How to Help a Loved One with an Addiction


One of the hardest parts of addiction is that it doesn’t just impact one person. When someone you care about has an addiction, it can be difficult to know how to approach them or what to say.

The truth is that your loved one must desire change before it can happen. Without a personal commitment to sobriety, long-term recovery is even more difficult. However, there are ways you can help an addict and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. Learn more about how you can help a loved one.

Seek Help for Yourself

You need strength and support to be able to help someone else. There are many support groups for family and friends of addicts, including Nar-Anon, Al-Anon, and Alateen. Individuals in these groups can relate to your experience, which can help you to feel less alone.

Counseling can also help you develop coping mechanisms and set boundaries. Your well-being is important, so make sure you have the tools you need to be navigate these difficult conversations.

Understand that Addiction is a Disease

There is a lot of shame and stigma associated with addiction. Many people don’t think of addiction as a disease. Addiction is not a behavior that can easily be controlled. It is complex and causes many changes to the brain and body, including the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functions. Addiction also has short-term effects on the brain. Many substances release a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is associated with pleasure. The effects of dopamine can lead to repeated drug use.

Recognizing that addiction is a disease is important in managing your expectations. It can also guide how you to talk to your loved one.

Identify Resources and Treatment Options

Even if your loved one is not ready to accept professional help, it is important to know what resources are available. For a place to start, view Pyramid Healthcare’s list of support groups and trusted information.

You can also research different treatment centers and care options. Call admissions departments for information on their programs. There are a lot of options for treatment, so you’ll want to find a facility that meets your loved one’s needs. Here are just a few questions to ask:

  • What is your treatment approach?
  • Is your facility licensed and accredited?
  • Do you offer aftercare programs or other support services?
  • Are staff trained to treat mental health and substance use disorders?

Tips to Find a Treatment Program

Your loved one may not be ready to compare treatment programs. You should only share these resources and treatment programs when they are ready.

Create a Safe Space

You might have feelings of disappointment, betrayal, and anger. It is important to address your own feelings separately before talking with them. The goal is not to make them feel shame or guilt. That being said, you can still have an honest and open conversation about what you’ve observed. Use language like, “I’ve observed that…” rather than, “You did this.”

Create a comfortable space where they feel safe to talk. You may not agree with everything they say, and that’s okay. Their willingness to communicate with you is what matters.

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries protects your well-being as well as theirs. Without boundaries, you could unintentionally worsen their addiction. You are not obligated to support them financially or help them if they are in legal trouble.

When you set boundaries, remember these tips:

  • Be clear about what you are not willing to tolerate
  • Explain the consequences
  • Stay committed to the boundaries you’ve established

The consequences of addiction are serious, but it is not your responsibility to fix them. Remember, you can support and love an addict without enabling.

Get Help from an Addiction Professional

Consider speaking to an addiction professional who can help you navigate these difficult conversations with your loved one, especially if you decide an intervention is best. Interventions can be risky, often causing feelings of anger and alienation.

Regardless, utilize the knowledge and experience of a behavioral health professional rather than trying to help an addict on your own.

You may recognize that your loved one has a disease and needs help, but that doesn’t mean they’ve reached the same conclusion. It may take time for them to be ready. Be consistent in your communication and recognize that change may not be immediate.

Pyramid Healthcare helps individuals with substance use disorders. Our treatment options include detox, inpatient care, and medication-assisted treatment. We also provide support to family and friends. If you or someone you know is living with addiction, contact our admissions specialists. They can provide program information, explain the assessment process, and more.

Contact Pyramid Healthcare

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