Nearly 72,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2017. It’s time we learn to get our family members and friends the drug addiction help they need.
Sometimes, it feels as if there’s nothing we can do to help someone with a drug addiction. When we see our family and friends hurting themselves with drugs, we want to have the power to help them quit, but we’re often left feeling hopeless.
After all, what can you really do to help an addict? What can you possibly say to help them get off drugs?
We understand that many people feel defeated by the experience. Many folks simply walk away from the situation and give up on their addicted loved ones. Others put excessive pressure on the addict and try to force them into rehab.
Unfortunately, neither of these is the correct response. These are reasonable ways of dealing with the heavy emotions that arise from the situation, but they aren’t likely to help the addict get proper treatment.
It’s easy for a loved one’s addiction to make us feel isolated, afraid, and overwhelmed. But, it’s important for us to get them the drug addiction help they need.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 72,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2017. This statistic doesn’t even account for the number of folks who face life-changing consequences from drug abuse.
So, it’s crucial that we learn to help our friends and family members get treatment. By educating ourselves about drug addiction, researching treatment options, and learning how to approach difficult topics, we may be able to save some lives.
In order to help someone with a drug addiction, it’s important to understand how drug addiction works.
Many people believe that addiction is a self-imposed condition. They think that it’s simply a matter of will. They believe that if a drug addict truly wanted to quit, all the addict needs to do is stop.
In reality, however, this is not how it works. Most addicts do not have the power to simply stop using. Essentially, drug addiction is a disease that rewires the addict’s brain and causes them to think in irrational ways. So, telling an addict to just stop using is like telling a schizophrenic person to stop having delusions. No matter what you say to an addict, their cravings will persist even if they have the desire to quit.
The American Psychiatric Association uses three pieces of criteria to diagnose substance abuse disorders. They are as follows:
Constant cravings: The addict always wants to use their drug of choice.
Loss of control: The addict is unable to stop themselves from using.
Continued use despite negative consequences: No matter how much the drug causes problems in their life, the addict continues to use their drug.
These three symptoms show us just how complex drug addiction is. Human beings, after all, are self-preserving creatures. We’re built to watch out for ourselves and our families. We have all kinds of impulses and instinctive responses (i.e fight or flight) programmed into us to help us survive as long as possible.
The only reason why addicts continue to use is that drugs severely alter their brain chemistry. Otherwise, they’d have an easier time quitting. Unfortunately, however, the chemicals take such a toll on their brain that it becomes extremely difficult for them to stop, no matter how bad the consequences are.
It’s important for us to keep this in mind. As long as we remind ourselves that continued drug use isn’t a choice, it’s much easier for us to understand how to help someone on drugs.
The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to help an addict get clean is that you’re not alone. The addicts aren’t alone, either.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 12% of Americans show signs of drug addiction. This doesn’t include the number of Americans who are addicted to alcohol, either.
So, that means that there are a lot of people impacted by drug addiction. After all, addiction impacts the lives of many people besides the addict themselves. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that roughly 9 million children live in a household with at least one addicted parent.
This gives us an idea of exactly how widespread the problem is.
Fortunately, however, there are plenty of resources available to addicts and their families. Hopefully, the following guide will help you understand how to help someone get off drugs.
If you want to help someone kick their habit, it helps to understand how addiction works. The more you know about why people get addicted to drugs and how they’re able to quit, the more effective you’ll be when you try to help.
There are plenty of educational resources out there, like the NIDA website, that aims to inform the American public about addiction.
The Evergreen Rehab website has some amazing resources, as well. With everything from topical blogs to addiction guides, the site is a fantastic information source for addicts and their families.
If you have any questions about specific drugs, general addiction, or potential treatment options, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our professional staff can help with any drug addiction questions you might have.
Mental health issues are a big explanation for why people get addicted to drugs. When someone has a pre-existing mental health issue like anxiety disorder or PTSD, they are far more likely to develop a drug dependency. In fact, SAMHSA estimates that nearly 7.9 million addicts have a co-occurring mental disorder.
When someone has an addiction disorder and a mental health condition at the same time, they receive a dual diagnosis from their doctor. A dual diagnosis may require special treatment, so it’s important that the problem is identified.
If someone struggles with depression in addition to being an addict, for example, getting clean could cause them to become more depressed. In that case, they might require medication or a special form of therapy.
By reading up on how to help someone with addiction and depression, therefore, you’ll have a better idea of what to do. You’ll be able to find a treatment facility that specializes in co-occurring disorders and you’ll know what to expect from the treatment process.
Find out more about various addiction treatment options. There are five basic levels of care for treatment programs to help drug addicts:
Detox: Drug and alcohol detox is the medically-supervised process of separating an addict from their drug of choice. When a drug addict uses heavily for a long period of time, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop. During detox, a team of certified doctors and counselors will monitor your loved one to ensure that the withdrawal process is safe.
Detox treatment lasts anywhere from 1 to 10 days depending on how long your loved one used drugs.
Inpatient rehab: Inpatient rehab is a residential program where addicts receive 24/7 treatment. It’s an intensive form of treatment that aims to get your loved one sober and teach them how to function as a productive member of society.
In an inpatient program, addicts attend individual and group therapy sessions. They live with other newly-sober addicts who are working to get sober. Additionally, they’ll meet with doctors on a regular basis and may receive medication to help them get clean.
Partial hospitalization program (PHP): A partial hospitalization program provides the same intensive day treatment as inpatient rehab. They still undergo therapy, participate in group discussions, and focus on relapse prevention. However, PHP patients do not live in the facility itself. Instead, they attend around 30 hours of treatment each week at the facility. They simply show up during the day and go home once they’ve completed their treatment.
Many addicts who attend PHP programs also stay in a sober living environment at night, but this is not a requirement.
Intensive outpatient program (IOP): Intensive outpatient programs are oftentimes confused with PHP because they both provide day treatment on an outpatient basis. The main difference between the two is the amount of treatment time.
While PHPs are highly intensive, IOP treatment is slightly less so. IOP usually meets for 3 hours per day, 3 days per week, for a total of 9 weekly hours of treatment. Individual and group therapy are both used in IOP. The emphasis is on group therapy.
Drug and alcohol counseling: Drug and alcohol counseling takes place either with a certified drug and alcohol counselor or with an addiction therapist. Drug and alcohol counseling is the least intensive of all the options. It’s usually conducted through one-hour sessions once per week. These sessions are intended to help addicts understand their condition, cope with trauma, and develop tools for managing their cravings.
Counseling is better used as an aftercare approach rather than the initial form of treatment. It’s unlikely to help addicts get sober early on but can provide continued support after they’ve been clean for a while. You can find drug addiction counselors online or by asking the staff at your loved one’s rehab facility.
Your loved one may not be open to seeking treatment right away. That might take some time. But, once you understand all of the available treatment options, you’ll be more ready to help them when they decide to get sober. Knowing the difference between drug rehab levels of care will help you to make an informed decision when the time comes.
It’s important to be prepared when the addict in your life decides to commit to recovery. They’ll appreciate your support.
Some addicts refuse to go to rehab because they don’t think they have a problem. Others avoid rehab simply because they think it costs too much money (which isn’t true considering that most insurance providers pay for it). If your loved one is opposed to rehab, there are plenty of other resources that can help them get clean.
Some of the best free resources for drug addicts are 12 Step meetings. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous hold free meetings every day. At these meetings, addicts gather to share stories and offer encouragement for other addicts.
Suggesting that your loved one attend a meeting could be a great way to help them get off drugs. By interacting with other recovered (and recovering) addicts, they’ll be able to see that recovery is possible. Sometimes, all an addict needs to get sober is a little inspiration from someone who has lived through the same experience. 12 Step programs can be powerful, inspiring, and life-changing.
Both AA and NA hold meetings in nearly every town in America. So, if your loved one is open to the idea, you should be able to find a meeting quite easily.
Never involve yourself in an addict’s habit. Don’t enable them in any way. This is the best type of drug addiction help that you can offer.
Addicts can be incredibly manipulative in their quest to get what they want. When someone has a full-blown addiction, drugs are often the most important thing in their life. They will step on the toes of anyone in between them and their next fix. Unfortunately, this usually means that they’ll manipulate their family in order to get drugs.
Of course, this does not mean that they are bad people. Deep down, they understand that what they’re doing is wrong. Unfortunately, their habit causes them to act out of character. The addict’s brain has a sense for codependency, so they are likely to seek out and exploit those family members who have the most empathy for them.
If you enable them by giving them money or buying them drugs, you’ll encourage them to keep using. Instead, you should let them know that you love them and that you’ll be available to help them find treatment when they want it but that you can’t encourage their habit.
In extreme cases, it might be necessary to leave your spouse if they refuse to quit using. This can be one of the most difficult decisions a partner ever makes. But, if the addict is threatening the physical, mental, or financial well-being of you and your children, it may be unavoidable.
Before you decide to leave them, it’s important to give them an ultimatum. Write them a letter or sit them down and let them know how their habit is affecting your life. Make sure to be sympathetic and avoid anger, but stand your ground.
Remember, the separation doesn’t have to be permanent. If you feel that relationship is repairable, then you can commit to leaving temporarily. You might want to let them know that if they are able to get sober and maintain sobriety for a few years, you are open to the idea of getting back together.
Drug addicts still have the capacity for love. They still desire human connection and want to belong to a family. So, taking yourself out of their life could be the best way to help them get clean.
Important Note: Don’t put your safety at risk. If the addict threatens the physical safety of you or your children, it’s crucial that you call the police and remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.
One of the best ways to convince an addict that they need treatment is to stage an intervention. Essentially, an intervention is a group meeting where the addict’s friends and family members gather to talk to the addict. These friends and family members explain to the addict why their habit is worrisome and how the habit has impacted their own lives.
The goal of a drug intervention is to convince the addict to quit using and seek treatment. Some interventions are successful while others aren’t. Some families have to hold several failed interventions before they’re able to get their loved one the drug addiction help they need.
Plan it out: If you want the intervention to help your loved one get off drugs, you’re going to need a plan. Get together with your family and decide who to invite, where you’re going to meet, and what you’re going to say. Also, use these meetings to establish the boundaries with your family members. Make sure everyone knows that the environment must remain calm and collected.
Also, outline the consequences of the meeting beforehand. For example, if your plan is to kick the addict out of the house if they refuse treatment, make that decision ahead of time. Stick to those consequences so that you’re not making rash decisions during the moment.
You should choose a drug rehab program before the intervention starts. That way, if the addict agrees to get treatment, someone can shuttle them to the facility immediately after the meeting.
Hire a Moderator: Some therapists and counselors specialize in moderating interventions. These professionals understand exactly what an intervention entails and will ensure that the meeting goes as smoothly as possible. They’ll make sure that everyone is respectful of one another and keeps their voices at a moderate volume during the meeting. They’ll also offer some tips to the family during the planning phase.
Let the addict know you love them: It’s important for the addict to know that you’re concerned and not angry. If they feel attacked, they’ll be more reluctant to seek treatment. Remember, addiction is often accompanied by guilt and shame. So, the worst thing to do is to make the addict feel even more ashamed of their behavior. The goal is to show them that you want the best for them and that you’re scared by the path they’re on.
Remain calm: The addict may get angry during the meeting. They might lash out at the other people in the room. Don’t respond with anger. Don’t say anything that you might regret later. Sit calmly and wait until it’s your turn to speak. You’re not helping anyone by verbally attacking the addict.
Accept the results of the intervention: During the meeting, calmly let the addict know what the consequences will be if they don’t pursue treatment. You don’t have to present these consequences as threats. Simply tell them that they can either attend detox and rehab or face the effects of their decision (moving out, losing their children, etc).
Once the addict has made up their mind, stick to those consequences. Don’t budge on your decision. The addict may say things like, "I’ll quit in a month," or "I don’t even have a problem."
No matter what they say, it’s important to let them know that the decision is final and that their only other option is to check in to rehab.
There are certain things that you should make clear during an intervention. If you understand what’s appropriate for the intervention, you’ll have a better idea of how to help the drug addict and how to make the meeting as effective as possible.
Make sure to say these things to the addict during their intervention:
"I love you and I’m worried about you."
It’s crucial to let the addict know that you care and that you’re worried about their condition. Oftentimes, interventions offer a moment of clarity in which the addict sees how much their family and friends care about them.
"Addiction is a treatable disease."
Some addicts avoid treatment because they think they’re incurable. Remember, addiction is a disease that changes the way an addict’s mind works. In the grips of drug addiction and alcoholism, many addicts start to think that they’ll never be able to change. Let them know that there is a cure but they have to commit to treatment before they can get better."I’m here to support you."
Make sure that the addict knows you’re there to help. Many addicts feel isolated and overwhelmed by their condition. So, it can actually be a relief for them to realize that they are surrounded by people who love them and want to support them in recovery.
The most important aspect of any intervention is to keep calm and avoid letting conversations escalate. When conducted peacefully and with intention, interventions can be a great way to help addicts kick their habit.
This is the most important thing on the list. After all, helping someone with addiction can be incredibly draining. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you expect to take care of someone else? Although it may seem like your drug addicted loved one doesn’t love you very much right now (they do, they’re just suffering), you can still love yourself.
It’s important to identify the things that you enjoy doing. Then, you should do them. Whether it’s taking long walks, reading books, spending time with family, or any other activity, you should find something that takes your mind off your troubles. You need to take moments to yourself to relax and gather your thoughts. Even just a few peaceful moments can be great for your mental health.
By taking care of yourself first, you’ll be in a much better position to help your family member with their drug addiction.
12 Step groups aren’t just for addicts themselves. In fact, there is a whole organization dedicated to helping the family members of addicted people.
If you’ve been affected by the addiction of a spouse, child, parent, or sibling, the Al-Anon Family Group could be a helpful resource for you. Like AA and NA, this group meets regularly in cities and towns all over America.
In Al-Anon, members learn to detach themselves from the addict’s behavior. They focus on setting healthy boundaries so that they can live a happier life. Just because your family member is active in their addiction doesn’t mean that you have to be constantly weighed down by their actions.
The great thing about Al-Anon is that all of its members share a common experience. All of them have lived through the isolating and overwhelming effects of loving an addict. The members of this group are strong, supportive people and welcome anyone who needs a place to talk through their problems. At Al-Anon, there’s an entire community of people in the same situation as you who want to help you through it.
Helping someone with a drug addiction is difficult. But, it’s possible. If you can find the right program and enlist the right people for support, you’ll be able to help them recover.
Remember, it’s important that you take care of yourself during this whole process. The more stable your mental health is, the better you’ll be able to help them work through their issues.
If life seems hopeless and the prospect of recovery seems distant, please contact us. Our staff has helped hundreds of addicts move past addiction. We want to do the same for you and your loved one.
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