How to Help a Drug Addict Seek TreatmentAddiction Treatment
The cost of substance abuse in the United States is extremely high. For example, here are the annual costs for four different commonly abused substances:
Alcohol: $27 billion in health care costs and $249 billion in overall costs
Illicit drugs: $11 billion in health care costs and $193 billion in overall costs
Prescription opioids: $26 billion in health care costs and $78.5 billion in overall costs
Tobacco: $168 billion in health care costs and $300 billion in overall costs
Furthermore, substance abuse is extremely dangerous and detrimental to health – even life-threatening:
- Approximately 88,000 alcohol-related deaths occur in the United States every year.
- Every year, an estimated 187,000 people die from drug overdose, and 43,932 of those deaths occur in North America alone.
- In 2015, opioids were responsible for 33,000 deaths in the United States, and half those deaths were linked to a prescription opioid.
- Tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. Tobacco usage leads to 480,000 deaths per year in the United States.
While those numbers are staggering, anyone who has a loved one struggling with addiction knows the personal cost is far too high to quantify. Watching addiction change someone you care about is incredibly difficult, but getting your loved one help for their addiction is possible.
Here is our guide to facing addiction head-on and helping the person you care about get the help they need to move forward.
How to Recognize Drug Addiction
Recognizing a drug addiction is the first step toward helping an addict you care about. Addiction is a devastating disease, but it may not be an obvious one. An addict may show subtle signs that become more apparent as the addiction grows. If you are worried someone you care about may be suffering from drug abuse, there are several indicators of drug addiction.
- Increased tolerance: One of the biggest indicators of drug addiction is increased tolerance for the drug of choice. Addicts need more of the drug to achieve the same feeling they had when they first started using. Perhaps the person you are worried about started taking a prescription drug, but now you are noticing them take more and more of the drug. They might even be looking for the drug from sources other than their prescribing doctor. In the case of recreational drugs, your family member or friend may have tried a substance during a social situation for fun, but you have since seen them take the drug more and more often.
Addiction can be hard to admit to yourself and to the people who care about you. If you try to ask your family member or friend how much of a drug they are taking, you might not get a straight answer. It can also be difficult to determine how much they are using on your own, particularly if you do not live with the person or see him or her every day. If increased tolerance is obvious, this is a big red flag, but if you can’t tell if they are using more, there are other signs to keep in mind.
- Noticeable physical changes: Drug addiction can take a serious toll on a person’s physical health and appearance. Has your loved one recently lost or gained a lot of weight? Have you noticed your family member or friend often has bloodshot eyes or trembling hands? Even something like a shift in energy levels can indicate drug addiction. Consistent lack of energy can be a warning sign. You might also notice your friend or family member has an extreme bump in energy levels at certain times, depending on the substance he or she is using.
Another warning sign is a lack of interest in personal appearance. The person you are concerned about may abandon personal hygiene habits or start dressing with much less care.
- Odd changes in behavior: Drugs flood the body with chemicals that trigger the brain’s pleasure center. Naturally, something that affects the brain is going to lead to changes in behavior. As someone becomes more and more dependent on a drug, their behavior can become more and more erratic. The person might start skipping work or school. He or she might start behaving secretively. An addict might be depressed, anxious, irritable or even aggressive. If someone is acting radically out of the ordinary, drug abuse and addiction are a possible cause.
- Abrupt change in social circles: Drug use might start as a social activity, but as it devolves into addiction, it can seriously affect the relationships in a person’s life. Addiction can alienate the people closest to you. Drug addicts might also intentionally change who they spend their time with to hide their habit. They may exchange their group of friends for a different set of people who have a common interest in their drug of choice. If you are concerned about someone, sudden changes in their friendships might indicate addiction. If you are that person’s friend, are they avoiding you? If you are a family member, have you noticed them hanging around a new group of people?
- Increased risk-taking: Drug addiction has a significant effect on the way people feel or think. A decrease in fear and rational thinking is a common effect, which can lead to extremely risky behavior. While under the influence, an addict might start doing things they would never otherwise do. They might steal, tell bigger and bigger lies, or drive while using or under influence. Activities that strike you as incredibly risky, but cause no concern for the person you are worried about, are a strong indicator of addiction.
- Financial distress: Drugs can be an expensive habit, and an addict will go to extreme lengths to ensure they can get their drug of choice. Has your friend or family member asked to borrow money without offering any explanation? A drug addict might even resort to stealing money. If the person you are worried about has run into financial issues for no discernable reason or no reason he or she is willing to discuss, addiction may be the cause.
How to Approach a Loved One Struggling With Addiction
Addiction is a disease, but the person suffering from it might not recognize that. Addicts might not even think they are suffering from addiction at all. It is important to carefully plan out how to help a drug addict seek treatment before you approach them. The first step to getting a family member to get treatment for addiction is helping them recognize the problem.
- Wait until he or she is sober: Everyone is different. Some approaches may work well for one person and not at all for another. It’s ultimately up to you when and where you talk to your friend or family member. But here’s one tip that can help everyone: Try to talk to the person when he or she is sober.
Depending on how well you know the person’s schedule, it might be difficult to know when they will be sober. Do your best to find one of those times. It will be easier for that person to think clearly and actually hear and remember what you have to say.
- Plan a one-on-one conversation: An intervention is often a part of an addict’s initial wakeup call, but it does not have to be the go-to strategy. A one-on-one conversation will feel less like an ambush. The person might be less upset and more willing to listen to one person, rather than an entire group of people at once. You can voice your concerns, and let the person know there are many other people who share those concerns.
- Listen: Watching someone struggle with addiction is incredibly upsetting. Your first instinct might be to share all your feelings and concerns. You can do this, but leave room for listening. An addict is more likely to be receptive to what you are saying if he or she has time to think and respond. You might learn different ways you can help your friend or family member if you give them room to share their own thoughts and concerns. Ask questions instead of simply stating how you feel. Wait for a response instead of leaping in with your perspective. Anyone, an addict or not, will be more willing to respond openly if they feel respected.
- Think about holding an intervention: Not all addicts will be receptive to a one-on-one conversation. It might take a group intervention to get their attention. If you decide to go that route, carefully plan the intervention before going through with it. Consider speaking with a professional before holding the intervention. A trained health care professional will have helpful tips. You can even invite a professional to be present for the intervention.
When you get everyone together for the event, make sure you have at least a couple of hours set aside. Each person there should have an opportunity to share their thoughts. The people at the intervention can talk about their concerns, how the person’s addiction has affected their lives and what they are willing to do to help the addict get help. Remember, the addict can leave the intervention at any time. Do not create a more stressful environment by trying to force them to stay.
- Set boundaries: Reaching out to a drug addict with your concerns or organizing a group intervention means you care about that person and want to help, but you also have to keep yourself in mind. Getting an addict on the road to recovery can be upsetting and exhausting. You need to make your personal boundaries clear when you talk to the addict about getting help.
If you are wondering how you can help a drug addict who doesn’t want help, remember that you cannot force them. You can protect yourself, though. Let the person know what you will and will not do if they continue to use. Do the same if they express a desire to get help. You can be there for the person, but you should not let their addiction damage your mental or physical health.
Getting a Loved One Help for Their Addiction
Helping an addict recognize their problem is the first step toward recovery, but it can be difficult for them to take action. Here are a few tips for getting a drug addict to get help.
- Ask if they are willing: It’s important for addicts to recognize they have a problem and they need help with that problem. Explain to your friend or family member that you are ready to help him or her seek treatment, then ask if they are ready to take that step.
Many people wonder how to get someone in rehab who doesn’t want to go. That isn’t an easy question to answer. Some states may have legal avenues to compel someone to go into rehab, but in most cases, it is difficult to force an unwilling person to get treatment for their addiction. Even if you do manage to make someone enter a treatment program, their reluctance to be there is going to lessen the positive effects of the program.
How do you help a drug addict who doesn’t want help? If an addict refuses to seek treatment, ask what it would take for him or her to reconsider. If you try to force the person, you might irreparably damage the relationship and any chance you had of helping.
- Remember to be compassionate: Watching someone you care about struggle with addiction is heartbreaking. It can make you upset and extremely angry. Try to set those emotions aside when you talk to the person about getting them into treatment. Stay compassionate whenever you talk to the person about treatment, even if you want to shout or start throwing around blame. Compassion can be a far more powerful tool than anger.
Being compassionate also means reserving judgment. Try to put yourself in their shoes, and imagine how they would want to be treated. Addiction carries a stigma that can make people too ashamed to get the help they need. Show the person you care about that you don’t judge them. Make it clear reaching out for help is not shameful, but a brave thing to do.
- Incentivize treatment: Many addicts will resist treatment, at least initially. Try to give them the right motivation to get into rehab. This does not mean you should try to blackmail the person — emotionally or otherwise — into getting help, but you can show them how treatment could begin to repair relationships in their life.
Treatment can also help address many other problems in the addict’s life. In a non-confrontational way, work on getting your family member or friend to see how addiction is damaging their health and their finances. Pressure from the people who care about you can be a powerful motivator for addicts, but they should also want to get treatment for their own sake.
- Help find a doctor or rehab facility: Addiction affects every aspect of a person’s life, and admitting the need for help can be overwhelming. Where do you go? Whom do you talk to? How much will it cost? All these questions can be so frightening they might make an addict think twice about seeking treatment. You can step in and offer your support.
You can research doctors and rehab centers. Consider the addict’s insurance coverage and location. You should also keep their personality in mind. Every rehab center takes a different approach to addiction treatment. What approach will be most beneficial for your friend or family member? Would he or she benefit from an outpatient program or an inpatient facility? Gather your research, sit down with the person you care about and have an open discussion.
Depending on your place in that person’s life and your own ability to help, you can go a step further and start making phone calls and appointments. Knowing someone will help them find the right place for treatment is invaluable for an addict.
What to Avoid When Encouraging an Addict to Get Help
There a lot of things you can do that will help an addict seek treatment, but some actions will be counterproductive. If you say or do the wrong thing, you can make an addict reject your offer of help. Try to avoid the following when helping an addict get help:
- Threats: Threats are not how to get someone to go to rehab. It can be very tempting to start your conversation with an addict with an ultimatum, but this approach is not going to be productive in the long run. No one — addict or not — responds well to threats.
Threats can frighten someone or make them angry. The conversation can even escalate to the point of violence in some cases. Remember not to raise your voice or act in a threatening manner. Remain seated with the person and speak in an even tone. Instead of resorting to threats, whether they are empty or ones you fully intend to follow through on, aim to rationally discuss the consequences of the friend or family member’s addiction, and tell them exactly what you are willing to do to help.
- Playing the blame game: It’s natural to want to find the person responsible for leading your friend or family down the road to addiction. Maybe you think it is that person’s fault. Maybe you think you are partially to blame. Avoid throwing around accusations when you are working toward getting an addict help. If addicts are accused of putting themselves in this situation, they are likely going to shut down and not listen to what else you have to say — including your attempts to get them iponto rehab.
Addiction is a complex disease that can happen for multiple different reasons. Some people’s genetics and family history make them predisposed to addiction. Addiction can also be the product of a person’s environment. Assigning blame is a pointless exercise that does little to help get an addict into treatment.
Instead of pointing fingers, attempt to ask the person why they think they have become dependent on drugs. Look through their eyes and reserve your judgment. If you try to understand an addict’s point of view, you are more likely to get their attention and find ways to help him or her.
- Assuming rehab is enough: If you have gotten a person into a treatment program, you can count it as a major step forward, but do not assume your loved one no longer needs your help. Addiction recovery is a long process — sometimes lifelong. Even if someone has had the courage to get treatment, that doesn’t mean they’re ready or willing to stand on their own, without the support of the people who love them.
Relapse is a common occurrence among drug addicts. Approximately 40 to 60 percent of addicts experience a relapse during their recovery process. You may not be able to prevent a relapse, but you can still be there if one happens. Relapse is very discouraging, but you can help your friend or family member see it is a temporary setback. Let him or her know you will be supportive through the ups and downs of addiction recovery. Recovery and sobriety are still possible.
Stay active in your loved one’s recovery process. If he or she is at an inpatient treatment center, visit them when you can. Celebrate major milestones with that person. Even something as small as listening can make a major difference for an addict in recovery.
If you know someone who is struggling with addiction, you have the power to do something. Reach out to Synergy Recovery Service. We can help your loved one get treatment for their addiction so they can begin the road to recovery.