When a loved one or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, it can be challenging to find the best way to help them. Every day, our therapists talk to someone looking for help on helping someone with drug addiction. We created the “how to help someone on drugs” guide that offers an overall idea of what to expect and how to maintain communications to help them.
A quick disclaimer – everyone is different. While this guide intends to help you address anyone’s drug problem, make sure to tailor your approach to your loved one’s specific situation.
Table of Contents
Being Open and Honest About Drug Use
One of the easiest ways to help someone struggling with addiction is to talk to them honestly. Addicts are master manipulators and intuitively know how to spin situations. Sitting down and sharing with them honestly can help to break down walls. It can also show them that no matter your actions, you do love and care for them.
Remember, this type of honest conversation isn’t an intervention. If you want to hold an intervention, it’s necessary to have professional help. With that in mind, call Lighthouse today to learn more about how to stage a successful intervention.
How to Stop Enabling Behavior
It would help if you stopped enabling the addict. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to cut them off and never speak to them again – it just means setting and sticking to boundaries. For example, if you have an addicted child, stop giving them money or any other financial assistance type. Overcoming alcohol or drug addiction is easier when the addict is left to face problems on their own.
That may not make sense, but it’s true. Think about it like this – the sooner an addict hits their bottom, the faster they get sober. Thus, when you’ve removed money or financial assistance from the equation, recovery is more likely.
Other boundaries include:
- Don’t allow them to live with you if the addict refuses to get addiction help.
- Avoid spending time with them while they’re intoxicated.
- Setting firm times for communication, i.e., you talk every Sunday at 11 a.m.
These boundaries don’t only help your addicted loved one. They help you, too, by preventing your loved one from holding you hostage to their behavior.
Try to Practice Tough Love
At first, tough love might not be an evident tip for how to help someone on drugs, however, most people are surprised at how effective it can be. Tough love is very similar to no longer enabling your loved one. It’s the idea that, even though you love them, you’re not going to bail them out of every situation. First, it allows you some much-needed peace. Being close to someone in active addiction is an exhausting process. It wears on you emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
This approach also helps someone with a drug addiction see how their behavior is affecting others. If you set boundaries, keep them, and begin to heal, your loved one may realize how badly they’ve hurt you. However, this isn’t always the case. Remember, addicts tend to wear blinders. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.
Examples of tough love include:
- Setting boundaries.
- Seeking help or support for yourself.
- Involving your addicted loved one in counseling, therapy, etc.
Offer Emotional Support
Being there for an addict emotionally is invaluable. As mentioned above, you can stop enabling their behavior and still maintain a strong relationship with them. That’s where helping them on an emotional and mental level enters the picture. Addicts’ personalities are a strange mix of ego and self-pity, grandiosity, and low self-esteem. Help them find a middle ground. Help them find balance.
Through doing this, you’re helping both them and yourself. You’re allowing yourself to come to terms with their addiction and your own inability to “fix” the situation. It also allows you to grow and detach on some levels (financially, for example), but maintain a loving relationship. Al-Anon has a saying for this – detach with love.
It’s important to remember, however, that you’re not a therapist or substance abuse professional. While you can offer drug addiction help to your loved one through emotional support, don’t begin to play therapists. This line is hard to walk but offers much better results than merely taking on their emotional baggage. That, my friends, is an example of enabling them and needs to be avoided.
Educate Yourself About Addiction Treatment
One of the best ways you can learn how to help someone on drugs is by understanding more about addiction treatment options. By far, treatment is the best way to help someone get off drugs and overcome their addiction. It’s a safe space for addicts to discover why they turned to drugs in the first place and learn healthy coping skills that encourage sobriety.
While there are several different options for drug and alcohol treatment, the most common treatment options include:
- Addiction Therapy – this is similar to support groups, but a bit more specialized. Addiction therapy is when an addict receives ongoing counseling from a trained addiction specialist.
- Outpatient Drug Treatment – is when an addict attends addiction counseling groups and individual sessions with a primary therapist each week. They’re also regularly drug tested and often required to participate in twelve-step meetings.
- Partial Hospitalization – this is one step above intensive outpatient drug rehab. It’s when an addict attends eight hours of addiction treatment per day, five days a week.
- Inpatient Rehab – this is the most well-known type of treatment. When an addict lives at a treatment center, attends several groups and individual counseling sessions each day and participates in extracurricular recovery activities at night.
Join Support Groups
There are a million and one support groups out there for addicts and alcoholics. Some groups are specific to individual drugs – such as heroin addiction, alcohol addiction, trauma support. There are also groups specific to how someone uses drugs such as injecting, smoking, snorting. Others address co-occurring disorders like mental illness and eating disorders.
For those who are opposed to the twelve-steps, there are groups like SMART Recovery and Rational Recovery. These non-twelve-step fellowships focus on community support and individual growth through “secular” means.
You also want to seek support groups for family members and friends. These social support groups can help those with a loved one who struggles with drug or alcohol addiction find the support they need to continue helping their loved one. Addiction affects everyone in the family and around the person struggling; these family and friends groups are a great way to find support for yourself.
Don’t Neglect Yourself
Taking care of yourself is an often overlooked way to help someone overcome their addiction. We mentioned above that addiction harms not only the addict but their loved ones as well. It erodes self-confidence, self-esteem, trust, relationships, and even things like sleep. Don’t let your loved one’s addiction bring you down too! Make sure to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Self-care may include:
- Making time for things you love.
- Exercise and eating healthy.
- Taking care of your other relationships.
By taking care of yourself, you’ll help your loved one deal with the surprises that life throws at you. You’ll also be better equipped to set boundaries, practice tough love, and be okay despite your loved one.
Help Them Find Help
Of course, there isn’t a one-way street on how to help someone on drugs. This guide is meant to serve as an overall idea of the different ways you can start engaging in meaningful conversations that contibute to positive change.
Whenever your loved one feels ready, you can help them find the right treatment program. Addiction treatment needs to be highly customizable and comprehensive. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction treatment programs are suited to each person. We can offer you and your family the support you need to leave addiction behind and walk into recovery stronger than ever before.