How do I Help a Loved One with Addiction?

There are times in our lives that we may come across a friend or family member who needs help fighting drugs or alcohol. You will try talking to them, or at least hinting to them about better ways of dealing with things. After you realize the communication isn’t working, you will look at more professional options for treatment of their addiction.
You know that a problem exist if your loved one will not even consider talking about the subject of substance abuse. If they are not willing to discuss it or address the issue, there probably is one. You may notice problems in the following:
  • Finances
  • Family life
  • Relationships
  • Work
  • Health
  • Self-respect
  • Self-esteem
  • Legal issues
  • Social functions
If the abuser is ignoring these issues, that itself can be a major problem. Just another reason to get the help they need right away. By them ignoring this, it shows the substance use is more important than the problems they are creating.

Time to take Action

First of all, it’s important to get information on substance abuse, from professionals, online, support groups, and friends. Next, keep an eye on the person’s behavior. Watch them more closely for a week or so to understand why you believe there is a problem. Talk to other loved ones to see if they have noticed any symptoms of change in the person. Once a problem is established, figure out a way to talk to the person. After this, it’s important to contact one or more of the following:
  • Professional substance abuse counselor
  • Guidance counselor
  • Physician
  • Mental health professional
  • Clergy or other professional assistance
Once you have assistance, you need to tell the professional about your loved one and his or her symptoms. Tell details of the type of substance being abused. Also, tell how much you think they are using, how long they’ve been using, and how often. The professional will want to know if you have talked to the person about their problem and their attitude toward it. Many abusers of substances will deny anything is wrong and become angry or even violent if confronted. Make sure that you and other family members are safe from potential physical or emotional harm. If there is a threat or feat of physical violence you should develop a safety plan.

Benefits of Early Identification and Action

There is a myth that people have to “hit bottom” before being able to receive help fighting addictions. It is just that — a myth. The sooner a person can get help with this problem, the better the outcome. Preventive measures, by all means, are the best way to tackle any bad situation, but when the steps have been taken into that spiral world of addiction, early identification is the next best step.
If you catch the problem before anyone has suffered a traumatic event, messed up important relationships, dropped out of school, or lost their job, lost their self-respect or health, you are already a jump ahead of what could have been a major problem. Identification can be done through a screening by a healthcare professional, employee assistance professional, or even a family member. There are times when some people will learn to cut back on their own, but some will need possible treatment and further assessment.