Substance abuse is a major public health concern. According to a 2017 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 19.7 million Americans aged 12 and older had some form of substance abuse disorder.
Photo by Min An
While prevalent, abusing substances (including prescription medicine) can adversely affect a person’s physical, social, and mental well-being. As new methods for addressing substance addiction are being developed, getting a person to acknowledge their condition and agree to undergo treatment remains a challenge for friends and loved ones.
Nonetheless, as someone close to someone suffering from addiction, you must be on board to help them on the path to a full recovery. Here is a guide to helping your friend or loved one start that challenging journey:
- Reach out at the right time
The first step to helping a person with substance use disorder is to make contact. There is no specific way to do this, but timing is everything. You wouldn’t want to wait until their condition worsens, but you need to pick the right place and time to reach out.
It’s always best to wait until the perfect opportunity arrives when you can have a heart-to-heart talk with the person. You should also ensure that the person is in the right state of mind. If your friend or loved one is an alcoholic, possibly wait until they are sober and ask them if you can talk to them privately.
Don’t state the problem upfront. Instead, look for a quiet place that’s free from distractions. They can focus on the discussion and respond appropriately to what you are saying.
- Get support from someone else you trust
Talking to the person one-on-one can work in most cases, especially if you are someone they can trust. Then again, there are situations that you will need someone else to back you up. Whether it’s another friend or a counselor, having another person around will show how much of a problem substance addiction has become.
Just be sure that the person you are bringing along is also trusted. Otherwise, the situation might lead to unnecessary conflict and stop the person you are trying to help from seeking treatment.
- Be diplomatic in dealing with the person
When dealing with a person with substance use disorder, you can expect things to get emotionally complicated. It’s one thing to talk about the dangers of drug addiction and alcohol abuse, but it’s a different matter to help your friend or loved one realize that they need help.
Many addiction patients also suffer from depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions, amplifying their addictions. It won’t help to blame them for the situation they are in. Guilt-tripping and punishing the person emotionally and physically are the worst things you can do at this point. They could even become averse to getting treatment.
Instead of going hard at the person, consider reaching out to them as a friend and family member concerned for their well-being. Talk to them about how the problem affects them and other people who love and care for them. By offering a loving hand, the person will become more cooperative and reasonable to start the path to recovery.
Be aware that the person will only get the help when they are ready to do so.
- Keep your emotions in check and listen
You can know how serious a problem your friend or loved one has as they continue to suffer from substance addiction. You can expect them to deny the problem or show hostility towards you. In any case, it’s still best to keep your composure.
Don’t let your emotions dictate how you will respond to the other person. As much as possible, avoid getting into an argument or push the person to get treatment. They may feel ashamed and try to convince you that they are okay. If that’s the case, you can talk about their feelings right now.
In reaching out to someone who needs help with their addiction, knowing that they are the subject here matters greatly. Addictions can result from emotional trauma, so have a conversation with the other person and let them talk about the problems that they are facing. Once they have acknowledged the problem, reach out to them and offer your help.
- Get experts involved
If the person agrees to get help, you will need to look for a professional or facility specializing in addiction treatment. There are several licensed substance abuse counselors in your area, so it won’t be difficult to find a professional who can deal with the needs of your friend or loved one.
You can also look for a rehabilitation center that offers an individualized substance abuse recovery program. Such a facility should provide long-term solutions to specific addictions, such as alcohol, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs for anxiety or pain.
The road to recovery is long for someone who has a severe substance abuse problem. With expert help, you can make recovery easier for a friend or a loved one who has suffered enough from their addiction.
- Be there for the person
Throughout the recovery process, you must stay with the person and help in whatever way you can. Getting a loved one or friend to undergo treatment is only the beginning. Now that they are on the path to recovery, you need to express your support.
Besides financial support, learn all you can about addiction to gain a great understanding. You can also help the other person identify the things that trigger their addiction, manage their cravings, and gain better nutrition. You can also help them adopt healthier ways to cope throughout their recovery. If the person turns to alcohol for stress relief, work with a therapist and find natural alternatives.
However, make sure to take care of yourself as well. Helping someone recover from a serious addiction can be emotionally taxing, so spend time for yourself to always be ready to help out.
Do you know someone who is going through a serious battle with addiction? With these tips, you can play a role in hopefully helping the person find a better tomorrow. Be strong, be informed and remember to be kind to them and yourself along the way.