Helping Adult Family or Friends with Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Helping Adult Family or Friends with Drug or Alcohol Addiction

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Identifying a Problem – Helping Adult Family or Friends with Drug or Alcohol Addiction

If you suspect a friend of family member has a drug or alcohol addiction issue then you may have concerns. But for many they are not sure if they are worried over nothing or if a real problem exists. This is because addiction is relative. One person may drink every weekend and not have a problem, while another can drink one glass a day and be an alcoholic. This can be confusing. So, the first step to dealing with any potential drug or alcohol addiction is to ask yourself the right questions. A few of these have been included.

  • Does the person take the drug in larger amounts or for longer than it is prescribed?
  • Does this person want to cut down, but is unable to on their own?
  • Are they craving the drugs or drinking on a regular basis?
  • Does recovery from a night drinking or after taking something take a long time?
  • Has the drug or alcohol caused relationship issues, yet the person will not stop?
  • Tolerance built up to the drug or alcohol type?
  • Has the person experienced withdrawal when the drug or alcohol is not available?

If the answer to more than one of these is true than a problem likely exists. While to some degree this may just be the beginning stages where a tolerance is growing, this can easily turn into full blown addiction. If addiction is present, then there are ways to handle the stress of having a loved one with addiction. These will be shared below.

Helping an Addict

The main thing to remember if an addiction does exist is that it is not an absence of willpower or ability. Substance use disorder is a disease that requires treatment and a great deal of support from family and loved ones. A person will never not be an addict, but they can abstain and reenter their lives without the actual use of the addictive substance. Anyone can become addicted to drugs. Even those who have no intention of ever being addicted. While some start out using recreationally, a portion of addicts are those who started out with a simple prescription that then turned into addiction. The thing to remember is that if a loved one is addicted, you cannot fix it on your own. The person has to make the decision and you can help along the way. Here are a few ways to help.

  • Figure out if you are overreacting
  • Identify the problem early
  • Have a discussion
  • Help the person understand a problem exists
  • Discuss treatment
  • Know what to do in an Emergency

Each of these will be discussed in detail to better explain the meaning. Know that not every part will be the same for each person and the options or presentation are not going to be script-like. You know your loved one best and need to approach the given topics in a way that will make sense to them, with facts and in a calm demeanor.

Am I Overreacting?

Though we have already shared some questions that you can ask yourself about a potential drug or alcohol addiction, you may still be concerned that you are overreacting. The main identifier is if there are problems in different areas of life for the potential addict. These may include finances, work, family, health, legal issues, social functioning, and even mental health or self-esteem. If these problems are present and continue in spite of the link to drugs and alcohol, then substance abuse has become more important than these basic areas of need. This means you are not overreacting and need to offer support, but make sure to observe for several days before saying anything and consult with a professional.

Benefits of Early Identification

Though many movies and shows portray people seeking help on their own when they have hit the proverbial ‘rock bottom’, it is still best to identify a problem early. This is best done at the first sign of trouble, before anything traumatic occurs. Identification of a problem can come from observation, but a professional may also diagnose an issue through screening.

Have a Discussion

Many times, people worry that having a discussion about addiction or possible addiction will lead to problems. This could be anything from making a drug or alcohol addiction worse to causing a scene in front of the family. However, a discussion can be a wonderful experience as the person may not realize that their behaviors have changed or that an addiction has truly taken hold. When you do decide to have a discussion, you need to remember a few things.

  • The person, nor you should be under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Have a two-way conversation when you have lots of time, not a rushed heated discussion
  • Emphasize how much you care for the person and their well being
  • List behaviors you have observed and what worries you
  • If the person denies a problem then ask to speak to them in the future
  • Do not judge, speculate, or explore motives, instead stick to the facts
  • Don’t have unrealistic expectations like a total change in that moment
  • Be prepared for the long haul

Help the Person Understand

This part can be tough as you may feel like a broken record having the same conversation multiple times without seeing change. You simply need to remember that consistency is key with the message that you love the person and you want to see them get help. This is not a time to blame or be condescending, just a time to show support when the person does decide to get help. That being said, you must set limits and boundaries for acceptable behavior until the addiction is under control.


Helping Adult Family or Friends with Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Treatment options vary greatly and if a drug or alcohol addiction is not severe then an outpatient program may be enough, as can setting limits on alcohol. But for severe cases an in-patient option may be best. A simple screening can lead to a recommendation for intensive treatment in some form. If you do need to set up an in-patient stay then DARA should be considered.  DARA has centers in several places and offers an affordable in-patient facility with a resort setting. The holistic approach means your loved one can reenter life in better shape physically, mentally, and spiritually than they enter. This being said, any type of treatment should be discussed with the individual ahead of time as forcing someone into treatment is rarely successful.


Just in case the addiction gets out of control, you should prepare yourself for an emergency. Know what to do in the case of alcohol poisoning or drug overdose. Hopefully this is a skill you will never need, but knowing who to call and the right numbers can save a life in the case of an emergency.

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