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Help For a Friend or Loved One

How to help someone addicted to drugs or alcohol

Drug and alcohol addiction affects not only the addicted individual. It impacts everyone around them - family, friends, loved ones and colleagues. Knowing that someone you care about has a problem with substance abuse is distressing and heartbreaking. It can also lead to anger and frustration. Getting help for someone with a drug or alcohol addiction isn't easy. But with your support, they have a better chance of overcoming their problem.

Watch out for the signs of addiction

Symptoms of addiction vary according to the substance used. However there are some warning signs that are common to many addicts. If you suspect that someone you know is becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol, ask yourself the following:

  • Are they more secretive than usual?
  • Have they lost interest in socialising or hobbies?
  • Have they changed their friends?
  • Have they stopped caring about their personal appearance or hygiene?
  • Are they having mood swings or appearing irritable or angry?
  • Has their physical appearance changed?
  • Are valuable items or money going missing?
  • Are their eyes bloodshot, do their pupils appear larger or smaller than normal?
  • Are their changes in their appetite or sleeping patterns?
  • Do they have tremors, slurred speech or impaired co-ordination?

If you've answered yes to some of these, your loved one may have a problem with drink or drugs, and it's time to take action. The earlier addiction is treated, the better.

The first steps to helping someone with an addiction

There's no easy way to help someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. If they don't want to change or don't recognise that they have an addiction, trying to force them to accept help is unlikely to work. However, there are some steps you can take which could put your loved one on the path to recovery.

Talk to them about your concerns but don't be judgemental; remember that addiction is a disease. And do avoid nagging or lecturing. You want to try to establish a two-way conversation and trust. An addict is more likely to think about changing if you communicate honestly but without being threatening. You may be faced with denials but you can try to overcome these by listing examples of times when your loved one's behaviour has concerned you.

Get support for yourself. Those who are caring for addicted loved ones often neglect their own needs. Join a support group or get counselling. And take time to relax. You can't be strong for someone else if you're not feeling strong yourself.

Don't blame yourself. You can't control a person's drinking or drug use and you can't force them to stop their destructive behaviour. They have to take responsibility for their own actions and be ready to make the change.

What not to do

  • Don't make excuses for the addict's behaviour.
  • Don't collude with them by hiding their drugs or alcohol.
  • Don't try to persuade them to change while they're high on drugs or drunk on alcohol.
  • Don't feel responsible for the addict's actions.
  • Don't drink alcohol or take drugs in front of the addict.

If a loved one won't accept help for addiction

An addiction intervention is the most loving, successful way of getting someone to recognise they need help for their alcohol or drug problem. An intervention is a structured process which involves friends and family, as well as the addicted individual. Rehab Helper has an experienced team of trained interventionists who will help your loved one recognise the extent of their problem and motivate them towards accepting addiction treatment.

Helping a loved one in addiction treatment

Once your loved one has accepted they need help for their drug or alcohol problem, they will need some form of rehabilitation. This may take place as part of a community-based addiction programme, local counselling or within a residential drugs and alcohol rehab clinic. It's important to continue your support through the addiction treatment process.

You may be closely involved with the treatment programme, particularly if it includes drug or alcohol addiction counselling. Be honest and open about your feelings throughout the process but don't criticise your loved one. Your loved one may try to blame you for their addiction. This is a natural reaction so try not to let it upset you. Simply listen and don't get angry. There may actually be some things that you do need to change. And if you change, your loved one is more likely to want to change too.

Do respect your loved one's privacy. Don't force them to talk about things they don't want to. And don't tell others that they are in treatment unless you have the individual's permission.

Be patient. Becoming an addict didn't happen overnight and neither will recovery. Recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction is a long, gradual process.

Take advantage of family support programmes, such as family counselling. Family counselling provides a safe environment in which you can be open and honest, and gives you the support you need to support a loved one with an addiction.

Get addiction help for a loved one

Helping someone with their addiction problem is difficult and stressful. That's why we're here. Our trained addiction counsellors will give you advice on how to help your loved one and on which addiction programme or drug/alcohol clinic is most suitable for their circumstances. And we'll give you all the support you need for yourself. Contact us confidentally on 02031511488 today.

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