How To Help a Drug Addict
If you’ve ever tried to get a smoker to quit by regaling them with the long list of negative health consequences, you know firsthand the strength with which people hold on to addiction. In most cases, they’re already well aware of the destructive nature of their addiction, but it’s still not enough. The addiction has them in its grip, and while they’re aware of the fact, they feel powerless to change it. Convincing a loved one to receive the help they need is rarely easy, and can leave family members feeling discouraged. This feeling of helplessness can be overwhelming, especially when the drug addict is your child. The next steps to take depend on the extent of the addiction and the willingness, or lack thereof, of the addict to accept the best drug treatment available.
Misconceptions to Avoid
If you haven’t had prior experience with drug addiction, you might wonder why addicts don’t just stop using. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Drugs change the pathways in the brain that process information and perception. The brain becomes so accustomed to the constant presence of drugs, that it forgets how to function without them. Family members shouldn’t assume that it’s simply a lack of willpower that keeps an addict from sobriety–their brain is actually conditioned to require the substance, and physically needs their drug of choice. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking an addict is lazy, uninformed, weak, or willfully being difficult. Just as you wouldn’t shame a cancer patient for not recovering without treatment, you need to treat addiction as a disease that your loved one suffers from.
How to Help an Uncooperative Drug Addict
The effects of some drugs make it so the addict doesn’t process the need for treatment. They know it’s bad, but it feels so good (or they’re so afraid of the withdrawal symptoms), that they will keep using, regardless. They may be so dependent on the drug that it is impossible to imagine life without it. That’s why it can be a challenge to persuade someone to seek treatment.
In the case of an uncooperative drug addict, you may have to employ an interventionist to help them see the need for rehabilitation. If the person is over the age of 18, you can’t force them to seek treatment, unless a legal situation requires it. Oftentimes addicts are also involved in other illegal activities, such as robbery, DUI, or assault, and the court system may find it beneficial to demand admission to a rehabilitation facility. Fortunately, even when initially uncooperative addicts are forced to undergo treatment, their stay can still be successful, putting them on the path towards recovery.
How to Help a Cooperative Drug Addict
If your loved one understands the need to get help for their addiction, there are some things you can do, such as:
- Research top drug rehabilitation facilities and programs. Offer to contact the facility to learn more about the types of programs available and how new clients can be admitted.
- Don’t hesitate. If they show a willingness for treatment, getting them into a program right away can take advantage of that forward momentum.
- Offer positive reinforcement. Don’t condemn them for their previous choices or slip ups, but support and encourage them in their pursuit of sobriety. Past hurts can be discussed in family therapy, but right now your full support will be most helpful.
- Be alert for signs of relapse, and get help if indicated. Overcoming addiction is a lifelong struggle, and must be managed continually.
Above all, the best thing you can do for a loved one living with addiction is to let them know that you fully support their efforts to get clean.
Being the loved one of an addict can be stressful and heartwrenching, and sometimes the best thing for everyone requires stepping away. Whatever you do, it should come from a place of love and understanding, with the hope and goal of supporting your loved one towards seeking treatment and moving forward.
If you are struggling with how you can help your loved one, reach out to us today for information and support for dealing with addiction.