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How To Help My Loved One Stop Using Drugs
According to SAMHSA's (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's) NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) for 2015, 7.8 percent of all Americans above the age of 12 had one form of substance use disorder or the other in the previous year. Numbering 20.8 million people, this is a staggering segment of the population and it reveals that addiction is a real and very prevalent problem.
To this end, if you are worried or know that your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, you are likely to feel a mixture of anger, sadness, and anxiety. Additionally, this knowledge or suspicion might make you feel confused about what you should do.
As you continue looking for information on how to help my loved one stop using drugs, therefore, you should know that it is possible to get the support and guidance you need while figuring out the best way to proceed with getting them to overcome their addiction.
In most cases, however, helping loved ones who are struggling with alcoholism and/or drug addiction is usually a long and arduous journey. Sometimes, it might prove to be so overwhelming that you would rather ignore the problem.
Still, sweeping the problem under the rug is never a solution - particularly because it will only prove to be more damaging to the loved one, to you, and to your entire family and social structure.
As painful as it might prove to be, therefore, it is vital that you take some time to find out answers to the "how to help my loved one stop using drugs" query. Read on to get the information you need:
Understanding Drug Addiction
Most people start abusing alcohol and drugs for a variety of reasons. While some are simply looking for a good time, others might start because they are curious or to numb their emotional pain, improve their athletic and sport performance, or follow along with their friends and peers, among many other reasons.
However, using alcohol and drugs does not automatically create a substance use disorder or lead to abuse. As such, it might be difficult for you to pinpoint the exact moment when drug use goes beyond the casual and into the problematic.
In most cases, therefore, addiction and substance abuse are less about how frequently your loved one uses and more about why they decided to turn to intoxicating substances in the first place as well as the consequences that might arise as a result of their use.
For instance, if drinking alcohol and using drugs causes problems in their lives - such as straining their personal and professional relationships or leading them to lose their source of income - then it is highly likely that they have a drug/alcohol use problem.
In most cases, the likelihood that someone will become addicted varies from one person to the next. Some of the right factors that might increase this likelihood include, but are not limited to:
- Genetic makeup or family history of substance use disorder/addiction
- Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety
- The mode of use (or method of administration); smoking or injecting intoxicating substances increases the potential for addiction
- Traumatic experiences
- Using drugs or drinking alcohol from an early age
Symptoms Of Drug Abuse
To be able to tell that the time has come to learn how to help my loved one to stop using drugs, you need to start noticing any major changes in their behavior and habits. This means that you should observe whether they have started acting differently.
In many cases, there are different examples and signs - both behavioral and physical - that pinpoint to a substance use disorder or addiction. All drugs, however, come with their own unique manifestations. As such, the signs and symptoms of substance abuse will vary from one drug to the other.
Still, there are some general signs you will notice in someone who might be addicted. These include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Becoming careless about hygiene and personal grooming
- Changing sleeping patterns
- Glassy or red eyes
- Lack of motivation or energy
- Loss of interest in activities they once found enjoyable, such as sports and hobbies
- Mood swings
- Problems at work or school
- Stuffy and/or runny nose
- Sudden and more frequent requests for money as well as spikes in the amount of money they tend to spend
- Sudden change in their behavior
- Withdrawing from friends and family members
As your loved one continues struggling with the drug/alcohol problem, you might feel confused and frustrated watching them put their substance use over and above everything else - including the relationship you have with them.
For instance, if your wife is an alcoholic, it is highly likely that you will start thinking that they love alcohol more than they love you. From this perspective, it won't make sense why she keeps choosing alcohol given the destruction it is causing to her and your life.
However, even though they might have made a conscious choice to start using drugs/alcohol, as their addiction evolves, they will start feeling that they have to abuse that particular substance more as a necessity than a choice.
As such, you should understand that addiction tends to affect the brain - particularly the part of the brain that is responsible for rewarding feelings and thoughts. This is why users tend to have such strong urges to continue using their intoxicating substance of choice.
Additionally, they will start associating drug use with certain rewards - an association that is so powerful that it may completely overtake all the feelings you would normally associate with pleasurable and healthy activities like eating, exercising, enjoying a good book/movie, or having sex.
At this point, drugs/alcohol might be the only vehicle their brain can take to experience any happiness or pleasure. Once they become physically dependent on the drug/alcohol of choice, failure to use may make them feel ill - a condition that is known as withdrawal and which sometimes proves to be medically dangerous and deadly.
Their physical addiction may also be complicated further by the psychological and social aspects of their substance use disorder. For instance, they might feel that they have to use to be at ease and comfortable in a social situation or even to cope with negative experiences and distressing feelings.
Helping Loved Ones With Addiction
To learn how to help my loved one stop using drugs and alcohol, it is essential that you first educate yourself and understand how addiction works even before you take any action to assist them overcome the condition.
You can read up on the topic online or in a book. Alternatively, schedule appointments with addiction professionals and counselors - particularly those who can answer your questions and help you learn how to support both yourself and your addicted loved one.
As you do this, it is normal to feel concerned about their safety - as well as those around them. You might also wonder if you can force them to get the help they need. Today, 33 states permit civil commitment for addiction and substance abuse. This means that there might be action you can take to ensure that they get the treatment they require.
In most cases, you would need evidence showing that they are a danger to themselves or to others. Check the statutes and laws in your state and talk to local treatment centers to educate yourself on your rights and responsibilities with regards to substance abuse and addiction.
Alternatively, hold an intervention and force your loved one into a treatment facility - more of this is discussed later. In this case, you have to remember that you don't have the power to force them to change. Although the consequences you will outline during the intervention might prove successful as short term motivators, some people have intrinsic motivation to recover - which might prove to be more successful in the long term in comparison to someone who only undergoes rehabilitation as a response to pressure.
One of the ways on how to help your loved one to stop using drugs is by planning and hosting an intervention. If this is an option for you, you need to ensure that you plan and execute it flawlessly. You should also have a specific outcome you desire - such as compelling your loved one to agree to go for treatment.
As far as possible, never conduct a drug/alcohol intervention spontaneously. The lack of preparedness as well as the reactive communication might lead to hurt feelings and anger with no positive outcomes or resolutions to the substance use problem.
Instead, spend some time planning everything that will be said and what will be done at the intervention. In most cases, you will find that it is more effective to approach the loved one in a way that shows you care about and love them as opposed to threatening condemnation and punishment.
Regardless of whether or not you choose to plan and conduct a formal intervention - that should include an interventionist or professional who has specialized in drug/alcohol addiction - it is important that you communicate your concerns to your loved one. This might help you influence them to consider seeking treatment even before the intervention.
If an intervention seems ideal to you, you might want to consider using the following tips to communicate your desired changes and worries in a way that will compel the loved one to start striving for full recovery:
- As far as possible, ensure you stay calm so your emotions do not escalate and lead to problems
- Be as specific as possible, taking the time to focus on consequences and behaviors instead of making broad statements and judgements of their character
- Be brief so that they are attentive and can understand all your important points
- Speak from a place of concern and love instead of one of anger and emotion
In most cases, you will find that bringing close family members, friends, employers, and neighbors to the intervention works effectively and convinces the addict to seek treatment. Here are some steps you might want to take to make the intervention more successful:
- Approach them in a flexible and caring way that is also persuasive and non-confrontational
- Avoid making moral opinions and judgements
- Engage others, including siblings, older children, ministers, schoolmates, teachers, and colleagues
- Ensure that you are not too accusing and that they are able to focus on the present conversation than on how people are talking
- Explain how and why their substance use is turning into an actual condition that requires treatment and rehabilitation
- Express your concern and love as well as your commitment to support and help them take positive action
- Get in touch with Al-Anon, which is a self-help group for significant others and families
- Offer as much information as you can and point them to places where they can get the professional help they need
- Offer them hope by showing how most of the people who are addicted recover and how your loved one can find the same help
- Practice tough love by placing responsibility and obligation where they lie
- Present the facts about their drug misuse and drinking and be as specific as you can about their behavior
- Recommend they attend self-help groups, such as NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)
- Where possible, use leverage and bargaining power to set healthy boundaries
Supporting Addicts Who Are Not Ready For Rehabilitation
In case your loved one has resisted treatment, you are likely to feel helpless, scared, hurt, and angry. In such a situation, you might want to get support for yourself so that you are better able to work through the emotions you feel. This support will also empower you to handle all situations that might arise much better than you otherwise would while also taking care of your own physical and mental health.
Even while seeking help for yourself, continue expressing your concern, care, and love and present the addict in your life with the options they have to get the help they need. You might, for instance, consider recommending they go for treatment or offering to go to the rehabilitation meetings with them.
As far as possible, however, you should set boundaries about what you can or can no longer do on their behalf if they choose to continue abusing alcohol and other addictive substances. This way, you will stop enabling their use.
Tips To Help An Addict
Learning how to help a loved one to stop using drugs and alcohol is never easy. This is mostly because addiction to different drugs and intoxicating substances works differently. As such, there is no magic formula you can use to compel them to overcome their addiction.
Still, there are some actions you can take to help them start considering treatment or even encourage them to check into an addiction treatment and rehabilitation facility. These include:
1. Educate Yourself
The first step to helping an addict involves educating yourself about substance abuse and addiction. Since most people tend to see what they know, you are unlikely to miss some signs that might be right in your face until you get the right knowledge about the symptoms of substance abuse and addiction.
Since addiction is so complex and has many facets to it, you should not worry that you still don't know everything immediately. Instead, consider taking more time and making more of an effort to understand the condition and how it is affecting your loved one. This knowledge will prove beneficial to everyone concerned and will ensure that you are aware of all the signs showing that they need help - such as during an overdose.
2. Offer Your Support
Most addicts have no idea how much love their friends and family have for them. Therefore, as you look for information on how to help your loved one to stop using drugs, you might want to start by talking to them about every concern you have.
This works out better than waiting until they hit rock bottom before you speak up. As you communicate, therefore, ensure that they know you are going to provide all the support they will need once they get started on the path to full recovery and sobriety.
3. Encourage Them to Seek Treatment
Addiction is similar to other conditions in the sense that the earlier you treat it, the better the outcomes. To this end, you might want to encourage your loved one to start looking for the help they require before it is too late.
However, you should not be surprised if they make excuses or are still in denial about why they won't or can't seek treatment and rehabilitation. Instead, be as persistent as possible and talk about the importance of their checking into an addiction treatment center. As you do this, ensure that you avoid making them feel ashamed or guilty in the process.
As we mentioned earlier, you also have the option of hosting an intervention for them. Although interventions can be tricky and are quite difficult to plan, they might be exactly what the addict in your life requires - especially if they had moved deeper into the addiction whirlpool. To make the work a bit easier and the results more positive, consider getting an intervention specialist or interventionist to help you go through all the required steps and motions.
4. View Recovery as a Continuous Process
After your loved one has decided to seek the help they need, you should stay as involved as you can manage. For instance, you can continue supporting them so that they are able to participate in recovery support groups, meetings, and ongoing care.
As far as possible, provide a strong and stable support system around them and always prove that you will always be there for them along the entire journey to full sobriety, recovery, and abstinence.
5. Don't Forget Yourself
Even though this might seem like a selfish move, it is of vital importance that you take good care of yourself too although most of your efforts, energy, and resources are directed towards helping your loved one.
It will ensure that you are better able to be available and there for the addict in your life. Taking care of yourself will also empower you to make better, more informed decisions for the good of your loved one.
This means that you should make sure that all your own needs are properly met. As such, you might want to get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise. If things start getting out of hand and you find yourself struggling as a result of the fact that your loved one is addicted, consider going for therapy.
Talking To Addicts And Alcoholics
Many people have the misconception that addicts and alcoholics need to hit rock bottom to be able to get the help they need. However, if your loved one has a drug/alcohol problem, you should never wait to talk to them about it. In most cases - as statistics and studies show - the earlier substance abuse and addiction are addressed, the better the outcomes.
Some time back, people thought that confrontation was the most effective way to approach loved ones who are addicted. Today, however, research shows that confrontation might prove to be counterproductive or even cause the individual concerned to become more defensive.
As a loved one, you should learn how to communicate lovingly and effectively to an addict. While approaching them, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. Where possible, only approach when they seem ready to start quitting drugs and alcohol - a point where they might already have acknowledged they have a problem and actively desire to get sober.
How to Talk to Addicts
Use the following tips during your approach to increase the likelihood that they will listen to your concerns and be convinced to kick start the journey to addiction treatment, recovery, sobriety, and abstinence:
- Express your concerns in a caring and empathetic manner
- Express your desire and willingness to go for family therapy with them, if they so desire
- Regardless of how they respond, ensure you remain calm
- Suggest a couple of treatment options
How Not to Talk to Addicts
At the same time, there are some things you absolutely must never do if you are trying to get a loved one to get the help they require at a rehabilitation and treatment facility. These include, but are not limited to:
- Avoid approaching them in public
- Avoid being confrontational or aggressive, otherwise you may push them away
- Avoid emotional appeals which might increase their feelings of guilt and compel them to start using again
- Do not argue with them
- Do not blame or judge them because they might already be feeling guilty and ashamed about their substance abuse
- Do not feel responsible or guilty for their behavior; instead, understand that it is not your fault
- Do not take over any of their responsibilities as this will protect them from the effects and consequences of their actions and behavior
- Don't moralize, threaten, lecture, or preach to them
- Ensure that you do not approach them when they are still under the influence
- Never enable them by covering up the fact they abuse drugs/alcohol or by giving them money
- Never make excuses for their actions/behavior or lie for them
Although you may feel the need to continue making excuses and allowances for their behavior, this is counterproductive and will only serve to reinforce the behavior and substance abuse. A more effective solution would be to let them start facing the consequences and negative impacts of their actions. As far as possible, therefore, you should never lie for them since this is more likely to cause more harm than good in the long run.
In case you feel or suspect they are abusing alcohol/drugs, the best thing to do is encourage them to get the treatment they need to overcome their addiction and substance use disorder (s).
As far as possible, be supportive and learning while preventing yourself making any excuses for their actions and behavior. Instead, be firm and encourage them to seek assistance.
Even though these conversations might be awkward and difficult, they are often the first steps to help them get help and achieve a happy and healthy life in recovery until they overcome their addiction.
Finding The Right Treatment Center/Program
Once they decide to take the necessary steps and get into a treatment and rehabilitation facility, there are some things you can do to ensure that they get a program that is best suited to meet their needs, preferences, and requirements.
Talk to any addiction specialists and addiction professionals online (on this website) or in your area and ask them for recommendations. This might take some time but it will help you uncover the program that is best suited to your loved one.
Ideally, you should look for programs that are specialized in particular addictions - such as the one that your loved one has been struggling with. The program you choose should also be one that can address co-occurring mental health problems and other underlying issues that might have fueled, exacerbated, or resulted from the addiction.
In most cases, drug and alcohol abuse starts when people who use intoxicating substances develop tolerance for the drug/alcohol. This will cause them to start taking larger quantities (or using more frequently) to achieve the desired effects.
Over time, their body will become chemically dependent on the substance of choice. After this chemical dependency develops to a point where the user has a strong desire to abuse the intoxicating chemical, they will be addicted.
Today, most detox, treatment, and rehabilitation programs are designed to help users and addicts get off drugs/alcohol and cure their chemical dependency. While the urge to use might persist months after the treatment, however, getting into a rehab will give your loved one the tools they need to ensure they live happier, healthier lives free of drugs and alcohol
That said, everyone who enters treatment for substance use disorders and addiction is unique. This is why you should help your loved one choose a facility where treatment staff and patients work together to develop individualized treatment plans.
The plan might include behavioral treatment - such as through talk therapy - so that they are more engaged in their own treatment. Behavioral treatment will also help them alter all destructive behaviors and attitudes related to their addiction as well as increase their healthy life skills. Additionally, this form of treatment might enhance the effectiveness of any medications used while helping your loved one stay longer in the treatment facility.
That said, treatment and rehabilitation for addiction are delivered in a variety of settings and with different approaches. In general, the most common settings are through outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation and detoxification.
Typically, a day at an inpatient addiction treatment facility may include any, some, or all of the following:
- Educational lectures
- Group therapy sessions
- Individual therapy sessions
- Skills training
Inpatient treatment will have your loved one living at the rehabilitation center over the duration (which might be 30, 60, 90, or more days) of their treatment. In most cases, treatment will start with detoxification to manage any withdrawal symptoms that arise as a result of continued and prolonged substance abuse.
Most inpatient facilities will have medical staff to help your loved one cope with detox and any adverse withdrawal symptoms. They might also receive medications to relieve some of the symptoms. After detox, the regular treatment program will begin.
In an outpatient facility, your loved one will have more freedom to move around and only attend treatment at designated points in the day. This means that they will still be able to come home daily and work or attend school during the day. They will also be compelled to check into the treatment center daily and report to drug abuse counselors. This way, they will be kept on track as they continue recovering.
Irrespective of the facility you and the addict in your family choose, you can be sure that learning how to help my loved one stop using drugs and alcohol is never easy - especially in cases where the addiction is deep-rooted and/or accompanied by co-occurring mental health issues.
However, with the right support and care, they should be able to overcome these problems, recover fully, and eventually start living a life free of drugs, alcohol, and other intoxicating substances and behavior. As far as possible, the earlier this happens, the better the outcomes in the long run.
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