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How can I help a loved one with mental illness cope with substance abuse?

Fredrick Wade
Addiction Medicine
The answer to this question depends heavily on what the mental illness is. Because the answer to this question will also answer the question of what types of support they can benefit from, and what forms of information they may make use of. That said the answer will still fall somewhere in the realm of connecting them with the appropriate support systems. One other way you or the ideal support system can help is with social stigma, which is often at play for he or she who suffers with a mental illness in our society. My rationale for the appropriate support system is to expose them to people with like problems to diminish the sense of isolation of that which they are most likely dealing with alone. Such an environment will offer various forms of support that in turn will instill the all-important missing element of HOPE. With hope much is perceived to be possible, without it not much is seen as doable or attainable. An example would be Dual Diagnosis support groups, which are often found in hospitals that treat dually diagnosed individuals.      
People with serious mental illness (SMI) are very prone to substance abuse whether it be binge drinking, serious abuse of alcohol or the taking of street drugs. It is difficult to tell families that they should not tolerate such behavior when zero tolerance can lead to homelessness, incarceration and more. Substance abuse may provoke impulsive behavior.

Be extra vigilant. To buy drugs and alcohol the person needs money. If the person comes to his family for money be sure to limit amounts given. Try to explain that there are consequences to such actions and that you are worried. Ask why your relative needs to do this. It may not be for the reasons that you have in mind. See if you can assist in some way.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.