FAQ’s About Substance Abuse and HIV
Information is a vital part of healthy decision-making. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about:
FAQs – Substance Abuse & Addiction
- What is the effect of substance abuse & addiction on the family?
- How do you know if a loved one is using drugs?
- What is drug addiction treatment?
- Why can’t drug addicts quit on the their own?
- How can family and friends make a difference in the life of someone needing treatment?
- Assess whether you or someone you care about may have a substance problem.
What is the effect of substance abuse and addiction on the family?
Substance abuse or addiction of any kind takes a tremendous toll on family members. Here are a few of the problems facing families living with addiction:
Absence and Inconsistency: As the addiction grows, the addict is increasingly absent from the family – physically and emotionally. Family members never know from moment to moment or day-to-day what condition the addict will be in. This causes anxiety. Family members may take on different tasks, or roles, in order to cope with the anxiety. Members may over function in an effort to make up for whatever the addict is taking from the family. They may try to “lighten the mood” by becoming silly or distract from the addiction by acting out in other ways. While these actions do help family members cope in the moment, they do nothing to address or resolve the problem. And, often, they become problems unto themselves.
Silence and Anger: Families living with addiction often conspire to “keep the secret,” as if doing so will make the problem go away. This silence is like shaking up a soda can – it will explode. Not talking becomes contagious, and members may stop talking to each other about almost everything. Family members may avoid each other out of fear that someone will bring it up. When they can’t stand the silence any longer, the explosion comes. The anger is taken out on anyone and anything – very misplaced and out of proportion to the event. These actions push family members away from each other at the very time that they need to be coming together to address the problems. Often, one or more family members is suffering from depression – another factor that contributes to isolation and feeling helpless to address the problems.
Embarrassment, Humiliation, and Shame: If you aren’t going to tell your friends about your Dad’s drinking problem, you certainly don’t want them seeing him passed out in the living room! Many kids with addicted parents avoid the home as much as possible – they are humiliated by their parent’s actions. Often, family members feel like this is the only family who has this problem (remember that silence problem??). The shame and the lack of communication keep family members from admitting the problem and, thus, getting help.
Legal and Financial Complications: Although not every family with addiction goes through DWI arrests or losing the house because Mom gambled away the mortgage money, there are often smaller complications in this area. This may look like suspension from school or being fired from a job because of addiction-related behaviors (repetitive sleeping in class or skipping classes, theft from employer to finance gambling, etc.), or the essentials being met (rent or mortgage) but no money for food due to it being spent on the addiction.
These are but a few of the “signs” that a family is struggling with an addicted loved one. If you recognize your family in these symptoms, break the silence and get help now.
How do you know if a loved one is using drugs?
There are many clues that a loved one is drug involved. Any of these by itself should not be taken as evidence of drug use. If you can answer “yes” to 3 or more, you may want to consider drug use as the reason. Some of the signs to look for are:
- Sudden changes in mood, attitudes, vocabulary, or interaction patters
- Decline in attendance or performance at work or in school
- Sudden and continuing resistance to discipline at home or in school
- Significant changes (for the worse) in relationships with family members or friends
- Unusual flares of temper
- Increasingly borrowing money from family and friends
- Money/items missing from the home, at school, or in the workplace (stealing)
- Heightened secrecy about actions and possessions
- Associating with a new group of friends, especially with those who use
- Physical symptoms (red eyes, dilated or constricted pupils, sleepiness, chronic runny nose, scars or needle marks)
- Keeping long hours away from home, especially at night and on weekends
- Neglectful of personal health, unexplained medical symptoms
- Sudden and continuing change in appearance and manner of dress, especially when contrasting to family patterns
- Difficulty handling responsibilities
What is drug addiction treatment?
Drug addiction treatment refers to any professional service for the purpose of overcoming drug abuse/dependency. Drug/Alcohol treatment runs from low intensity (outpatient treatment) to medium intensity (Intensive Outpatient or short term inpatient) to high intensity (long-term inpatient treatment). The level of intensity appropriate for a particular client depends on may factors, including motivation, legal involvement, previous attempts at treatment, family involvement, and medical and/or mental health issues (called co-occurring disorders).
Depending on the program, it may also involve a family component. In inpatient treatment, there is often a 3 – 7 day “family program” which educates families about addiction and identifies ways for family members to be helpful to their loved ones. In outpatient treatment, family involvement varies. It may take the form of individual/family sessions or group therapy where parents/spouses or other family members meet weekly to discuss the impact that the addiction has had on them and how they can change patterns of interaction to support recovery. Intervention is another form of family involvement.
Why can’t drug addicts quit on their own?
Some can. The problem is no one knows who will be in this category and who will need treatment – or multiple attempts at treatment. Some guidelines that may be helpful in answering this question are:
- How far along into the addiction is the person? Someone who is “experimenting” or “using recreationally” may be more successful at stopping on their own than someone who is physically or psychologically dependent on the chemicals.
- Does the person needs increasing amounts of the chemical to achieve the same result? If so, a physical dependence may have already developed.
- Are there complicating factors, such as a mental illness, significant environmental factors (death or other forms of loss, dangerously high stress levels, etc.)? The more complicating factors, the more difficult it is to give up the substances.
How can family and friends make a difference in the life of someone needing treatment?
Education, education, education. Learn what you can do that will make a positive difference. It cannot be said enough that what most people consider being “helpful” is really enabling the disease. Families and friends can and should offer emotional and moral support. They should offer encouragement. If you pay their rent or buy them food, then you are giving them a way out of facing the consequences of their behaviors. Learn to take care of yourself. Attend Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, or JACS-Anon groups. These self-help resources offer support and guidance on the best ways to not enable the disease.
FAQs – HIV/AIDS
- What is AIDS?
- What causes AIDS?
- What is HIV?
- How does someone become infected with HIV?
- How can one reduce the risk of getting HIV/AIDS?
- What are some ways one will not get HIV/AIDS?
- How can I get tested for HIV/AIDS?
- Assess your risk of becoming infected.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS, first recognized in 1981, is a life threatening condition that makes a person’s body unable to fight off disease. People become infected with AIDS because of their risky behavior, not because of who they are.
What causes AIDS?
AIDS is caused by the virus HIV, which attacks a person’s immune system. The immune system fights off disease, but HIV damages the immune system so that it is unable fight disease normally. Without the ability to fight disease, people get sick and die.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. People with HIV have what is called HIV infection. Most people with HIV will eventually develop AIDS. HIV weakens the immune system to the point that it has difficulty fighting off certain infections known as “opportunistic infections”, which could otherwise be fought off by a normal immune system. Today there are medications that can slow down the rate of the destruction of the body’s immune system and treat or cure the illnesses associated with AIDS.
How does someone become infected with HIV?
HIV is an acquired virus that enters your body through your blood stream. It is carried into the body through body fluids:
- Vaginal fluid
- Seminal fluid
- Breast milk of an HIV/AIDS infected mother
How can one reduce the risk of getting HIV/AIDS?
You can protect yourself by using a latex condom properly each and every time you have sexual relations, including oral sex. It is also important to never share injection needles.
What are some ways one will not get HIV/AIDS?
You will not get HIV/AIDS by:
- Kissing, hugging or touching
- Using public restrooms, saunas, showers or pools
- Donating blood
- Touching the urine or sweat of an infected person
- Mosquito bites or bites from other bugs
- Sharing towels or clothing
- Sneezes or coughs
- Sharing eating utensils or drinks
- Touching, hugging or dry kissing a person with HIV/AIDS
- Being friends with a person who has HIV/AIDS
How can I get tested for HIV?
It is important to get tested at a location that also offers counseling about HIV/AIDS. Common locations include private physicians, local health departments, hospitals, and test sites set up specifically for HIV/AIDS. For a list of testing centers in your area, click here.
For more information about any of our services or to schedule an appointment, please call 410-466-9200.