Drug use affects everyone around the user

Last modified: Friday, January 23, 2015
Drug use isn’t something that solely affects the user — it’s a disease which touches everyone in their life, explained Amelie Gooding, the program director of the Keene chapter of the Phoenix House. Phoenix House is a nonprofit substance-abuse treatment agency with 45 programs and facilities throughout New England, including ones in Keene and Dublin. The program provides social detoxification, residential and outpatient treatment for adults and adolescents, and aftercare services.

Usually, said Gooding, it becomes clear that there is something going on with a loved one once they start using highly addictive drugs such as heroin. There are certain things, though, that can make it clear that what a loved one is experiencing is opioid addiction or abuse, she said.

There are physical manifestations that can be identified. One of the most recognizable is “nodding off,” said Gooding, a common sign of opioid use. “Nodding,” an alternatively wakeful and drowsy state, can resemble the actions taken by someone who is simply tired and falling asleep, but is a typical reaction to the high of heroin. People who are currently high can also display pinprick pupils, said Gooding. Loss of appetite or loss of weight are also typical. But people should also look out for behavioral changes that might indicate that something is wrong.

Sudden behavior changes of any kind should be worrying, said Gooding. People who are addicted often seem to lose interest in things they once loved. They also often become less reliable, in that they will start to miss work or other planned events, or start to make excuses to avoid obligations. Sudden money problems also accompany addiction.

One of the keys, said Gooding, is that it may not be obvious that even someone who is actively using is high. Especially with opiate-based drugs, the body quickly builds a tolerance, and eventually, the user is using not simply to get high, but to avoid withdrawals and the violent sickness that comes with it. When it gets to that point, she said, a person can use to simply maintain normal activity levels, without appearing to be high.

Phoenix House does much more in the way of family counseling and treatment than it once did, explained Gooding, because addiction really is a “family disease.” They also encourage that families, after leaving the program, continue counseling.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.