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Article Summary

What Can I Do To Help My Loved One With Their Drug Problem?

If you have a substance user in your immediate social circle, you might find yourself asking "what can I do to help my loved one with their drug problem?" This is because when people struggle with alcohol or drug abuse, they are also highly likely to struggle with physical problems and mental health issues - both chronic and short-term issues. They might also cause their loved ones - including friends, children, parents, and spouses - to experience some level of suffering.

If you love someone who has been struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, therefore, you need to inform yourself about the various signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction. You might also want to take some time to learn about what you can do to help them. In the process, you should not forget to take care of yourself.

Symptoms Of Substance Abuse

According to Mayo Clinic, there are many symptoms that people who are struggling with alcohol and drug abuse tend to display. Most of these might be internal experiences for the user but they could also be evident to you. They include:

  • Appearing tired or unwell
  • Attending fewer events so that they can spend the time using drugs or getting drunk
  • Becoming intoxicated right before a social event
  • Being lethargic
  • Being unable to manage responsibilities and meet obligations at school, work, and home as a result of ongoing substance use
  • Continuing to use drugs even after they realize that such use is causing problems
  • Continuing to use in spite of the mental and physical problems that such use causes and worsens
  • Deciding to drop out of school
  • Developing problems at school or work
  • Developing problems with memory and cognition
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms like nervousness and irritability that can be relieved when they take more drugs
  • Experiencing intense urges and cravings to use their preferred drugs of abuse
  • Experiencing poor hygiene
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms anytime they stop taking drugs
  • Giving up on important work-related, recreational, and social activities due to drug use
  • Increasingly looking intoxicated on a regular basis
  • Lashing out or becoming sad and angry when confronted about their substance use
  • Losing their job
  • Lying about their drug use or about how much they use
  • Neglecting their personal appearance and grooming
  • Only agreeing to attend social events after they learn that there will be alcohol or drugs available
  • Saying and doing hurtful things
  • Sleeping at irregular hours
  • Sleeping more
  • Spending a great deal of time obtaining, using, and recovering from drugs
  • Stealing valuables and money to enable them pay for alcohol and drugs
  • Taking drugs in larger volumes or for longer than they intended
  • Taking more drugs to overcome unwanted effects
  • Taking serious risks in life - such as driving in an intoxicated state
  • Using drugs continuously even when such use puts them in dire danger
  • Wanting to stop using or cutting down but being unable to

In case you have noticed that your loved one or friend displays any of the above signs and symptoms, then it is highly likely that they might have a problem with drugs and alcohol. In some severe cases, they might even have developed an addiction to these addictive and intoxicating substances - a condition that can happen to everyone irrespective of their background, age, and socioeconomic circumstances.

Understanding Addiction

While trying to find answers to the "what can I do to help my loved one with their drug problem?" question, it is imperative that you understand that addiction affects everyone. From recent scientific research, it is clear now more than ever before that drugs affect the brain in different ways. Luckily, addiction can be treated successfully and those who are affected can receive the help they need to stop abusing intoxicating and mind-altering substances and go on to lead productive and fulfilling lives.

In case you suspect or know that your loved one or friend has an addiction, you need to understand that it is close to impossible for you to do anything to resolve the problem. However, there are some things that you might be able to do to direct them towards the right resources and to the help that they need.

Initially, they might not want any help that you have to offer - which is quite natural for many people who have sunk down the glaring hole that is an addiction. Luckily, there are many resources that you can use to convince them to get the help that they need.

However, it is important for you to understand that many addicts are unable to stop using drugs and alcohol on their own. This is because using drugs repeatedly can change your brain - including those areas of the mind that provide you with self-control.

Imaging studies of addicts have also shown that there are many other brain changes that occur as a result of repeated substance abuse. These changes explain why it is so difficult for addicts to quit - even when they get to a point where they feel that the time has come to do so.

Helping Loved Ones With Addiction

If a loved one asks you for help, then they will have taken the important first step that everyone must take before they learn how to overcome their addiction. On the other hand, if they are resistant to any help you have to offer, you should try and see if they can check in with a doctor for a professional evaluation and diagnosis.

You can even help them find the right health professional or physician and leave the information out with the addict so that they can decide what to do with it. Alternatively, consider calling the doctors in advance and ask if they can meet up with your loved one to talk to them about addiction.

In case they are unable to, ask them to refer you to other doctors who are specialized in addiction treatment and rehabilitation. Remember, there are thousands of board-certified doctors in the United States currently specialized in addiction treatment. You can even find the right physician by checking online.

After that, you might also want to emphasize to the loved one that they need a great deal of courage to accept that they have a drug or alcohol problem and to ask for help - especially because of the hard work that lies ahead in their future.

You should inform them about the scientific evidence that abounds in the efficacy of drug abuse treatment and about how people recover on a daily basis and go on to lead meaningful lives.

Where possible, talk about how addiction is like any other chronic disease in the sense that it can be managed - and successfully so. Inform them that treatment can empower them to counteract the usually potent albeit disruptive effects of alcohol and drugs on behavior and on the brain. Only through such treatment will they be able to gain control over their lives.

Similar to other diseases, addiction might also require that they take a couple of steps and go through several attempts before can find the ideal approach and learn how to overcome the condition. However, you should also assure them that you will always support their efforts.

Of course, they might want to consider treatment but fear what other people will think. In such a situation, you should assure them that many family members, friends, and employers are compassionate especially if they seem the making sincere efforts to recover from their drug use problem.

However, if they would like the matter to be a private affair, you should assure them of your discretion and inform them about the various laws that have been passed to protect the privacy of people seeking drug and alcohol treatment.

In particular, let them know that healthcare providers are legally bound to refuse to share any information about the drug treatment unless the patient gives their express permission.

However, in the most serious of cases, they might refuse to cooperate. In such a situation, keep in mind that many people find themselves to check into a rehabilitation program following pressure from their friends and family, employers, and the court system.

Still, there is no evidence to support the view that confrontational interventions are effective at compelling people to change or showing them that they have a drug problem.

In fact, some of the confrontational encounters might even escalate into violence and ill feeling or backfire in many others ways. To this end, you should work towards creating incentives that can get the person to at least see a doctor.

This is because many people - including addicts - have a higher likelihood of listening to their doctors instead of following the advice and recommendation of their family members and friends. This is because some interventions are driven by emotions, accusations, and fear.

Alternatively, get in touch with a professional interventionist and get them to help you set up the intervention. This could minimize the chances that the intervention will fail to go as planned or that it will backfire. In fact, the help from the interventionist could potential ensure that the concerned party finally agrees to check into an addiction treatment and rehabilitation center.

Support For An Addiction

Even if your loved one is not yet willing to check into one of these rehab facilities, you might still want to continue exploring the option. If possible, try to find a center that is highly likely to appeal to them - either in terms of medical approach or by location. If you find the right one, it could potentially encourage them to enter into the rehabilitation program.

But what should you look for in an addiction rehabilitation center? For starters, the treatment approach must be tailored in such a way that it will address the specific drug abuse patterns and problems that your loved one has been dealing with - as well as any other social, financial, psychiatric, and medical problems that they have.

Today, some of these treatment programs also provide outpatient rehabilitation - which can allow the loved one to continue performing some of their daily responsibilities like going to work, attending their classes, and coming back home in the evenings.

However, in many cases, addicts tend to fair better in residential or inpatient addiction treatment centers. Talk to an addiction specialist so that they can advise your loved one about the options holding the greatest promise.

According to the Principles of Addiction Treatment published by NIDA (or the National Institute on Drug Abuse), there are some general principles that govern the efficacy of addiction rehabilitation.

While looking for a high-quality addiction treatment program, you should consider the following:

1. Forced Abstinence

Your loved one might be afraid that the program might force them to stop abusing drugs - as well as the adverse effects that might arise as a direct result, such as withdrawal syndrome.

This is because people with a substance use disorder are always afraid of what might happen once these drugs and alcohol are taken away. To this end, you should assure them that the professional treatment center they agree to attend will keep them safe, comfortable, and in good care - especially when they undergo the detoxification process.

These facilities will also individualize treatment based on the addict's particular needs and preferences. If they have been using drugs when they check into the treatment program, they will receive all the help they need to remove these drugs - and any resulting toxins - from their system. This is done through the detox program, which is important because drugs tend to impair mental abilities. As such, they have to be removed before the addict can engage with treatment and remain in the program.

When they stop using drugs, therefore, they are likely to experience various emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include sleeplessness, restlessness, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Even so, you should remind the loved one that these treatment centers are highly professionalized. This means that they have the experience and training to help them get through the detoxification stage. They can also keep them safe as they detox their bodies.

Depending on their situation and level of addiction, the center might also use medications to reduce the adverse effects of these symptoms. In this way, they can make it a bit easier for them to stop using altogether.

2. Treatment Provision

You should also check to see who will provide treatment. Today, addiction care involves a wide variety of specialists - including social workers, therapists, nurses, and doctors. Most programs actually have different specialists working hand in hand in a team effort to help their patients recover fully from substance abuse and addiction.

However, you should consider checking the treatment program and how it is likely to be outlined for the addict you love. This is because everyone who seeks treatment for substance use disorders will be unique in one way or the other.

As a direct result, the best treatment program will work hand in hand with the patient to develop highly individual treatment and rehabilitation plans. These plans might include behavioral treatment or talk therapy - which is designed to engage patients in their treatment, increase their healthy life skills, and alter their destructive behaviors and attitudes related to ongoing substance abuse.

The behavioral treatment provided can also enhance any medications that might be used. As such, it could potentially help your loved one continue receiving treatment over the long term until they recover completely.

That said, treatment for addiction and substance abuse is delivered in a variety of settings and using many different approaches. Therefore, you have to ensure that your loved one will be comfortable with every option available - if only to continue encouraging them to stay in treatment.

3. Use of Medications

Some facilities use medications in addiction treatment. As such, you might want to ask them if they do. Today, there are many medications available for the treatment of addiction to opioids (prescription painkillers and heroin), nicotine, and alcohol among many other common drugs.

As such, the treatment team that works with your loved one might recommend that they use one or more of these medications. Some medicines can also deal with any mental health conditions that they might have - conditions that could escalate their risk of suffering a relapse. Last but not least, addiction treatment programs also use medications in some situations to help with the withdrawal symptoms that are likely to arise.

If there will be medication, ask if the facility will combine it with behavioral therapy. This is because this combination has been proved to provide the greatest chances of success for many patients.

Some of these centers might also subscribe to the idea that they don't need to use drugs to treat a substance use disorder - including holistic programs. These might prove useful in helping the addict resolve their addiction.

4. Reduced Risk of Relapse

In some cases, people go to rehab but relapse later. As such, your addicted loved one might want to know if the treatment options provided will work. When you attend rehab, you will get an opportunity to learn some of the crucial skills that are needed to overcome the condition.

If you relapse, you should still continue with treatment - a habit that could reinforce the information passed down to you during rehabilitation. As such, you should never quit just because you stumbled once or twice.

In fact, relapse is more common an occurrence than you might suppose. For instance, it is similar to other ailments like asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. As with other chronic diseases, therefore, it will require that you change some deeply embedded habits and behaviors.

As such, relapse is quite natural with addiction - and it happens in many other diseases. If they relapse, therefore, they should not take it to mean that treatment has undeniably and irrevocably failed.

Instead, they should use the fact that they relapse to understand that they need to restart their addiction treatment and get it adjusted to their particular preferences and needs. In fact, many people have found great success in a different approach to treatment after relapsing while undergoing treatment.

5. Cost

One of the ongoing concerns you might have while trying to think about "what can I do to help my loved one with their drug use?" question revolves around the fact that many people are unable to afford the increasingly escalating cost of treatment.

If this is their main problem, ask them if they have the right health insurance coverage - which can cover the cost of addiction treatment both on an inpatient and outpatient basis.

While setting up an appointment with a treatment center, find out if they have a variety of payment options. You can also ask if they accept insurance - as well as the insurance plan that they take. Some facilities can also recommend that you consider low-cost options - especially if you don't have enough financial resources for other high-end options.

Remember, the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act now ensures that visit limits, deductibles, and co-pays are no longer as restrictive as they used to be for substance abuse disorder and mental health benefits. This is because they are for surgical and medical benefits.

The Affordable Care Act also built on this law. As such, insurances are now legally required to provide coverage for substance use disorders and mental health disorders and their treatment services.

While researching your payment options, however, you should ensure that you only speak to people who are very familiar with all the newest rules. In such situations, turning to old pamphlets and websites might not necessarily prove useful - because there is a risk that they might contain information that is inaccurate.

On the other hand, if your loved one is a veteran or they receive coverage for the health benefits designated for veterans, check the VA (or the Department of Veteran Affairs). It can help you find the right VA services you need to help your loved one overcome their ongoing substance abuse and addiction.

6. Co-Occurring Disorders

In the same way, you might not be entirely sure whether your loved one has been taking drugs because they feel depressed or if they feel depressed as a result of their ongoing substance abuse.

It is entirely possible in such a situation that they will need to find a facility that can treat both their addiction and the mental health disorder that they have been grappling with. This is quite common, and it is referred to as dual diagnosis, a co-occurrence, or comorbidity.

It happens when someone has more than one recognizable health problem co-occurring. In such a situation, therefore, you might want to encourage them to discuss all their behaviors, signs, and symptoms with the doctor that they talk to and see.

The doctor might prescribe them non-addictive and non-psychotic drugs to help with their mental health condition. However, since healthcare providers might not always communicate with other care providers as well as they are supposed to, it is essential that you ensure that all these doctors understand all the health issues that have been troubling your loved one. This is because people with co-occurring disorders need comprehensive treatment that deals with all of these problems at the same time.

7. Dangerous Habits

You might also worry that your drug using loved one drives or engages in other dangerous behavior and habits while intoxicated. In such a situation, force them to see a doctor before they can use the car. Although this might be inconvenient, it is the safest option especially given the fact that DUI incidents come with the risk of causing severe bodily harm or even death to those involved.

In some cases, however, you might find that you cannot control their ability to drive. Here, remind them that they are solely responsible for their lives and wellbeing. Further, advise that they should never drive while intoxicated - even if they are just on prescription medication.

This is because drugs do impair some of the skills that you need to operate a vehicle safely - including coordination, judgment, reaction time, attention, perception, balance, and motor skills.

As such, even if they just took a small number of drugs, they might experience adverse effects that could cause them to get behind a wheel while intoxicated - a precarious proposition that may see them causing vehicular accidents and suffering as a result.

Using drugs also affects the ability of the user to tell that they are unable to drive. This could potentially make it hard for them to make a choice not to drive. Therefore, if you suspect that your loved one is currently driving while intoxicated, get in touch with law enforcement immediately.

Although this might seem like a difficult decision, it could save their lives and countless others. If they are apprehended, the intervention of the legal system could also make it much easier for them to check into a rehabilitation program or risk facing actual jail time.

Last but not least, if you have an employee who you suspect of using drugs, immediately suspect all their driving privileges until they prove that they are off drugs and that they have completed a rehabilitation program.

8. Support System

One other thing you can do is to get your loved one to contact others who have the same or similar problems. Even though these self-help groups are not supposed to substitute addiction treatment, they might prove to be such an excellent source of encouragement and support even while your loved one is undergoing treatment - as well as after.

The most common of these self-help groups include 12 step programs like CA (or Cocaine Anonymous), NA (or Narcotics Anonymous), and AA (or Alcoholics Anonymous). There are also variations of these 12 step programs for those who might not subscribe to the belief systems on which these programs are based.

Today, these self-help groups are so useful that many addiction treatments and rehabilitation programs encourage their patients to participate in them both during and after undergoing treatment. These groups are particularly useful in helping addicts during their recovery. They also provide ongoing support, encouragement, and care - all of which can help the addict to continue staying drug-free.

On the other hand, if the addiction has taken a particularly serious toll on you, consider attending the support groups for the loved ones of people suffering from an addiction - like Alateen and Al-anon. These groups might also help you deal with the reality of your new life.

Other private groups can provide you and your loved one with the right level of support. Get in touch with faith-based organizations, treatment centers, and local hospitals. You might find that they also coordinate support groups specifically tailored to the problem of substance abuse and addiction.

10. Support during Treatment

If your loved one agrees to check into a treatment and rehabilitation program, there are some things you can do to offer them support. Start by talking to the treatment provider - because different patients will require different levels and forms of support.

In case your family or friend group has difficult dynamics, the treatment expert might recommend that you maintain as little contact as possible - at least for a while. This could potentially help the loved one overcome their addiction better without any distraction that might come as a result of a potential confrontation.

However, you should still inform them that you now admire the fact that they were courageous enough to get started tackling their medical problem by checking into a treatment program. You might also want to encourage them to continue sticking with the treatment plan while reassuring them of your support and love.

After they check out of the residential or inpatient treatment center, they will have to get back into society - and this might be a difficult time. To ensure their ongoing recovery, remove all triggers from their path. Also, encourage them to ask for your help when they start feeling the temptation to start using again.

Last but not least, the best answer to "what can I do to help my loved one with their drug problem?" I to ensure you offer them as much support and love as they need as long as they continue following their treatment and rehabilitation plan. If they relapse, encourage them to seek additional addiction treatment.

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