How To Help Someone With Addiction
A person may have a friend or family member with addiction and wonder how to help them.
Everyones situation is different, and the person with addiction may not have sought treatment or could be refusing treatment and help.
- Remember that addiction is a disease and not a choice or a moral failing.
- The first step is recognizing the problem, and someone may help a person realize they have an addiction by talking with them.
- Be prepared for various reactions from sadness to anger, and consider how you will react.
- Do not talk with them about helping while they are high or drunk.
- Encourage the individual to seek help and assist them in finding resources or treatment.
- Set an example to them of healthy living by giving up alcohol or using drugs recreationally
- Be supportive but do not cover up for them.
- Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and learn to manage their condition.
- Accept that relapse is often part of the recovery process.
- Experts advise that suddenly stopping alcohol or drugs can lead to withdrawal symptoms, so someone should seek medical advice for stopping.
- Help someone find out if their health insurance covers treatment for addiction or if there are any community programs at less cost.
It may be helpful to encourage a family member or friend to attend a support group for their addiction.
What To Expect When Your Family Member Enters Treatment
Part of learning how to help an alcoholic loved one is knowing what treatments are available. Another part you may not have considered is what you can expect once they begin treatment. You may end up experiencing the gamut of emotions, all of which are normal, such as:
- Relief: You may be glad your loved one is finally getting treatment and comforted to know that your loved one is physically in a safe space.
- Anxiety: You may worry about the well-being of your loved one and whether theyre getting the help they need.
- Anger: You may feel resentment that your loved one seemingly burdened you with their disease.
- Sadness: Feeling bad for your loved one and their struggles is a sign of empathy and compassion. Sadness doesnt necessarily mean pity, either.
- Shame: You may feel either shame stemming from the guilt that you couldnt save your loved one or embarrassment at having to explain that your loved one is in Recovery.
When your loved one enters treatment, its the perfect time for you to focus more on yourself and your healing. Reach out to support groups of people who are in the same situation as you. If you find yourself blaming your loved one for their addiction and its impact on your life, speak to a therapist to work through those feelings healthily.
Eventually, you will be asked to become involved in your loved ones Recovery. Family involvement in rehabilitation has proven to be incredibly beneficial for both the patient as well as the family.
Be Realistic About A Relapse
Remember that treating an addiction is treating a brain disorder. Its not an easy fix, like putting a bandage across a small wound. Treatment is a complicated journey and its rarely a smooth one.
A few days in a hospital or a month at a rehabilitation center brings no guarantee of long-term success. Some studies show that relapse rates exceed 85% within a year of treatment.
Addiction treatment is rarely a one-and-done step, notes Dr. Anand. It may take 10 times or more for people to really make progress, and that can be very hard on those close to them.
Theres no such thing as a cure for an addiction, cautions Dr. Anand. Instead, someone simply tries to learn to live with the chronic disease. There can be setbacks, he says. Thats the reality of the situation.
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Alcohol Or Drug Addiction: How To Help Someone
When someone you love is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, it may seem like theres not much you can do to help. Perhaps youve tried to show the individual how their drug addiction is impacting everything in their lives, but they just arent ready to see it. Or, maybe youre just unsure how to help someone. Dont let this get you down its common to struggle with thoughts like What can I do? or Did I do enough? or Have I done too much? when someone you love is struggling with a substance abuse problem, especially when that is paired with mental illness.
Loving an addict through his or her addiction is hard enough on the family members, friends, and support networks that put themselves out day-after-day to help the individual. While every situation that involves alcohol or drug addiction and helping someone is different, there are some basic guidelines that you can follow to ensure youre doing the best you can to help someone with an addiction. For example:
If youre thinking, Ive already tried all of these things, and NOTHING seems to work, Youre not alone! Addiction is a challenging disease that can leave those of us on the outside feeling like we have tried it all, and nothing has worked. But dont give up. Helping someone with addiction certainly requires patience and understanding as you navigate the road to recovery.
Helping Someone Overcome Addiction: What Not To Do
Communication is key when someone with an addiction to alcohol or drugs is trying to kick the habit. But it needs to be the right kind of communication, stresses Dr. Anand. You cant go into the situation thinking you can make someone stop their harmful actions.
So, when talking to someone about their addiction and how to overcome it, dont:
- Issue demands.
Dr. Anand also cautions against enabling bad decisions by someone with an addiction: Enabling is a dysfunctional behavior that shields folks with addiction from the consequences and pain that they develop from their addiction, he says.
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Tip #: Take Care Of Yourself
Focusing on your own life is the most important thing you can do to assist the addict. If you are stressed out due to their issues, in addition to your own, it creates resentment and strain. It makes it difficult to want to help someone who has created so much difficulty in your life. By taking care of yourself through exercising, getting plenty of sleep, socializing and getting support, you may be better able to help your loved one when they are ready to accept the help.
The most important thing to remember is that you arent alone. Many people battle with these issues every day and it is vital to get the resources and support you need.
My Friend Took Drugs Once Will They Become An Addict
Most people only develop an addiction after regularly taking a drug. Its highly unlikely that anyone will develop an addiction after taking drugs once or twice or from drinking once or twice.
Some signs that a person is getting addicted to alcohol or drugs are:
- they take the drug very regularly or drink very regularly
- they take it despite trying to cut down or stop
- they lie about how much they take or take it in secret
- they keep taking it despite the harm it’s causing
- they drink or take drugs alone
- they do extreme things to get the drug or alcohol like stealing, getting into debt or faking symptoms to get prescription drugs
- they do less of the things they enjoy, because the drugs or alcohol are getting in the way
Remember that people who are addicted often dont think they are, or dont feel like they can admit it.
So if you think your friend has a problem and you want to help them, think about how you’re going to approach the topic and what youre going to say as you dont want to upset them.
And if they dont listen to you at first, dont be put off. Just give them some space and try again in a little while.
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Tip #: Have Realistic Expectations
Dont preach or lecture to the addict. They are usually unable to hear what you are saying. Continue to hold them accountable to expectations and offer help to direct them to the treatment they need. Dont expect addicts to keep promises, they are not able to do so while in the process of their disease. Dont react with pity or anger. This only keeps you in the process with the addict.
If your loved one is ready to get help, visit our Alcohol and Drug Treatment page to find out more about getting a referral and assessment.You can also contact Legal Aid programs in your area to see if you qualify for those services or they may be able to direct you to someone who can assist you.
The Stages Of Change For People Suffering With Addiction
According to Michael Brody-Waite, 40-60% of drug users relapse. The key to preventing relapse is finding new friends to support you and who you can support on this journey. Don’t give up on those who relapse, he relapsed four times before starting a thriving non-profit for drug users and found lasting sobriety.
Change is a process, people suffering with addiction and loved ones need to make space for that to happen. It is also a cycle. It is like riding a bike or learning to walk, not everyone gets it right the first time. But falling allowed each of us the opportunity to learn from the fall, get back up and try again.
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Dont: Enable Your Loved One
There can be a fine line between helping someone with an addiction and enabling them. Sometimes when we think were protecting a loved one from the consequences of their addiction, we are actually enabling them to continue with potentially destructive behavior.
For example, if youre trying to figure out how to help an alcoholic, keeping them from drinking and driving is helpful, since that could put them and others in danger. However, consistently offering to drive them home whenever they get too intoxicated is enabling their actions, because its setting up a formula in which you are constantly available to rescue them.
Studies show that people with addictions are more likely to proactively seek treatment when they are forced to face the consequences of their actions. So, if you want to know how to help someone with an addiction, allow them to make mistakes without the promise of your rescue.
Its important to set up boundaries and rules, both for your well-being and the well-being of your loved one and its important to enforce those rules and boundaries. This is the only part of Recovery in which tough love is beneficial, since its done for both you and your loved ones protection.
How To Help Someone Who Is Addicted
It can be challenging to love someone who has an addictionpainful to observe their loss of control and accruing harm, painful to experience the disappearance of the person you care about, and painful to withstand the many deceits that usually accompany addiction. Still, it is possible to help someone get out of the trap of addiction, although that usually takes time, many tries, many disappointments, and a clear understanding of how addiction works and, especially, how it robs substance users of the ability to control their use even when they want to do so.
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How To Encourage A Friend To Seek Addiction Treatment
A person needs to want to get sober you cannot force a friend to stop using drugs or alcohol. However, you can be supportive and encourage them to seek help.
You might be tempted to stage an intervention such as those you may have seen on TV, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that there is no evidence to support the use of confrontational interventions.4 Instead, try the following:4,5
- Encouraging your friend to talk to their family doctor, which can feel less confrontational or loaded than a conversation with family or friends. Your friend may be more open to listening to the recommendations of a professional.
- Looking into treatment options. You can look for a treatment center online through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations treatment finder. Consider factors such as location, cost, and amenities and try to find options that will appeal to your friend.
- Help them break down barriers to treatment. This might include discussing your friends objections and fears about treatment. For example, they may be afraid of withdrawal symptoms, but you can reassure them that many programs offer safe, comfortable detox. They may also be worried about leaving for treatment while neglecting their daily responsibilities. If youre able to, you might offer to help with or arrange for assistance with day-to-day issues such as childcare, bills, or household chores.
How To Talk To Someone With A Substance Use Disorder
When you talk with your loved one about their substance use, there are things that you can do and not do that can help the conversation be more productive and potentially result in a positive outcome.7, 8
- Express your concerns and state facts, not opinions.
- Be patient.
- Offer help, including information about treatment, how it works and how it can help them get off drugs.
- Offer to go with them to the doctor or to an appointment.
- Neglect your own needs. Take care of yourself, regardless of the outcome.
- Dont yell or act angry.
- Enable the person.
How Do I Get A Loved One To Admit They Have A Problem
Its important to remember that no one expects to get addicted. Forcing someone to admit to a problem is not the wisest way to encourage someone to stop using the problematic substance or behavior. Confrontation generally leads to defensiveness and denial. Instead, the goal is to quietly remove the many psychological barriers that keep a person from taking steps to overcome addiction. And then to help them find their own motivation to change.
A good start is to understand how addiction works, and that should encourage anyone to develop and display compassion for the loved one trapped in substance abuse. That approach acknowledges the loved ones suffering, conveys caring and love and reduces the persons shameboth lessening the need for denial and removing major obstacles to seeking treatment. A next step is to open the door to a calm, respectful conversation about your concerns and your loved ones deep values and goals in life.
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Volunteer At An Addiction Recovery Hotline
If you dont feel comfortable speaking up in a group, or even offering advice face to face, you may find it easier to give support to others over the phone. Volunteering at an addiction recovery hotline gives you the chance to help people move through a crisis situation and either stay on track, or get the professional help they need. At an addiction recovery hotline, you can make a real difference to other people right when they need help the most, and over time, you may just build up the confidence to start offering similar help to people you meet in person.
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What Are The Signs Of Drug Use In A Child Or Adult
Drug use becomes a problem when a person can no longer control use and the use interferes with functioning. Use is marked by shifts in behavior than can vary widely among individuals. Acute intoxicationslurred, slowed, or disjointed speech perceptual disturbances sudden mood shifts disrupted thinking patterns an absent presencecan be obvious. But other signs can be more subtle and develop over time. They include:
Disinterest or difficulties in school or declining performance at work
Changes in social patterns, sets of friends, or the onset of interpersonal problems
Withdrawal from activities once enjoyed
Secretiveness about activities and relationships
Loss of energy or motivation
Neglect of physical appearance and hygiene
Lying about whereabouts
Personality changes such as unpredictable displays of hostility, suspicion, or irritability, or rapid mood swings
Stealing money or valuables to pay for drugs
Becoming defensive or lashing out when questioned about drug use.
Write Your Quitting Commitment
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Encouraging A Loved One To Seek Treatment For Addiction
So, youve found out your loved one has a drug or alcohol addiction. You may be sad, scared, possibly even a little angry. And most of all, you are unsure what to do next. Helping someone with drug addiction can feel overwhelming at first, but with a little guidance, you both can come out on top.
You know you need to get them help, but you dont even know if they have realized they have a problem, or that they need treatment. Talking with a loved one about a drug or alcohol addiction can be scary, uncomfortable, awkward, and overall challenging. You want to make sure they get the help they need, but you also need to make sure that your message gets through clearly. So, how do you talk to someone about substance abuse or a problem with drugs or alcohol? Is helping someone with drug addiction even possible?