It can be surprising to find out that someone you know has an addiction, especially if you missed the signs. But sometimes, people hide their addiction so well that you might not have suspected a thing. After all, people often mask their alcohol or drug problem due to stigma or shame.
Upon finding out that someone you know has an addiction, it’s normal to feel upset and confused. Addictions place those suffering and those around them in difficult situations that can be hard to navigate. Still, it’s important to know that addiction is an illness that can happen to anyone. It does not discriminate, nor is it a moral failing or sign of weakness.
Like many people, you may act sympathetic and understanding, but you might find yourself unsure how to help someone with an addiction. It can be challenging to know what the right thing to do is. Often, there is no straightforward answer, especially as every situation is different. However, educating yourself on addiction and treatment options can help you feel informed and in control.
Though you will want to support the person struggling, they have to want to change. You cannot hold yourself responsible, but there are ways you can help. Compassion and encouragement to seek treatment go a long way.
It’s also important to set boundaries between yourself and the person suffering from addiction. Your well-being matters, and while you may not think it’s necessary, support is also available for those struggling with a loved one’s addiction.
Contact us for free, confidential advice. You are not alone, and we are here to help.
What Is Substance Abuse?
Substance abuse is a term used to describe alcohol abuse, taking illicit street drugs, or misusing prescription drugs.
The recommended guidelines for alcohol are less than one drink per day for women and less than two drinks per day for men. Prolonged heavy drinking is considered abuse and can lead to alcohol addiction.
While people often think that prescription drugs are harmless, many are powerful with a high potential for addiction. Commonly misused prescription drugs include:
- Opioids – Opioids include drugs such as morphine, codeine, fentanyl, and hydrocodone (Vicodin).
- Benzodiazepines – Benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium).
- Amphetamines – Such as Adderall and Ritalin.
In contrast, taking street drugs is never recommended, nor is misusing prescription drugs. Common street drugs include:
- Heroin – A strong opioid.
- Cocaine and crack – Both cocaine and crack are powerful stimulants.
- MDMA – This is an amphetamine also known as ecstasy.
- Cannabis – Cannabis is a psychoactive drug from the cannabis plant.
Prescription drugs are also available to buy illegally. People often buy these drugs on the street when they can no longer obtain them from a medical professional and have developed an addiction through prolonged use.
What Are the Dangers of Drug Abuse?
Substance abuse is dangerous and often leads to alcohol and drug addiction. There is also a risk of overdose, which can result in death. Contrary to belief, no amount of substance abuse is safe; there is always a potential for short and long-term damage to a person’s health and well-being.
Substance abuse often leads to addiction, known medically as a substance use disorder (SUD). Addiction is a vicious cycle that is difficult to escape without professional help and treatment.
If you are worried that a family member or someone you know is abusing substances, you must seek guidance on how to support them. You could either talk to a medical professional or call us. Alternatively, you can contact a helpline through the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for 24/7 free and confidential advice.
What Are the Signs of Drug Addiction?
It can be hard to spot if someone has a substance abuse problem until they are deep within the grip of addiction. Yet, they will likely exhibit selfish and destructive behavior by this point, breaking trust and hurting people close to them.
Some common signs that could indicate an addiction in a loved one’s behavior include:
- Poor hygiene and self-care
- Sleep problems
- Inadequate performance at school or work
- A lack of interest in activities that were once important
- Withdrawal from responsibilities
- Isolation from friends and family
- Secretive behavior and lying
- Intense mood swings and irritability
- Financial issues
- Exacerbation of existing mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression
Sometimes what could be perceived as signs of drug addiction are actually symptoms of other problems, such as mental illness. Sadly, substance use disorders often co-occur with mental health disorders.
It’s never too late to encourage someone struggling with addiction to seek help and turn their life around. Recovery is always possible with the right treatment and support.
How Do I Confront Someone With a Drug Addiction?
If you spot any signs of drug abuse or addiction in a loved one, you will probably want to confront them. This can be difficult, but there are steps you can take to make it easier. Below we have shared a few.
Avoid acting on emotion and engaging in arguments. Tough love, guilt trips, and ultimatums rarely work. Remember that no one intends to develop an addiction, and it’s not done out of spite or malice.
Plan Your Approach
You must approach your loved one about their addiction when they are sober, such as in the morning. You might want to write down what you want to say or seek advice first through a rehab center or helpline. You might also wish to ask another family member or friend to support you.
A person struggling with addiction will do everything to keep using. They will likely deny anything is wrong and brush your concerns off. They may try to talk you down, manipulate you, guilt trip you, plead you, or offer promises they have no intention of keeping.
It’s possible to show unconditional love, establish boundaries, and focus on your own life simultaneously. Your loved one may not realize it at the time, but boundaries are important for both you and them. After all, there is a fine line between helping and enabling.
You are not responsible for someone with an addiction – they must want to overcome addiction, recover, and take responsibility for their actions. All you can do is offer encouragement and support.
What Does Addiction Treatment Look Like?
Many types of treatment facilities exist in the United States, each with various treatment options such as personalized rehab programs for drug abuse and addiction.
The treatment process begins with detoxification, which rids the body of all traces of substances. This usually takes around one week, with withdrawal symptoms peaking at about three days. Sometimes detoxification can take longer if a person’s drug use is extensive.
Detoxing can give way to withdrawal symptoms that are unpleasant but manageable. On rare occasions, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. For this reason, it’s best that your loved one detoxes at an inpatient rehab center in case of any complications.
After detox, the recovery process begins. During this period, your loved one will be encouraged to unpick the foundations of their drug abuse, and they will also learn coping strategies to prevent future relapses. Evidence-based treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are popular addiction treatments.
Through one-to-one therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or 12-step programs, your loved one will learn to replace harmful habits with good ones and gain healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress. These skills are essential for successful long-term recovery.
Overcoming addiction is a lifelong endeavor for many, often requiring an entire lifestyle change. This can be challenging, but there are ways to make it easier through professional help and support from family and friends.
What Support Is Available for Family Members?
Addiction is a disease that affects the whole family. For this reason, it’s important to put yourself first and practice self-care.
Help and support are available through family therapy sessions and support groups for families of addicted loved ones.
Contact Us Today
If you are worried about a loved one and would like to seek support, please get in touch with us today. We can talk you through our treatment options and offer insight into how we can support your loved one’s recovery.