Helping a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol addiction is often a long and heartbreaking journey. At times, it can be so overwhelming that ignoring the situation may seem like an easier solution. Sweeping the issue under the rug can be more damaging to you, your family, and the person you’re concerned about. As painful as it may be, it’s important that you take the time to encourage your loved one to get the help they need.

Video: how to help someone with drug addiction

Understanding Drug Addiction

People start using drugs for all different reasons—curiosity, to have a good time, because friends are doing it, to improve athletic performance, to numb emotional pain, and more. Drug use doesn’t automatically lead to abuse, and it’s often hard to pinpoint a single moment where drug use goes from casual to problematic.

Often, drug abuse and addiction are less about the frequency in which a person uses and more about the reasons people turn to drugs in the first place and the consequences of their abuse. For example, if drug use is causing problems in your life, such as losing a job or strained relationships, you likely have a problem with drug abuse.

Not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted. The likelihood that someone will become addicted to drugs varies from person to person.

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of addiction include:

  • Family history of addiction.
  • Abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences.
  • Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
  • Method of administration (injecting or smoking a drug may increase its potential to become addictive).
  • Early use of drugs.

Symptoms of Drug Abuse

There are many signs—both physical and behavioral—that indicate drug use. Each drug has its own unique manifestations, and symptoms of abuse vary from drug to drug. However, some general signs that your loved one may be addicted to drugs include:

  • Sudden change in behavior.
  • Mood swings.
  • Withdrawal from family members.
  • Red or glassy eyes.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Problems at school or work.
  • Lack of energy or motivation.
  • Becoming careless about personal grooming.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, sports, and other favorite activities.
  • Changing sleeping pattern.
  • Sudden requests for money or a spike in how much money they spend.

How to Help Someone with A Drug Addiction

Helping a loved one dealing with drug abuse isn’t easy, and there’s no magic formula that will get your loved one to stop using. However, here are some suggestions on how to help a loved one get treatment for their drug addiction:

Educate Yourself About Addiction

You see what you know. Until you have knowledge about addiction and the symptoms of drug abuse, it’s easy to miss the signs that are right in front of you.

Addiction is complex, and it’s okay if you don’t know everything right away. But taking the time to understand your loved one’s disease and how it affects them is incredibly beneficial to both you and your loved one. It also helps you be more aware of the signs that your loved one needs help.

Offer Your Support

Addicts don’t always understand how much their family and friends love them. Talk to your loved one about your concerns, and don’t wait for them to hit rock bottom to speak up. Let them know that you’re going to support them on their journey to recovery.

Encourage Them to Get Help

As with other diseases, the earlier addiction is treated, the better. But don’t be surprised if you’re met with denial or excuses as to why they can’t or won’t seek treatment. Be persistent about how important it is that they enter treatment for their addiction, but avoid them feel guilty or ashamed in the process.

Another option is to hold an intervention for your loved one. Although these are often difficult to do, an intervention may be exactly what your loved one needs if they’re deep into their addiction. Consider bringing in an intervention specialist to help you navigate this process.

Support Recovery As an Ongoing Process

Once your loved one decides to enter treatment, it’s essential that you remain involved. Continue supporting their participation in ongoing care, meetings, and recovery support groups. Be the support system that they need, and show them that you’ll be there every step of the way.

Take Care of Yourself

Although you may see this as selfish, it’s incredibly important that you’re able to be there for others and make the best decisions possible. Make sure your own needs are met by getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well. Don’t be afraid to go to therapy to get help if you find yourself struggling due to your loved one’s drug addiction.

What to Avoid When Talking To A Loved One About Addiction

When talking to a loved one about getting treatment for their addiction, here are some things to avoid:

  • Preaching, lecturing, threatening or moralizing your loved one.
  • Emotional appeals that may increase the feelings of guilt and the compulsion to use drugs.
  • Lying or making excuses for their behavior.
  • Taking over their responsibilities. Doing this protects them from the consequences of their behavior.
  • Enabling their behavior by covering up the abuse or giving them money for drugs.
  • Arguing with your loved one when they’re using drugs. During this time, your loved one won’t be able to hold a rational conversation and likely won’t be open to what you have to say.
  • Feeling guilty or responsible for their behavior. It’s not your fault.

If you feel that your loved one is abusing drugs, the best thing you can do is to encourage them to seek treatment for their addiction. Be loving and supportive, but also know that they’re going to make excuses for their behavior. Be firm in what you want, and keep encouraging them to get help. Although this isn’t easy to do, it’s a critical first step in helping them achieve a healthy and happy live in recovery.