How To Help A Loved One Through A Substance Abuse Problem

There are few things harder than watching somebody close to you battle with an addition or abuse problem. Ultimately, this is an issue that is down to them to solve, but it is vital that they have a good support network around them. There are many things that you can do to help them along the way. Unfortunately, substance abuse is very common in the US with almost 50% of Americans having a close friend or family member who is or was addicted to some form of drug or alcohol addiction. If somebody that you are close to is currently battling with a substance abuse problem,then read on for advice on helping them to overcome their addiction.


First, it is important that you understand what they are going through. Substance abuse is the use of any drug where somebody consumes amounts that are harmful to themselves (or others). In addition to the obvious health risks, this can also lead to criminal or anti-social behavior, changes in personality and psychological damage. It is important to note that this is a disorder where addiction and dependence are key components which makes it difficult for the user to stop.

When To Speak Up

Previously, it was thoughtthat somebody would seek help themselves once they hit “rock bottom.”Over the years, the medical community has learned thataddiction is not a lifestyle choice but a disease which has lead to a focus being placedon stepping in and helping somebody. It can be difficult to determine when itis a problem and not just usage, but there is a lot of helpful information online to decide this. Symptoms that they are abusing a substance include:

  • Being intoxicated more and more often
  • Memory problems
  • Only attending social events intoxicated or if there is alcohol/drugs available
  • Unable to manage responsibilities
  • Continued usage despite the damaging effects
  • Lying about usage
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Neglecting hygiene and appearance

Addressing The Problem

Turning a blind eye is incredibly dangerous so, as a friend or family member, it is important that you address the problem. Often, the individual is unaware that it has become a problem. Thisshould always be donegently and in private at first. Be sure to let them know that you have concerns but that you love them and you will support them on their journey to recovery. Addicts are sometimes unaware that they have people who love them and this can sometimes be a contributing factor to the addiction.

Encouraging Them To Seek Help

At this point, you may find that they deny that they have a problem or come up with excuses as to why they don’t need help. It is vital that you remain persistent about the importance of seeking treatment, but, equally, you should always avoid making them feel ashamed, embarrassed or guilty.


If the individual does not take your message onboard and continues their behavior, it might be worth holding an intervention. Thisis a process where family, friends, counselors and an intervention specialist show the addict the impact of their destructive behaviors so that they will choose to seek help themselves. As you can imagine, these are very delicate matters so they should always be arrangedby a specialist who will also run the intervention. These can be painful experiences for everyone involved, but they are proven to be effective and encourages the addict to turn a corner.

What To Avoid

One of the major concerns that people have when trying to help somebody with a substance abuse problem is that they do not know what to say and do. It is understandable as it is a very delicate, sensitive and important issue. Ultimately, you should try to avoid lecturing, threatening or moralizing them. You should never enable their behavior by covering up their abuse or taking over their responsibilities and always be firm yet supportive. Avoid discussing their problem when they are using the substance as this will not lead to rationaldiscourse. Additionally, avoid feeling responsible or guilty because of their problem. It is not your fault.

Finding Treatment

It is always helpful if you can find a suitabletreatment for the individual. Look to find rehab centers in your area. There are many different types of rehab available, andit can be difficult to know which one is best, but one which is proving to be successful and popular right now is holistic drug rehab. Instead of focusing entirely on the addiction and the symptoms that stem from this, holistic drug rehab looks to treat the person as a whole with a goal of healing the mind, body, andsoul. This methodis particularly effective for those that have attempted to enter clinical rehabs in the past but struggled to kick their addiction. The cost of treatment will vary depending on where you go, but programs usually have various payment plans that can make it easier to manage. Additionally, an insurance policy is likely to cover some or all of the costs. There are community-based programs which are free, but these are usually more of a support group, this can be helpful later on in the journey.

Continued Support

It is essential that you continue to provide support once your loved one enters treatment as this is where the hard work starts. Show that you will be there for themto lean on by attending meetings, support groups, andappointments that they have along the way. There are sure to be dark days from time to time, andit may strain your friendship, but ultimately, you are doing the right thing, andone day they will have triumphed over their substance abuse problem and thank you.

Take Care Of Yourself

Although you will be primarily concerned with helping your loved one with their problem, it is also important that you take care of yourself. Thismeans continuing to eat well, arranging social activities, working and getting enough sleep. It is heartbreaking to see a loved one battle an addiction, but you must also ensure that you keep yourself healthy so that you can be their rock. If you are finding it all too much, there are support groups that can be very helpful for unloading and receiving advice. Additionally, it can be helpful to have one or two other people that can help you along this journey.

Staying Positive

Rehabilitation can be a long, difficult and stressful process for everyone involved. Theywill suffer from mood swings and have dark days, but it is essential that whenever you see them,you are positive and reiterate that you are there for them and will support them. Knowing that somebody believes in them can be empowering and help through the difficult days.

After Treatment

It is an enormous relief once a loved one completes their treatment, but the journey is not over yet. Theywill need to change theirbehaviors, andthis can be difficult as it often involves building a new life. Find new activities that you can do together, encourage them to exercise, introduce them to new people and ensure that temptation is removed by removing substances and avoiding places like bars, parties, etc. Many people find it helpful to continue attending support groups so you should encourage them to do this and attend with them if they ask. Sometimes, they may want to move away so that they can start completely afresh. It can be difficult, but it is often for the best and allows them to avoid temptation. If this happens, always support and welcome any change that they make and make the effortto continue to be in their life.

What To Do If They Relapse

It is unfortunate, but many addicts relapse at some point whether this is shortly after rehab or years later. Much like any disease, the problem will need to be treated again in this scenario. Sometimes the individual will refuse to admit that it is a problem which can be challenging. If they do relapse, do not be angry or judgmental and continue with positive support. Consider an alternative source of treatment and especially if they are only recently out of rehab. Recovery is a constant process even if they have not touched the substance for many years, so keep this in mind throughout their recovery process.

Helping somebody through a substance abuse problem can be incredibly emotional, challenging and draining. Overcoming these issues by yourself is near impossible, so being the support for somebody is important, andthey will appreciate your love more than you will ever know. It is something that many people believe that they will never have to do, but, unfortunately, this is not true. It can feel overwhelming, andyou will feel like you are walking on eggshells initially, but the above information will hopefully act as a guide and show you how to approach this delicate matter. You must always take action when required and be firm yet supportive in order tohelp them overcome their addiction.