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How can I help a loved one who has a problem with addiction?

If you have a loved one, adult family member or friend who is struggling with addiction, the misuse of alcohol and/or drugs, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) offers the following tips:

  • Recognize that you can't fix the problem by yourself. If someone you care about has asked for help, he or she has taken an important first step. If that person is resistant to help, perhaps you can at least convince him or her to get an evaluation from a doctor.
  • You can always take steps to locate an appropriate doctor or health professional, and leave the information with your friend or family member.
  • Emphasize to your friend or loved one that it takes a lot of courage to seek help for a drug or alcohol problem because there is a lot of hard work ahead. But assure them that you will be supportive in their courageous efforts.
  • The pressure of family and friends sometimes compels people to enter treatment. However, it's better that you focus on creating incentives to at least get the person to a doctor.
  • If your friend or loved one was previously treated and then relapsed, they have already learned many of the skills needed to recover from addiction and should try it again.
  • People being treated or recovering from substance use disorders (SUDs) relapse about as often as do people with other chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Treatment of any chronic disease involves changing deeply imbedded behaviors, and relapse sometimes goes with the territory.
  • Encourage your loved one to participate in a self-help group during and after formal treatment. These groups can be particularly helpful during recovery, as they are a source of ongoing communal support.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Dr. Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine Specialist

If someone you love has a problem with addiction, there are some things you can do to help:

  • Take care of yourself. Seek out the people and resources that can support you. Keep in mind that you are not alone, and try to remain hopeful. Practical help is available in your community.
  • Speak up. Express your concerns about your loved one's problem in a caring way.
  • Don't make excuses. Don't make it easier for your loved one to use the object of addiction by lying to protect him or her from the consequences of that use.
  • Don't blame yourself. Remember that you aren't to blame for this problem and you can't control it. Allow the person with the problem to take responsibility.
  • Be safe. Don't put yourself in dangerous situations. Find a friend you can call for assistance.
  • Step back. Don't argue, lecture, accuse or threaten. Try to remain neutral.
  • Be positive. Remember that addiction is treatable. Learn about what kinds of treatment are available and discuss these options with your loved one.
  • Take action. Consider having a family meeting or, if the circumstances warrant, an intervention.
  • Focus your energies. Encourage your friend or family member to get help, but try not to push. Remember that the only person you can change is yourself. Don't hesitate to use available resources to help yourself.
Dr. Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Practitioner

If you have a family member who has a problem with addiction, it’s important not to be critical or judgmental. In this video, addiction specialist Douglas Severance, MD, talks about how to best help someone by providing a concrete action plan.

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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.