up an addiction in the family, share these tips:

Talk to your loved one when you think they are sober and speak in a calm, caring tone

  • Stick to “I” statements to avoid blaming them. “I’m worried about you.”

Share what’s changed, connecting their misuse to their behavior

  • “I’ve noticed you’ve been missing work a lot lately.”

Reaffirm your relationship

  • Center the conversation on why you care about them and their health.
  • “As your parent, I’ll always care about you.”

Make a plan for treatment

  • Research treatment services in your area and work together to set up an appointment.

Get naloxone

  • Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose and save a life.
  • Find out how to get naloxone near you at nextdistro.org/texas.

Helping patients communicate with family members and find effective treat-ment for SUD can significantly impact their health outside of your office. To find local treatment and learn about recovery resources for you and your patients, go to txopioidresponse.org.

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