‘Prodependence’ Aims To Help Loved Ones Of Opioid Abusers

Purdue Pharma, Sackler Family Face Lawsuits For Fueling Opioid Crisis
This 2013 file photo shows OxyContin pills. (Toby Talbot/AP)
Purdue Pharma, Sackler Family Face Lawsuits For Fueling Opioid Crisis
This 2013 file photo shows OxyContin pills. (Toby Talbot/AP)

‘Prodependence’ Aims To Help Loved Ones Of Opioid Abusers

When people have an addiction, they are typically offered some kind of treatment. But what about their partner or loved ones — are they getting the help they need?

These questions led addiction expert Robert Weiss to come up with a new treatment model for those impacted by addiction called “Prodependence.”

Weiss spoke about the new treatment model at the Midwest Opioid Summit on Tuesday and joins Morning Shift to talk about how prodependence strives to change addiction treatment.

What is prodependence and how is it different from codependence?

Robert Weiss: I’m not interested in what’s wrong with family members. What I’m interested in is how much love that they give to the people that have been affected by the addiction. In other words, I’m not going to say to a spouse or a parent, ‘You’re enabling, you’re rescuing, you’re doing too much, you’re overcompensating.’ I’m going to say things to them like, ‘What a great job you did of loving this person and staying with them.’

The message from codependency is more like, ‘Maybe you should detach from this broken person and look at yourself.’

Jenn White: Why do you think that shift in perspective is important for people who are supporting someone who’s dealing with addiction?

Weiss: Everything we know about addiction and mental health in general tells us that we’re better off in relationships. Happier people are in happier relationships. And so, the idea of protecting, maintaining and supporting our relationships is essential to our well-being just as much as eating and sleeping. And so, why would it be any different for someone who’s addicted and really struggling?

On how codependency took off in the 1980s

Weiss: We’ve always blamed caregivers, we’ve always blamed female caregivers. … and in the ‘80s, there was this assumption that because they were doing all this acting out … that there was something wrong with them.

I think the other piece that brought codependency to the fore was feminism, because in the 1980s women were not looking to be dependent on men … and codependency was all about that. That wasn’t a message to men in the 1980s, we already felt that way. It was a message for women and they bought it up — well, 11 million copies of Codependent No More.

On how prodependence strives to improve addiction treatment

Weiss: Most people who get addiction treatment in this country get treated by someone who has a one-year degree. And those people with a one-year degree are being taught this antiquated, analytic model that in four sessions of seeing someone you’re not going to be able to help them with.

And we don’t have a universal standard of care for families. We have many universal standards, research-based of care for addicts. But for families, we haven’t had a new model for 30 years.

White: What would it take to get there?

Weiss: I think we’re getting there. I have 65 therapists who are lined up wanting to work with me on the workbook just because they’ve heard me talk. Prodependence.com, which is the website for the book, has been getting a lot of therapists coming on and saying, ‘What’s this about?’

So I am getting through. And really, I just want to effect change so we can look at people who love addicts as being strength-based and not deficit-based.

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity by Stephanie Kim. Click “play” to hear the full conversation.

GUEST: Rob Weiss, CEO of Seeking Integrity and author of Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency

LEARN MORE: Prodependence: moving Beyond Codependency (Psychology Today 9/27/18)