How to Help an Addict Take the First Step Toward Recovery

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The ideal scenario for an individual addicted to a substance or an activity would be 1) patient searches for treatment, 2) patient completes an assessment, 3) patient receives treatment 4) patient is healed and discharged either in weeks or months, and 5) patient remains sober while doing aftercare treatment.

In reality, the addiction recovery timeline is way more complex as people can reject treatment in the first place, or several recovery efforts may be needed for a successful recovery. Guiding yourself or a loved one through the demanding challenges of addiction can be mentally and physically overwhelming; you may feel lost, defeated, and even tempted to give up completely.

But there is always hope. Read on to learn how to help an addict, the best tips and treatment programs, and how to take care of yourself in the process.

Why Helping Someone to Overcome Drug Addiction?

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are currently acknowledged as chronic mental conditions prone to relapse, often persisting for decades, and sustained abstinence may typically take numerous episodes of care. Addressing substance abuse can help in building an improved, stable society.

Economic Costs of Addiction

The last data shows that the annual economic impact of substance misuse was estimated to be $249 billion for alcohol misuse and $193 billion for illicit drug use.

These economic burdens come from healthcare expenses (treatment, rehabilitation programs) and criminal justice (drug-related crimes). The workforce also gets impacted due to absenteeism, poor job performance and mental and physical disability.

Drug Abuse Impact on Families

Drug abuse puts a heavy burden on the shoulders of families. Maintenance, care and support of a member with addiction bring socio-economic and mental health problems, abuse and conflicts.

Legal fees and medical bills can lead to financial instability, affecting family savings and endangering the financial future.

Community Problems Arising from Addiction

Drug-related crimes, such as theft, violence and drug trafficking, threaten community safety.

The spread of infectious diseases among injection drug users, like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, strains healthcare and social services. Treatment facilities, homeless shelters and mental health services face overwhelming demand, exceeding their capacity to address community needs.

How to Help an Addict with Practical Tips

Assisting someone with addiction can vary greatly depending on whether they accept or reject treatment. We offer practical advice depending on each scenario:

For Those Who Reject Addiction Treatment

Stage an Intervention

An intervention is a carefully planned meeting with the individual, led by a professional if possible, where loved ones express concern about the addiction and encourage acceptance of treatment.

Successfully stage an intervention following the next steps:

  • Organize a small, trusted group to prepare for the intervention.
  • Research addiction and treatment options to provide up-to-date support.
  • Consider seeking guidance from an addiction professional.
  • Select a private, comfortable setting conducive to open dialogue.
  • Communicate potential outcomes and consequences of refusing treatment.
  • Engage a neutral facilitator to guide the intervention process.
  • Allow each member to express their concerns.
  • Offer ongoing support and follow the below advice post-intervention.

For Those Who Accept Recovery Support

Encourage Open Communication

Having a safe space to talk about substance abuse is one of the most difficult but vital elements of a successful addiction recovery.

Setting a place where you or a loved one feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment should be a transversal strategy for treatment recovery. Active listening and validating experiences without being judgmental lead to trust and better outcomes.

Facilitate Access to Treatment

Choosing treatment can be draining, particularly under the stress of failing to quit using drugs.

Assisting in researching and accessing appropriate treatment programs can significantly ease the mental and physical burden of those struggling with addiction. Reach out to addiction professionals to find the best treatment, such as inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient therapy or counseling-based support.

Avoid Enabling Behaviors

It’s important to differentiate when you are truly helping vs. enabling harmful behaviors.

Refuse to participate in or condone activities that support substance abuse. Avoid providing money for drugs or alcohol and not covering up their consequences. Instead, focus on supporting treatment, counseling and encouraging healthy habits like regular exercise, nutritious eating habits and stress management techniques.

Provide Emotional Support

Most of the substance dependence is either a result of a mental health disorder (dual diagnosis) or will cause one (co-occurring disorder).

For example, depression and bipolar disorders are the most common psychiatric comorbidities among patients with substance use disorders. Offering steady emotional support and showing empathy and encouragement throughout the treatment journey is a great way to help them navigate recovery challenges.

Attend Support Meetings

Stay attentive to the activities you can be present for, such as group meetings, therapy sessions, or other related activities. During these sessions, you can provide company, celebrate achievements and milestones in recovery, and strengthen their commitment to staying sober.

Set Boundaries

Personal boundaries can easily get blurred during the recovery journey. Establish and maintain clear boundaries with yourself and further communicate them with the one you are helping overcome addiction. Always ensure that you prioritize yourself while offering support.

How to Help an Addict with Treatment Options

Addiction is a multifactorial, complex diagnosis and proper treatment should be adjusted to the individual’s specifics. Don’t self-medicate and always consult addiction professionals to determine the most suitable approach.

The following list outlines some of the most common treatment options:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation to provide intensive therapy and support in a controlled environment.
  • Outpatient rehabilitation for regular therapy sessions to address addiction while maintaining daily activities.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Support group therapy for peer support and guidance (e.g., 12-step program)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) to increase motivation and commitment to recovery.
  • Family therapy to address family dynamics and support the individual’s recovery.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment to address addiction and mental health disorders simultaneously.

How to Help an Addict − Final Considerations

Kindness and determination are core values to keep when helping someone overcome addiction. Avoid enabling, but try never to pass any judgment. As recovery takes time, don’t push and don’t expect immediate results.

Sometimes, an overdose can happen even before having the chance of an intervention. During a drug overdose, call emergency services (911) immediately. Stay with the person, monitor vitals and wait for instructions or until the ambulance arrives. After discharge, follow our advice to help your loved one overcome drug dependence.

If you don’t know someone struggling with addiction but you want to help, consider volunteering at a local drug rehab center.

People Also Ask

What is the root cause of addiction?

Core causes of addiction stem from interactions between genetic, environmental and neurological factors, causing alterations in brain circuits linked to reward, stress and self-control. Like other chronic diseases, addiction disrupts normal brain function, contributing to a vicious cycle.

How do you motivate a recovering drug addict?

Motivate a recovering addiction patient through empathetic encouragement, setting realistic goals, highlighting the benefits of sobriety and ensuring access to professional support such as counseling, therapy and peer groups for ongoing guidance and assistance.

What are management strategies for drug abuse?

Management strategies for drug abuse include early intervention, individualized assessment and treatment plans, therapy (cognitive-behavioral, motivational enhancement), medication-assisted treatment, relapse prevention strategies and continuing support from healthcare professionals, family and community resources.

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Page Sources

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Retrieved on April 10, 2024.

Published on: August 5th, 2021

Updated on: April 10th, 2024

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