Helping a friend or 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. However, sweeping the issue under the rug can be 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.

Understanding Drug Addiction

People start using drugs for many 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.

Usually, drug abuse and addiction are less about how often a person uses substances. Instead, it’s more about the reasons why 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 the likelihood of addiction)
  • 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
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Sudden requests for money or a spike in spending habits

Tips for Helping Someone With a Drug Addiction

Helping a loved one who is struggling with substance use 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. However, 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

People with addiction 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. However, 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 making 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 likely 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 life in recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use or addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to learn more about addiction treatment programs that can work well for your needs.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.