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How Do I Get Help for Someone Who is Injecting Heroin?

Someone who may have injected too much heroin could need emergency medical assistance.
A person addicted to heroin may scratch excessively during the withdrawal process.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2014
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When people hit the stage of injecting heroin they are usually in the throes of a painful and difficult addiction. If they haven’t reached it yet, they soon will be by continuing use. Heroin is very powerful, very dangerous and very addictive, and once a person is fully addicted, it is extremely hard to stop using. The addict or heroin user is not the only one affected. Danger and emotional pain exists for children of a person injecting heroin and for any family members or friends that watch a person destroy the self in this manner. Most people want to get help, but don’t how to do it, and they are limited in their ability to offer help unless someone injecting heroin chooses to change their behavior.

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The many who have watched an addict continue on a destructive path can quickly assert that there is virtually no way to strong arm a person into giving up addiction. Drastic steps can be taken, like reporting a person for drug possession, or neglect of children but this isn’t likely to change the behavior. The best a person can do in advance of a discussion with an addict is to have the names of some local places that will treat that person right away. In other words, prepare for a discussion about drug use, do some research to find available places, and offer to send that person to any of these places. Coordinate childcare if needed, to eliminate one potential worry of entering treatment.

If a person is having trouble researching this issue, consider talking with a family doctor or a local drug addiction support group like Narcotics Anonymous. Ask about methods available to quit and local programs. Then contact these programs and without giving much detail about the addict, ask for general information on pricing and any length of time it might take to get into a drug treatment program; lower cost programs can have a longer wait time.

The matter of any children being in the care of a person injecting heroin must be addressed. It may be necessary to do something the addict doesn’t like, like contacting child protective services to remove children from a home. Some families are able to circumvent this by taking the kids home with them while they hope the addicted family member will get better. It might be wise to get some form of legal guardianship, though, if needed, because medical decisions or things at school might require ability to authoritatively act. If calling something like child protection agencies, be sure to state willingness to accept the children for temporary care, or the willingness on the part of multiple relatives to provide this care.

When people are injecting heroin regularly, they very often can’t support themselves. This could lead to requests for money. While it is fine to help out by paying for rent or food, it is inadvisable to hand an addict cash, which may just be converted to drugs. People may instead want to make arrangements with the addict’s landlord to pay rent directly to the landlord. Gift certificates to grocery stores, and simply shopping for groceries for the addict can prevent this issue too.

Heroin addicts don’t just run the risk of dying from injecting a powerful substance. They are at increased risk for blood-borne illnesses caused by sharing needles. Another way to help people who inject heroin is to find out about any county or city needle exchange programs. These might provide a safer method of intravenous drug use, though no method is entirely safe.

In the end though, the only way to offer help to people injecting heroin is to give them support that doesn’t support their drug use and be there when they are finally willing to quit. Providing information on ways to quit, and helping with services that may sustain life or protect the child of an addict are also quite helpful. Unfortunately, convincing a person to quit is never easy and not possible unless the person wants to. It is often easier to help someone recovering from heroin addiction than it is to give aid while the person remains strongly addicted and not open to treatment.

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umbra21
Post 3

@Mor - It annoys me that there isn't more help for people who want to give up their addiction. My cousin was an addict who wanted to give up and tried to give up several times, but he came from a poor family and his parents couldn't afford to send him to rehab. I can't be sure it would have worked anyway, of course, but we never got a chance to find out.

I'm sure it would be cheaper in the long run to have well designed rehab clinics available to whoever wanted them than it is to have to deal with the crime and poverty, and property and health damage that results from having a lot of addicts in a country without recourse to help.

Mor
Post 2

@bythewell - It depends on the situation though. I've seen too many families torn apart prematurely because the parents completely overreacted to discovering their adult child is a drug addict. They don't understand it and only know what they've seen on TV. Sometimes it is the right decision to cut ties with someone, but I would try other options first. Sometimes help is what they need. Particularly if they are going to give up. Heroin withdrawal is not something you want a person to undergo on their own.

bythewell
Post 1

I've had a family member who was addicted to drugs (I don't think heroin, but almost everything else) and honestly, I think one of the best things you can do for yourself and them is to let them fall. If you prop them up financially they will just keep going as long as they can no matter what they tell you. Addiction is a disease, but that doesn't mean you have to be their doctor.

Make sure they have options and then tell them to get out of your life until they clean themselves up. And mean it. It wasn't until my family member ran out of options that she finally realized she had to start taking care of herself. And she did quit and has been quit for years now, so it's possible.

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