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How To Help Someone With Drug Addiction

In this article, we'll explore some strategies that can help you support a loved one with drug addiction.

April 19, 2023

How To Help A Loved One With An Addiction

Drug addiction is a complex and challenging issue that affects millions of people worldwide. If someone you care about is struggling with addiction, it can be tough to know how to help them.

It's natural to want to help a loved one overcome their addiction, but the process can be overwhelming and emotionally draining.

Understanding Your Loved One’s Substance Abuse

It's important to understand that addiction is a disease and not a choice. Substance abuse changes the way the brain functions, making it difficult for individuals to control their drug use.

If you suspect that your loved one is struggling with addiction, it's essential to approach them with compassion and empathy. Avoid blaming or shaming them as this may make them feel defensive and less likely to seek help.

To better understand your loved one's substance abuse, you can educate yourself about addiction by reading books, attending support groups, or speaking with a healthcare professional.

This knowledge can help you approach conversations with your loved one in a more informed and supportive manner.

Additionally, you can try to identify any triggers or underlying issues that may be contributing to their drug use. These could include stress at work or home, mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, or past trauma.

By understanding these triggers, you can work together with your loved one to develop coping mechanisms and strategies for managing cravings and avoiding relapse.

Educate Yourself About Addiction

One of the first things you can do to help someone with drug addiction is to educate yourself about the nature of addiction. Addiction is a disease that affects the brain and can lead to compulsive drug use despite negative consequences. It's not a moral failing, and people with addiction need support and treatment to recover. By understanding addiction, you can be more empathetic and supportive of your loved one.

Offer Your Support

People with addiction often feel isolated and ashamed, so it's essential to let them know that you're there to support them. You can offer your support by listening to them without judgment, encouraging them to seek treatment, and helping them find resources for recovery. You can also provide practical support, such as driving them to appointments or helping them with household tasks.

Encourage Treatment

Seeking treatment is a crucial step in recovering from addiction. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help, such as counseling or rehab.

You can offer to help them find treatment options and accompany them to appointments. It's essential to remember that recovery is a process, and the road to recovery can be bumpy. Encourage your loved one to stick with treatment, even when it's challenging.

Set Boundaries

While it's essential to support your loved one, it's also crucial to set boundaries. Boundaries can help you protect your emotional and mental health and prevent enabling behavior. Enabling behavior includes things like giving your loved one money or covering up their addiction. By setting boundaries, you can support your loved one without enabling their addiction.

Practice Self-Care

Supporting someone with addiction can be emotionally draining, so it's essential to take care of yourself. Make sure to practice self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising. You can also seek support from friends, family, or a therapist. Remember that you can't control your loved one's addiction, but you can control how you respond to it.

The Benefits Of Helping Someone With An Addiction

Helping someone with an addiction can be a challenging and emotionally draining process, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. By supporting your loved one through their recovery journey, you're not only helping them overcome addiction, but you're also promoting their overall health and well-being.

When you help someone with addiction, you're giving them a chance to live a healthier and happier life. Addiction can have devastating effects on physical and mental health, relationships, and work or school performance.

By encouraging your loved one to seek treatment and providing support along the way, you're helping them break free from the cycle of addiction and improve their quality of life.

Helping someone with addiction can also strengthen your relationship with them. When you offer your support without judgment or criticism, it shows that you care about their well-being and are invested in their recovery. This can create a deeper sense of trust and connection between you and your loved one.

Confronting someone with an addiction can be a daunting task, but it's essential to address the issue directly. Avoiding the problem or ignoring it can make the situation worse and enable negative behaviors.

When confronting someone with an addiction, it's important to approach the conversation with empathy and compassion while also being firm and clear about your concerns.

Tips For Confronting Someone With an Addiction

  • Plan ahead: Before having the conversation, take some time to prepare what you want to say. Write down your concerns and how they have impacted you and your relationship with the person. Be specific about their behavior and how it has affected you.
  • Choose the right time: Pick a time when the person is sober, calm, and receptive to conversation. Avoid confronting them when they're under the influence of drugs or alcohol or in a public setting.
  • Be empathetic: Approach the conversation from a place of understanding and care. Let them know that you're concerned about their well-being and that you want to help them get better.
  • Use "I" statements: When expressing your concerns, use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. This can help avoid putting the person on the defensive and keep the focus on how their behavior has affected you.
  • Offer support: Let them know that you're there to support them through their recovery journey. Offer to help them find treatment options or accompany them to appointments.

Remember that confronting someone with an addiction is not easy, but it's necessary for their well-being and recovery. With empathy, compassion, and clear communication, you can help your loved one take steps towards recovery.

In addition to benefiting your loved one's physical and emotional health, helping someone with addiction can also have positive effects on your own well-being. Studies have shown that volunteering or providing social support to others can reduce stress levels and increase feelings of happiness and fulfillment.

Overall, while helping someone with an addiction requires patience, empathy, and hard work, the rewards are immeasurable. By supporting your loved one through their recovery journey, you're not only making a positive impact on their life but also enriching your own.

DOs and DON’Ts

Please remember these important details:

  • Don’t try to talk when either one of you is under the influence.
  • Do call police if there is violence.
  • Do protect yourself and others around you from physical harm.
  • Do set limits that will protect your home, finances, and relationships and stick to those limits.

Mistakes To Avoid When Trying To Help Someone With Addiction

Helping someone with addiction is a challenging process, and it's natural to make mistakes along the way. However, some mistakes can be detrimental to your loved one's recovery journey. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when trying to help someone with addiction:

Enabling Behaviors

Enabling behaviors can include anything that allows the person with addiction to continue using drugs or alcohol without facing the consequences of their actions. Examples of enabling behaviors include giving them money, covering up their addiction, or ignoring their destructive behavior. While it may feel like you're helping your loved one in the short term by enabling them, it only prolongs their addiction and makes recovery more difficult.

Blaming or Shaming

Addiction is not a moral failing, and blaming or shaming your loved one for their addiction will only make them feel worse about themselves. It's essential to approach the conversation from a place of empathy and compassion rather than judgment or criticism.

Ignoring Your Own Needs

Supporting someone with addiction can be emotionally draining, so it's crucial to take care of yourself too. Ignoring your own needs can lead to burnout, stress, and resentment towards your loved one. Make sure to practice self-care regularly and seek support from friends or family members.

Controlling Behavior

While it's important to set boundaries when supporting someone with addiction, controlling behavior can do more harm than good. It's essential to respect your loved one's autonomy and allow them to make their own decisions regarding treatment and recovery.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can provide effective support for your loved one while also promoting their overall health and well-being. Remember that recovery is a process that requires patience, empathy, and hard work from both you and your loved one.

How To Help A Loved One Get The Help They Need

Helping a loved one get the help they need for their addiction can be a challenging process. However, it's important to remember that seeking professional help is often necessary for long-term recovery. Here are some steps you can take to help your loved one get the treatment they need:

1. Research Treatment Options

Before approaching your loved one about treatment, it's essential to research the different options available. This can include inpatient or outpatient rehab programs, counseling or therapy, support groups, and medication-assisted treatment. By understanding the different types of treatment available, you can help your loved one make an informed decision about their recovery.

2. Approach The Conversation With Empathy and Compassion

When talking to your loved one about treatment, it's crucial to approach the conversation with empathy and compassion rather than anger or frustration. Addiction is a complex disease that affects both physical and mental health, and it's essential to let your loved one know that you care about their well-being and want to support them through their recovery journey.

3. Offer Your Support

Recovery from addiction is a long and challenging process that requires ongoing support from friends and family members. Let your loved one know that you're there for them throughout their recovery journey, whether that means driving them to appointments or simply being there to listen when they need someone to talk to.

4. Encourage Them To Seek Professional Help

While offering emotional support is crucial, it's also important to encourage your loved one to seek professional help for their addiction. This may include counseling or therapy sessions with a licensed therapist or participation in a rehab program.

5. Help Them Make A Plan For Recovery

Once your loved one has decided on a course of treatment, it can be helpful to work with them to create a plan for recovery. This may include setting goals for sobriety, identifying triggers that may lead to relapse, and developing coping skills to manage cravings or difficult emotions.

Remember that recovery from addiction is a long and challenging process that requires ongoing support and commitment. By offering your love and support, you can help your loved one take the first steps towards a healthier, happier life.

Supporting A Loved One's Recovery

Supporting a loved one's recovery from addiction can be a challenging and emotional journey. However, your support can make all the difference in their recovery process. Here are some tips on how to support your loved one's recovery:

Celebrate Small Victories

Recovery from addiction is a long and challenging process that requires patience and perseverance. Celebrating small victories along the way can help your loved one stay motivated and committed to their recovery journey. Whether it's completing a week of sobriety or attending a counseling session, make sure to acknowledge and celebrate these accomplishments.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening is an essential skill when supporting someone with addiction. It involves fully engaging with your loved one during conversations, asking open-ended questions, and reflecting back what you hear to ensure understanding. By practicing active listening, you can create a safe space for your loved one to express themselves without fear of judgment or criticism.

Educate Yourself About Addiction

Educating yourself about addiction can help you better understand what your loved one is going through and how to best support them. Attend support groups, read books or articles about addiction, or talk to professionals in the field. The more you know about addiction, the better equipped you'll be to offer effective support.

Avoid Triggers

Triggers are people, places, things, or situations that can lead to drug use or relapse. It's important to avoid triggers whenever possible and develop coping strategies for when they're unavoidable. Work with your loved one to identify their triggers and come up with a plan for avoiding them.

Be Patient

Recovery from addiction is not a linear process, and there may be setbacks along the way. It's important to be patient with your loved one as they navigate their recovery journey. Offer words of encouragement and remind them of how far they've come.

Remember that supporting someone with addiction takes time, patience, and dedication. By offering empathy, compassion, and practical support, you can help your loved one overcome addiction and live a healthier, happier life.

In conclusion, helping someone with drug addiction can be challenging, but it's essential to offer your support and encourage them to seek professional help.


Educating yourself about addiction, setting boundaries, and practicing self-care can also help you support your loved one without enabling their addiction.

Remember that addiction is a disease, and recovery is a process that takes time and effort. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, seek professional help and support.

Dr. Elizabeth Drew
Medical Director

Medical Director Dr. Elizabeth Drew graduated from Hahnemann University School of Medicine and completed her family practice residency at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown PA. In 2005, she opened her family medicine office in Doylestown, and in 2008 she treated her first patient for opiate addiction.

Since then Dr. Drew has attained her board certification in Addiction Medicine, treated more than a thousand patients for addiction to opiates and alcohol, participated in programs to educate the community, traveled to Washington DC to educate our legislators, and served as Medical Director at some of the best addiction treatment programs in Pennsylvania.

She understands that addiction is a chronic disease that no one would choose to have, and her treatment philosophy is based on respect, compassion, and empowerment. She is excited to be the Medical Director of MPower Wellness and work to provide superior addiction treatment in Chester County.

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