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How to Deal With a Spouse Who Is Hooked on Prescription Drugs & Alcohol

By Lisa Fritscher ; Updated June 13, 2017

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that in 2010, 7 million people in the U.S. used prescription drugs non-medically. ProjectKnow.com estimates that double that number, or 14 million people in the U.S., abuse alcohol. When alcohol and prescription drugs are taken simultaneously, the results can be deadly. Alcohol and prescription drug abuse are often insidious, escalating slowly enough that it takes a long time to recognize the problem. If you suspect that your spouse is addicted, education and support are essential.

Make a safety plan. Although many addicts remain non-violent, abuse is always a possibility. Think through what would happen if you needed to leave, including where you would go and how you would fund your journey. Monitor your spouse’s behaviors for signs of abusive tendencies.

Seek support from others. Friends and family members are your first line of support, but they might not fully understand what you are facing. Twelve-step groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are designed for the families of people with addictions. Other support options include online or in-person support groups, professional therapists and religious officials.

Read as much as you can about substance abuse and addiction treatment. The Internet is full of information, but keep in mind that many sites are not professionally reviewed or quality controlled. Stick to books, pamphlets from trusted organizations, and websites written by credentialed experts.

Stop enabling your spouse’s behavior. Enabling takes many forms, such as making excuses or protecting his image. Although it seems helpful on the surface, enabling prevents your spouse from experiencing the natural consequences of his behavior. If you have trouble letting go of your enabling tendencies, consider joining a group like Codependents Anonymous.

Talk to your spouse when she is sober and alert. Give her a condensed overview of the things you learned about addiction and treatment options. Explain that you love her and want to help, but can no longer tolerate her behaviors. Ask her directly to seek treatment.

Talk to your support group or trusted friends about what to do if your spouse refuses treatment. Each situation is different and there are no universal right answers. Work through your feelings and decide what you are and are not willing to tolerate.

Warnings

If you have children, their safety must be your first priority. If your spouse becomes irrational or unreliable, you might need to leave temporarily until your spouse gets help.

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