I don’t believe in medication for addiction. I didn’t need it; why does my daughter?
A mom says, “As a mom in recovery myself, I’m very upset that my daughter’s doctor prescribed medication-assisted treatment. Although I’m an alcoholic and my daughter is addicted to heroin, I don’t believe in trading one drug in for another. I was hoping she’d be able to benefit from AA meetings like I did, but now I don’t feel comfortable bringing her because she isn’t really sober. How do I convince her to get off the drugs she is on now?”
This is an issue for many people, but just as no one’s recovery is the same, no one’s addiction is the same, either. Alcohol is a dangerous drug that kills many people each year. Yet drinking is also socially acceptable and even encouraged in many communities, making it more difficult to abstain. While the ideal may be to be free of all substances, we have learned—by watching 130,000 people a year overdose and die from opioids, leaving 130,000 families with an empty chair at the table—that it may not always be possible at first. Alcohol may be just as destructive as heroin, but there is less time to enter recovery with opioids. Heroin and fentanyl are taking our children while they are still barely adults.
A solid strategy with any disease that might be manageable under the right circumstances, such as obesity-related diabetes or hypertension, is to begin a medication regime and follow through on all of the other recommendations, with hopes of eventually weaning off the medication. In the case of weight-related illness, diet and exercise and possibly therapy or Overeaters Anonymous meetings would be recommended.
Addiction is rarely about the substance and usually about the reasons it began. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) gives our loved ones time away from the use of dangerous street drugs and allows them to connect with mental health services and other support, begin working or going back to school, clear up any legal issues, and basically see that recovery is possible and they can repair their lives. The most important part of the treatment is the plan that surrounds it.
Many AA and NA groups are becoming more accepting of MAT and realize that this evidenced-based treatment has value. There are also new MARA or Medication-Assisted Recovery Anonymous () meetings springing up all over for people who decide they need the extra support while they utilize methadone, Suboxone, or naltrexone. Don’t forget that naltrexone, or Vivitrol, is one of the three FDA-approved medications that do not contain an opioid.
I would recommend that you support your daughter’s path even though it may differ from yours. Educate yourself on the science behind MAT so you understand the need and the success rates compared to abstinence alone as related to opioids. Encourage her to put all of the other supports in place, and hopefully she will see a path to become free of substances if that is what she chooses. Most of all, celebrate her willingness to begin her recovery journey. She needs your support, and remember that so many others never have the opportunity to walk this or any recovery path with their children.
Disclaimer: The above advice is not meant to be construed as medical or legal advice. If you need professional medical, psychological, or legal advice, please contact a doctor, lawyer, or medical center.
Maureen Cavanagh is a peer recovery coach and interventionist who works with families and loved ones supporting a person struggling with a substance use disorder on their own recovery. She is the founder of Magnolia New Beginnings and Magnolia Recovery and Consulting, and the author of If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Addiction and Recovery, published by Henry Holt/Macmillan, and NAADAC-approved FAST: Family-Focused Addiction Support Training. You can learn more about her at www.maureencavanagh.net
Each new edition of MomPower will feature questions from you, our mamas, along with my replies, to help educate and guide you toward the answer that works for your family. If you’d like your concern featured, please send a brief question to Maureen@MagnoliaCS.com with MomPower in the subject line. Reach out. You are not alone.