The opioid problem is a serious public health issue that is quickly overwhelming mental health clinics. Addiction is also a complex issue that has dire outcomes for individuals, their families and their communities. We know this but we don’t yet know how to solve the problem. However, we can take care of ourselves and take care of our relatives who are using these drugs. It can be a very scary time for families and people related to someone struggling with addiction. A family’s participation is important in a loved one’s recovery but it is a very difficult task requiring patience, love, tough love, stamina and a support group. You need more than a pill to fix a family, you need a toolbox full of tools. So, here is a start so you can begin to build your resource toolbox.

• As a preventative measure, you can avoid opioid painkillers in the first place. You can discuss with doctors alternatives to opiates that will not be addictive and will resolve serious pain.  

• You can find valuable and effective resources by calling SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889. It is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service. It is for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

• For more resources from SAMHSA you can review their web pages at: https://www.

There you can find addiction counselors and programs that help people recover from addiction but be aware it will be a lifelong journey. You can also find local Nar-Anon groups for family members or others affected by their loved one’s addiction. These groups are loosely faith-based in that they refer to a higher power. These groups are important and very critical for families who are struggling with a loved one who is addicted.

• You should stay involved in your personal faith community so you can build a support system of friends who can help you when you need spiritual reinforcement.

• Remember that self-care is of paramount importance for your well-being and ability to care for those around you. So make every effort to eat nutritious meals, aim to get plenty of sleep and try to get some exercise, even if it is just a walk around the block. These simple things can help you maintain your health as you walk through this stressful time.

Gayle S. Morse, Ph.D., is a professor and Community and Counseling Graduate Program Director at Russell Sage College.