Watching someone you love struggle with drug addiction can be heartbreaking. You may be afraid to say anything for fear of pushing them away. It isn’t easy to bring up the topic of drug addiction, but it may be easier than seeing them suffer.
Addiction is a complicated psychological issue that needs to be handled with care. It is important not to approach the person with judgment, hostility, or blame. Treating a person poorly because of their drug addiction is likely to cause them stress, which is a primary trigger for substance use. Here are some things you can do to address the situation carefully:
Learn About Addiction And The Various Treatment Options Available
Learn as much as you can about the signs and symptoms of drug abuse so you have an idea of the severity of the situation. If you know the type of substance that the person is using, research that specific drug and the long-term effects of misusing it. Use this information to support that you are speaking from a place of concern, not judgment.
Educate yourself on treatment options so that you can give them hope for a better future and a solution to the problem of their substance abuse. When a person living with addiction decides to enter treatment, they should do so immediately. If you are equipped to help them through the process, they can get the care they need without delay.
Express Your Concern For Their Addiction Calmly
Change is unlikely to occur if no one says anything. Start a conversation with the person suffering from addiction. Remain calm and open; listen more than you talk. This can provide them with a sense of safety and security, letting them know that you are there for them no matter what, even if they are not ready to deal with their addiction.
Tell them your concerns, and be specific. Present the facts about what their addiction is doing to them or those around them. Rather than just saying, “I’m worried about your drug use,” mention specific instances in which drugs put the individual or others at risk.
Be Supportive, But Firm
Recognize that healing is a process and that it will take time. Not everyone goes into treatment right after someone points out their addiction. Be supportive of their healing and celebrate gradual progress.
Be careful, though, not to support their substance use. Some people enable drug use by behavior that is meant to show support, like giving an individual money when they will likely use it for drugs. Setting boundaries or enforcing consequences for continued substance abuse may be difficult, but is often necessary to lead someone toward recovery.
Don’t Blame Yourself — Or Them
“You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it, and you can’t control it,” is a mantra spoken at many family support groups like Al-Anon. While recognizing triggers and encouraging abstinence is helpful, remember that you are not responsible for the addiction.
Addiction is a mental disease caused by changes in brain structure that occur when a person abuses drugs. These changes make the person feel like they cannot live normally without drugs, even if substance use has a negative impact on their life. Blaming them is not productive. In fact, it instills shame and guilt that may make them turn to drug use for relief.
Encourage Them To Seek Treatment
Some people may feel that they are all alone in their world of drug addiction, that no one understands how they are feeling. Opening the doors of communication and understanding can urge them to start thinking about treatment.
Sometimes, the individual recognizes that they are suffering and that their substance abuse is ruling their life. Other times, they may think they are still in control, and make promises to stop or decrease their drug use. In either case, your role is to encourage, not force. Pushing someone into treatment when they are not ready often results in dropout and relapse.
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Approach Them When They’re Sober
Drugs change the way that people think and act. A person under the influence is not in a rational state of mind. If you want to help, approach them when they can understand your concern — when they are in the frame of mind to make a positive choice — not when the drugs are telling them that they cannot or do not want to change.
Take Care Of Yourself
Caring for someone who is addicted to drugs can wear on you, and it may make it hard for you to think about yourself. You may put the other person’s needs above your own, especially if they are a family member. This can lead to codependency — defining yourself by their opinion of you and sacrificing too much to meet their needs.
An addiction does not only affect the person who is abusing drugs. You cannot be helpful to this person if you are exhausted. Self-care is important to keep you strong so that you can continue to support your loved one.
Do Interventions Work For Drug Addiction?
The word “intervention” may bring to mind a confrontational gathering where a suffering individual is accosted by their family and friends. That kind of intervention may not work as well in real life as it does on TV. However, an intervention that is full of love and understanding can be effective.
It is important to plan an intervention carefully. Everyone who participates should be educated about the situation and prepared to stand firm in the belief that the suffering individual needs help. If they refuse treatment, there should be consequences, such as no more financial support.
Addiction intervention professionals specialize in organizing interventions and preparing friends and family members to act appropriately. This includes imagining the objections that will be given by the person struggling with addiction, such as “It’s not a big deal” or “I can stop using drugs any time.”
Follow the guidelines mentioned above when communicating with someone during an intervention. Judgment and bitterness are likely to do more harm than good, but a sincere gathering of supportive friends and family may be a turning point from addiction to recovery.
What Not To Do When Someone Is Struggling With Drug Addiction
There are some things that should be avoided when talking to someone about their drug addiction. Lecturing, preaching, making excuses for them, or enabling them are all destructive habits that will not help in the long run. Anything that encourages substance abuse or emotional distance can be damaging.
It can be very difficult to refrain from lashing out in anger when someone you love is causing pain through addictive behaviors. It can also be a challenge to cut them off financially if necessary. Tough love can be vital when dealing with addiction. Sometimes the kinder choice is to not give in to what the other person wants, but to instead stand up for what they need.
Explore Treatment Options For Drug Addiction
The person in your life who is struggling with drug addiction might be waiting for someone to have the courage to reach out and help them. Before you have that conversation, it may be helpful to gather information about different treatment options.
Reputable drug rehab centers create individualized treatment programs that guide people through the recovery process. These programs often include family support through therapy and education on how to care for loved ones as they overcome addiction. Aftercare plans may work with family members to create a safe home environment that encourages substance-free living.
If you’d like to learn more about treatment options and how to help your loved one with addiction, our specialists are always available.
For more information be sure to check out these additional resources from DrugRehab.org:
Mayo Clinic — Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
This content was originally published here.