How to help a loved one struggling with opiate addiction.

Opiate addiction & family support: how to help a loved one

family supporting a loved one

Opiate addiction can damage more than physical appearance and relationships; it can be life-threatening.

That’s why it’s imperative to help your loved ones who might be struggling. Here is what you should and shouldn’t be doing to help your loved ones struggling with opiate addiction.

Opiate addiction: a nationwide epidemic

Opiates are strong drugs derived from opium, but they can have different chemical make-ups depending on what they are. The most common types of opiates are morphine, oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. Heroin is synthesized from morphine, and currently, the U.S. is the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic. This is a public health crisis, as there are more than 200,000 cases a year according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Avoid these critical mistakes when handling a loved one’s opiate addiction

If your loved one is struggling with an opiate addiction, it’s important to avoid engaging in behaviors that can be harmful to their potential sobriety.


When someone is sick with the disease of addiction, they may engage in behaviors that can hurt their family and friends, whether it’s lying, cheating, or stealing, it’s normal to want to criticize. You may feel angry, upset, and hurt, but engaging in arguments or negativity with your loved one won’t help the situation. It’s best to try and understand that they are hurting and sick themselves and need help to get well.


It might seem like you’re trying to help a loved one with addiction by giving them a home, car, or money, but you might be enabling them. It’s natural to want to keep your loved ones alive and functioning during their addiction, but at some point, it’s important to detach with love.

Related: Are you enabling an addict?


Don’t play into the myth that addiction makes someone a “bad person.” Educate yourself on addiction, what causes it, and how it is treated. Demonizing someone because of their disease will only make matters worse.

People with addictions aren’t bad people; they are sick people, and they should not be treated as someone who has a moral failing.

Don’t expect results right away

Just telling a loved one you want them to quit isn’t enough to cure their disease. Although it can help to express your concern, don’t expect them to run off to treatment because you said you don’t like they the way they use opiates. Addiction is complicated, and there are many layers. You don’t want to alienate someone that is struggling because they may already be doing all they can to make it through each day.

Effective ways to help someone with opiate addiction

Now you know what you shouldn’t do, let’s talk about ways you can help someone with an opiate addiction.

Educate yourself

Having knowledge about what to expect with a substance use disorder can go a long way. The more you understand, the more love and compassion you can have for someone who is struggling. Learning tips, what to say and what not to say, and how you can help with encourage yourself to be the best version of you that you can be, to come to a loved one’s aid.

Plan an intervention

Interventions can be helpful in expressing concern over your loved one’s using and encouraging them to get help. Interventionists can help you plan a successful intervention, give you the proper outline you need to write an intervention letter, and be there when the intervention takes place. Suggesting addiction treatment for a person in your life with an opiate addiction may help them understand how their disease hurts others and can give them concrete steps towards making a change.

Related: How your words can make or break an intervention

Set boundaries and stick to them

It’s up to you to decide what role you want to play in your loved one’s addiction. You need to do what’s best for you. If this means not living in the same house as them, or sharing money, or a car, that’s ok. You should look out for your own best interests first, and then decide whether you are helping or hurting your struggling loved one. Boundaries can be healthy for everyone involved.

Provide support

This is an important component of being able to help someone with a drug addiction of any kind. It can be difficult, it can be painful, but you should always provide support, even if it’s from a safe distance. People with substance use disorders may be at the worst points in their lives, and they need to know they are loved and supported. Creating boundaries, organizing an intervention, and educating yourself can all provide forms of support. Most importantly, your loved one should hear the words “I love you” and “I care” as often as possible.

Opiate addiction can be devastating, but there is a way out. You and your loved ones do not have to suffer forever. There are actions you can take to help your loved ones who are struggling. We hope these tips give you peace of mind, healing, and help you on your continued recovery journey, whatever that looks like for you.

“Opioids: The Prescription Drug & Heroin Overdose Epidemic.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed 4 January 2016.
Opiate addiction & family support: how to help a loved one
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