How to Help a Loved One With Drug Addiction

When a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, it can create a heartbreaking and frustrating situation. Many people tend to ignore the problem because they don’t know what to do about it. While this may seem like an easy option, it will only allow the problem to get worse. One individual’s substance abuse can grow worse and soon begin to affect their friends, loved ones, and co-workers. If you really want to help your loved one, taking action is necessary.

The First Step is Learning How Addiction Happens

No one intends to become addicted to drugs or alcohol and it is difficult to spot the point at which a substance abuse problem develops. The individual may have started using the substance for recreation, to manage pain, or to help themselves feel emotionally healthier. Whatever the reason, substance use doesn’t always develop into a problem. When it does become a problem, identifying that change can be difficult.

People assume an increased use of drugs or alcohol is a sure sign of a problem, but that is not always true. While using more frequently may indicate a problem, someone can be struggling with substance abuse without turning to the substance more frequently. The real signs of a problem are the triggers that cause the person to use and the consequences that result from use. For instance, if the substance use causes the individual to become suspended from work or school, financial issues start to arise, dishonesty, isolation from friends and family, change in mood or personality, these are indicators that he or she may need some help.

Some people are able to resist the addictive characteristics of drugs and alcohol more effectively than others. While it is impossible to say for certain who will become addicted and who won’t, certain risk factors increase the likelihood that an individual will become addicted, such as the following.

  • Substance abuse runs in the family
  • The individual suffered abuse, neglect, or other emotional trauma
  • Suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses
  • The method of taking the drug (injection, smoking, etc) can make it more addictive
  • Started using at a young age

Recognize the Symptoms of Addiction

If you are going to help your loved one, it’s important to know the symptoms of a substance abuse problem and to be able to recognize them. While these are the most common symptoms, your loved one may only exhibit a few of them. Try to observe your loved one’s behavior to determine how frequently these symptoms manifest.

  • Sudden behavioral changes
  • Abrupt mood swings
  • Withdraws from family relationships
  • Watery or red eyes
  • Nose is frequently running or congested
  • Often lethargic or sleepy
  • Trouble at work or in school
  • Loses interest in activities or hobbies
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Unexplained need for more money

Helping Your Addicted Loved One

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to help your loved one recover from a substance abuse problem. The only thing you can really do is follow some suggestions that have worked well for others. In many cases, just being supportive and taking an interest in the recovery process is enough to keep your loved one dedicated to the healing process.

Educate Yourself

Even reading this information is helpful in that it is teaching you the basics of addiction. Learn as much as you can about substance abuse, its causes, symptoms, and treatments. The more you learn, the better equipped you will be to help your loved one.

Verbalize Your Love and Support

Until tragedy strikes, we often don’t know how much we love one another. Instead of waiting for a tragedy, express yourself openly to your loved one. When they understand that you love them and that you will always support them, they will be more dedicated to recovery. Family support plays a large role in a successful recovery.

Ask Them to Get Help

Trying to get your loved one to seek help is not going to be easy. Even if they recognize that there is a problem, they may be reluctant to seek out help. You will have to be persistent and accept that they may respond with anger and resentment. Even if you have to resort to an intervention, avoid the tendency to place blame. Instead, focus on your concern for them and explain why you think this is the right choice for them.

Stay Involved

Even after your loved one starts treatment, they will rely on your continued support. The facility’s caregivers may even invite you to participate in counseling sessions. If you stay involved and show your loved one that they can depend on your support, they will gather strength from that support. This will give them a better chance for sustained recovery.

Self Care is Important

Finally, don’t spend so much time looking after your loved one that you compromise your own physical and emotional health. Eating right, maintaining an active lifestyle, and taking time to reduce your own stress are essential to your wellbeing. If the stress of dealing with substance abuse gets overwhelming, don’t be afraid to go to counseling yourself, or find a support group for loved ones of addicts.

A Few Tips for Talking to Your Loved One

When trying to get your loved one to seek out drug addiction help, your wording is especially important. Avoid using these phrases, so your conversations will be more productive.

  • Avoid lectures, or any discussions that make you sound like you are preaching or moralizing.
  • Resist the tendency to use emotional appeals, since these statements often seek to place blame.
  • Never lie or make excuses for the individual’s actions.
  • Never cover for an addict. This includes taking on their responsibilities to prevent them from suffering substance abuse consequences.
  • Never conceal their substance use.
  • Never give your loved one money that can be used to buy drugs.
  • Don’t confront your loved one while they are under the influence. Wait for them to come down, or sober up.
  • Remember that their behavior, including their substance use, is not your fault.

If you suspect your loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, try to get them to ask for help. They may make excuses, or they may promise to get help without really meaning it, but you must be persistent. If you feel you have reached an impasse with your loved one, reach out to St John’s Recovery Place. One of their admissions counselors can tell you more about treatment plans and may offer advice on helping your loved one get the treatment they need to begin recovery.

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