Want to Help Somebody With A Substance Abuse Problem?

If you’re looking for information on how to help a loved one who may have a problem with alcohol or drugs, you’re in the right place. We know that for many families, watching somebody spiral into addiction is a frightening process. You may now know where to turn or feel completely helpless as you watch somebody you love seem to slip away. That’s a normal reaction to a tough situation to be in.

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Addiction Treatment Has Radically Improved in Recent Years

The Good News

There is good news: Help is Available. You are not alone. Millions of people seek treatment for addiction every year in the United States and many of them get and stay sober for a long time, enjoying a life they scarcely thought possible in their darkest hour.

Some Things You Have Noticed

Have you noticed your loved one’s drug or alcohol use is causing problems for them? Have they had troubles at work, school, or in their social life? Do they have money troubles that seemed to come out of nowhere? Do they seem disheveled, unkempt, or unhealthy? A person in the throes of addiction may borrow money, or even steal, to support their habit. They may do things that they never would have dreamed of doing in the past. You may worry about their self-worth and the dangerous world of addiction they seem to be trapped in.

Your concerns are valid. Addiction is a dangerous disorder that can wreak havoc on the drug user’s body, mind and soul. If your loved one has continued to use drugs or alcohol, despite any negative consequences of their use, then they likely could benefit from treatment. If they’re in denial about the negative consequences, or insist it’s not the drug use that’s a problem, it’s likely they will benefit from something such as an intervention.

Helping a Loved One Who Has a Substance Abuse Program

Like many people who love a person who is addicted, you may worry that there’s nothing you can say or do until your loved one “hits bottom.” But what is this “bottom” you are waiting for, particularly in the case of the opiate user (who risks fatal overdose with every use)?

The truth is that plenty of people find recovery without hitting a devastating “bottom” such as a job loss, accident, or overdose. In fact, early intervention has higher success rates among substance abusers who go to a treatment program.

Getting Ready

Before you talk to your loved one about accepting help from a treatment program, you’ll want to remember: knowledge is power. Arm yourself with information on their substance abuse and learn about the symptoms of intoxication as well as chronic use. There are many pages here on our website that may have the information you need on a specific subject.

Once you’re familiar with the signs of addiction and drug abuse, make an effort to observe your loved one’s behavior. What is it that they are doing that makes you think they have a problem? Do their living quarters have evidence of drug abuse, such as crushed pills, small baggies, or drug paraphernalia such as pipes or rolling papers?

You’ll want to observe your loved one for a few weeks for signs of addiction or drug-seeking behavior. We always point out that frequently it is more obvious that your loved one is physically and mentally addicted to a substance when they can’t get or use the substance.  People who are secretly using will try and avoid extended outings and trips where they will be unable to procure or use their substance of choice.  When they are kept away from the opportunity to obtain and ingest the drug they will often become irritable and angry.  They may try to pick a fight to create the opportunity to isolate and use (or just isolate).

Seeking Help With Those Difficult Conversations

Once a pattern has been established, you should talk to other friends and family members to get their support, ideas and suggestions. If you find these conversations difficult to imagine having, just remember that millions of people have  felt the same way and made it through. That’s why there are resources out there who can help with this part.

If you have not already sought help from an interventionist or counselor, you will be amazed at how much better you will feel when you realize there are people trained to assist who will bring an incredible understanding of the family dynamics of the  crisis you are experiencing.  The reason the interventionist or counselor will have such a natural understanding of the dynamics is because a vast amount of research has been done on addiction and families, and there are recurring patterns that the interventionist or counselor will have been trained to recognize and deal with. Think of how great it will feel when someone else has a game plan and a successful track record of helping people in your situation.

You may  also want to make phone calls to treatment program to help you plan your strategy and explore treatment options.

If you want to stick with people you already know or trust, you can also get referrals from your human resources department, church leader, a therapist, or by calling our number.

If you plan on talking to your loved one by yourself, make sure you have information and options on hand. Ask them for a good time to sit down and talk. Let them know you’re concerned and you are willing to help them, whenever they are ready to reach out. Try and approach the problem as though you were on the same team as them and the substance abuse is an issue you want to help them overcome.  Their reaction may be to pick a fight in order to isolate or because their subconscious wants to have an excuse to use the drugs.

One recommendation: Use great care when approaching a person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs about their use.  Only do this if you literally never get the opportunity to talk with them sober. Under the influence, your loved one’s judgement may be impaired and they may be very defensive or possibly hostile.

Should I Wait for My Loved One to “Hit Bottom”?

A false narrative regarding addiction is often seen in the movies on on television. The media often has storylines that suggest a person must hit “rock bottom” before they’re ready to get clean and get their life back together. This simply isn’t true.

Why wait until the damage is irreversible?

You don’t have to wait for your loved one to experience a traumatic medical episode, or grave legal problems from abusing drugs or alcohol. A lot of potential damage can be avoided by early interventions.

If you’re not sure your loved one has a problem, you can arrange for screening for an alcohol or drug problem. A healthcare professional or addiction specialist can help screen your loved one for a substance abuse disorder as well as other mental health issues.

The earlier a person gets help, the simpler the treatment plan will be. Addicts who have been using for years have a lot of wreckage in their lives. Without early intervention, a person who is addicted could spend many years of their lives getting sicker and sicker as the drug takes over.

Early intervention is also very helpful for families of loved ones, who often lose sleep and develop their own stress-related issues due to his or her loved one’s substance abuse. Spouses and children of addicts commonly suffer from anxiety and stress-related problems. It’s not uncommon to hear about constant stomachaches, backaches, and anxiety attacks in the children of parents who use drugs. Kids of drug users are also more likely to use drugs themselves, often at a younger age.

How to Get Help for Yourself As Well As Your Loved One

If you have a loved one who has a problem with drugs, alcohol, or another addiction, you may feel overwhelmed about your options. You may need a referral to get support from a group or therapist yourself.

If you want to learn more about your loved one’s treatment options, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. We can also refer you to resources to find support for yourself and other family members.

If you are ready to learn more about treatment options for your loved one but don’t know where to start, give us a call. We can even refer you to an interventionist if you’re in need of their services.

Every call is 100% confidential and we’ll do our best to help you choose the program that is best for your needs.