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Hello Idaho: How to talk with a loved one about substance abuse

“It’s very clearly relevant, this problem has tripled in size since 1999 as far as deaths of Idahoans.”

BOISE, Idaho — Substance abuse is a big problem, and during this time of isolation, we’re taking the time to talk about it.

Our hope at KTVB is that we can better prepare you for your initial conversation with your loved ones struggling with addiction, a very relevant problem in Idaho.

“This problem has tripled in size since 1999 as far as deaths of Idahoans and sadly there are no boundaries for this particular issue,” senior clinical services consultant for Optum Idaho Dr. Dennis Woody said. “It affects all ages, all genders, ethnicities, and income levels.”

Dr. Woody said substance addiction works slow, and many people are not aware of the risks associated with the particular substance they are using.

RELATED: Hello Idaho: How to know when you or a loved one needs mental health help

Although substance abuse is preventable, Dr. Woody said the issue will always be at large.

“It’s preventable in the sense that with good information and the distribution of knowledge about risks, it can be mitigated or minimized, but it’s probably always going to be with us,” he said.

Showing genuine and non-confrontational concern is the best way to approach your loved one struggling with substance abuse, according to Dr. Woody.

“You want to keep your questions simple and have an inclination to listen carefully. You would want to avoid phrases—and this may be tough around certain drugs for example-- that sound accusatory, because putting someone on the defensive really gets in the way of their ability to communicate effectively with you,” he said. “You also want to offer reassurance and hope, and let the person know that you will be there with them to assist them in whatever way you might be able to.”

RELATED: Hello Idaho resource guide: How to find help with domestic violence, child abuse and mental health

The next step is recovery, a long - and sometimes non-linear road for someone struggling with addiction.

Dr. Woody said frequently checking in with your loved ones is the best way to help in the recovery process.

“I think with the right treatment and support, people can recover from substance use disorders, and they can live healthy and self-directed lives,” the doctor said. “It’s not easy, particularly with some of the more complex dependency chemistries that are apparent today, but it can be done, it just requires an awful lot of continued support.”

Visit KTVB’s Hello Idaho page for more resources regarding mental health.

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