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How To Help Someone With A Drug Addiction

Dr. Ted Bender, Ph.D., LCDC

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ted Bender, Ph.D., LCDC

April 2, 2019

Roughly one in 10 Americans (12 or older) suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction every year in the United States. When someone has a drug addiction, it can be difficult to know how to help them, whether you are close to them personally or not.

It can be intimidating to try to address someone’s addiction and, at times, may seem easier to ignore it. However, the longer someone is in the throes of an active addiction cycle, the longer it will likely take them to recover. So it is never a good idea to let someone hit rock bottom before speaking up.

Things To Consider When Someone Has A Drug Addiction

One of the most important things to realize when helping someone with an addiction is that you cannot directly fix their problem. Addiction is a complex and chronic disease, and many people may not understand how or why someone else can become addicted to drugs.

Addiction, however, is not a lack of morals or willpower and once someone has used a drug enough times, it can be nearly impossible for them to choose to stop. Before confronting someone you suspect has a drug addiction, make sure you have fully identified the issue. This way, you can talk calmly and be knowledgeable about the subject when you finally approach the person about their problems.

Drug Addiction: Signs And Symptoms

Addiction is most commonly characterized by the drug-seeking behaviors which are compulsive, or difficult to control, despite the harmful consequences. Although the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary, repeated drug use can cause physical changes in the brain that may lead to this compulsory behavior.

Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for if you suspect someone is struggling with a drug addiction:

  • continued use of a substance past its prescription
  • an increased dose of the substance to feel the same sort of effects
  • neglecting family or other obligations
  • rapidly shifting moods
  • changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • losing interest in old hobbies or pastimes

Where To Start When Someone With A Drug Addiction Asks For Help

When someone with a drug addiction stands up and asks for help, it takes a lot of courage. It is crucial that courage is acknowledged, and they know now that they are not alone in their fight to regain control over their lives from their addiction.

It is always advisable to incorporate a physician or other health professional into the individual’s recovery plan. Many individuals who struggle with addiction worry about what it will be like when their friends and family learn about their struggle.

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The best way to show your support is to emphasize that they have taken a vital first step and now they can make a plan to work through the rest of it. Many studies provide scientific evidence that drug addiction treatment works, and people recover every day.

How To Help Someone In Denial Of Their Addiction

It is common for people with drug addiction to enter treatment under the pressure of their family, friends, or a court system. However, it is important to note that there is no evidence that confrontational interventions are effective at convincing people to enroll in treatment.

Confrontation may make things worse and pit loved ones against each other. It is always best to start with compassion and understanding and then work up to tough love, if and when it is necessary.

Often, people struggling with addiction are more likely to listen to professionals and not their loved ones about the matter of their addiction, as these encounters tend to be charged with negative emotions like fear, or judgment.

Finding Inpatient Treatment For Someone With A Drug Addiction

The most effective treatment for drug addiction is tailored to address the individuals’ drug abuse patterns and other medical concerns such as mental and social problems. There are two primary forms of treatment inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment.

Both forms of treatment can be effective depending on the circumstances. Inpatient treatment is best fitted to individuals who are addicted to more than one substance, have a co-occurring mental health disorder or who have experienced a relapse.

To learn more about how to help someone with a drug addiction, contact an addiction specialist at today.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Understanding Drug Use and Addiction

National Institute on Drug Abuse - What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids - New Data Show Millions of Americans with Alcohol and Drug Addiction Could Benefit from Health Care Reform

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