At some point in your life, you may need or want to help someone with a drug problem. As you can imagine, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about performing this act of kindness. Even the most well-intentioned efforts can go badly.
Note: The first and most important thing to remember is that all addiction situations are different, and no advice you read on a web page is a reasonable substitute for the help and advice that an expert can give. We will connect you with such an expert at the bottom of this page.
Where Angels Fear to Tread
Trying to help someone with a drug problem is exceptionally delicate. You have to approach the person correctly and at the right time. Depending upon where they are in the addiction cycle, they may feel there isn’t a problem. They feel in control and have not suffered any ill effects from their addiction.
It is important to realize that until the person wants to shake their habit, they are likely to resist any efforts to get them to start. Often, a person with an addiction is more open to offers of help after an addiction-caused event of real consequence occurs. So, pick your time thoughtfully.
Some people might react well to a “tough-love, drill instructor” approach. However, this approach can backfire if improperly used, leading to anger and resistance. Others may respond better to an emotional plea. It depends upon their personality.
Also, remember that recovery is a long process. Relapses are common, and the effects of rehabilitation can be as unpleasant as the addiction itself. Recovery is also a life-long effort if the individual is going to avoid relapses. It will take stamina, patience, and lots of love and energy on your part.
Starting the Conversation
Be prepared for the first attempt(s) to go badly. Express your concern for what you see as a substance abuse problem. The key words here, “what you see.” As mentioned before, the person may not see any problem. Here are a couple of tips to help you approach the person with a fact-based argument.
- Listen to how they describe their use. If you hear words like “must, have to, and need,” describing the substance use, it is a good sign of addiction.
- If the person consumes a lot of the substance but says, “it was a little bit.” or, “just a few,” that is another tell-tale sign of addiction.
- Check with others to see if they sense addiction as well. There will be others who notice if an addiction really exists.
Assure the person that you will support their efforts to kick their habit. Avoid any hints of judgment. Repeat the process as necessary.
Intervention to Help Someone with a Drug Problem?
Are you prepared to call down the “nuclear” tactic of initiating an intervention to help someone with a drug problem? Let’s start by stating the rather obvious requirement that this needs to be carefully considered and only used when all else has failed. The intervention should not come as a total surprise to the person because you and others have approached them about their addiction before.
Drug interventions must be carefully planned and rehearsed. They must be implemented when the person is the least likely to be under the influence of the substance. The intervention team should not include people the person does not like or people who cannot stick with the “script” of the intervention. An intervention is not an exorcism. You are curing an illness, not expelling an evil entity.
What is an intervention? According to an article by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, an intervention is:
“a carefully planned process that may be done by family and friends, in consultation with a doctor or professional such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor or directed by an intervention professional (interventionist). It sometimes involves a member of your loved one’s faith or others who care about the person struggling with addiction.”
The preferred outcome of the intervention is that the person agrees to enter a treatment program immediately. Be prepared for the fact that the person may make a totally different decision. They may become angry, go into denial, accuse you of being a hypocrite, and become even less open to help.
Getting Professional Help
To help someone with a drug problem is an admirable goal, but there is no substitute for the advice and help of a professional. Everyone’s situation is different, and only a trained professional can give qualified advice. Carus Recovery Center is a premier residential recovery center in Southern California. Call 877-225-7724 or contact us to learn how we can help you help your friend or loved one.