Getting Help for Somebody Who Has A Substance Abuse Problem
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If you’ve made it to this page, then it’s likely you are very worried about someone you care deeply about. Be assured that there is help and you are not alone. Millions of families seek and receive help every year for their loved ones who are struggling with a substance addiction. We know that worrying about a loved one who may be using drugs is frightening and frustrating. You may feel like you’re standing by, helpless, while somebody you care about is caught in a dangerous downward spiral.
You may notice that their drug or alcohol use is causing problems at work, school, or in their social life. They may have trouble with finances or even legal issues arising from their abuse of alcohol or drugs. You may worry that they have falling self-esteem or self-respect, and seem unwilling or unable to quit the dangerous cycle of addiction they’re stuck in.
You’re right to be concerned. Addiction is a life-threatening disorder that can cause a lot of chaos, pain and suffering for both the addict and the people that loves him or her. But worrying in silence will only cause damage to you and weaken your ability to bring your “A” game to this situation. There is great power and great relief in seeking the help of professionals.
If your loved one is continuing to use substances despite the negative consequences they’ve experienced, then they likely could benefit from finding a recovery program. If you’ve tried to talk about with them and had a difficult time agreeing on taking action to to address the behavior, even when it’s obvious how much their life is affected, that’s very common and yet another indicator that the person is in need of professional help.
What Can You Do To Help a Loved One With A Substance Abuse Disorder?
You may feel like there’s not a lot you can do to help a person who isn’t ready to receive help. This, however, isn’t close to being true. Not every person who needs treatment has to hit “rock bottom” to be open to help or recovery.
One of the best things you can do is arm yourself with information on their substance abuse and learn about the signs and symptoms of addiction or dependence. We have several pages on this website that can help educate you about the various types of drugs that are abused.
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, aluminum foil, small baggies, or paraphernalia such as pipes or rolling papers?
Watch your loved one for a few weeks and note any erratic behavior or drug-seeking behavior. You may need to discuss this information with others involved in this person’s life, especially if you are interested in hosting an intervention. Other family members and friends may have even more insight into the loved one’s situation. You may discover this person has been borrowing money from multiple people or even caught in the act of using by a relative that may not have known what to do at the time.
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).
Getting The Help (and Relief) of a Trained Professional
Once you feel you have some insight into your loved one’s behavior, you’ll want to draw on the experience of trained professional. Make calls to substance abuse programs or contact an interventionist to help guide you through the process. You may want to ask your human resources department, a church leader, or other trusted professional to give you insight and ideas into helping your loved one.
You may want to try to approach your loved one on your own, when the time is right. However, if your loved one has been behaving erratically, has acted violent, paranoid or explosive, you will want to make sure that you proceed cautiously with the welfare and safety of all family members in mind.
Typically it is not recommended that you approach a person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs about getting help for their substance abuse. A person under the influence of drugs might have impaired judgement, and may be defensive or even hostile to your actions if you’re talking about their chemical dependency while they are under the influence. A better time to have this conversation is when someone is “hungover” from a binge on their drug of choice, but truthfully many drug abusing individuals are literally under the influence near constantly, so you may have no choice but to approach them in this state. If so, proceed with caution.
My Loved One Hasn’t Hit Bottom – Should I Wait?
The media often portrays a narrative that a person must hit “rock bottom” before they’re ready to enter recovery from their addiction. This is really not a good way to approach this situation. The risks of irreversible damager are just too high. Your loved one doesn’t have to experience a traumatic medical event or get in serious trouble with the law to receive help for their substance misuse.
For many people, the realization that they are out of control is enough to accept help in changing their lives. So why wait until addiction has devastated their life?
Screening for an alcohol or drug problem can be done by a healthcare professional or addiction specialist who thoroughly understands substance abuse disorders. The earlier a person gets help, the easier it will be to recover other aspects of their life as well. Without help, a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol may isolate his or herself even further as the drug takes over more and more of their life.
Early intervention is also more beneficial to families of loved ones, who can often take on the burden and pain of their loves ones’ addiction as their own. Spouses and children of addicts also suffer from anxiety and stress-related problems, such as stomachaches, backaches, and anxiety attacks. Children of parents who use drugs are also more likely to try the drugs at a younger age, themselves.
Getting Help for Yourself and Your Loved One
Friends and family members suffer from the effects of addiction, which is one of many reasons that you may not want to handle your loved one’s problems “on your own”. If you want to help your loved one, but feel you need an impartial party to help you with the difficult conversation of intervention, you may want to hire an interventionist, or at least speak with a drug counselor.
Feel free to call the number on this page, we can recommend treatment options and refer you to an interventionist if necessary. We can also refer you to other resources in your area for your family and friends.
There are many resources available, many in your community, that may help you cope with your loved one’s addiction. You may be referred to counseling self-help group yourself to find get support and find your bearings.
If you are interested in helping a loved one with their addiction, but don’t know where to start, give us a call. It’s 100% confidential.