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Getting Addiction Help for a Family Member

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Addiction is a serious problem that can affect every aspect of a person’s life, from their physical health to their social life and relationships. As a bystander, watching a family member struggle with addiction can be both frustrating and terrifying.

Talking to someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol isn’t always enough to persuade them to seek help. The physiological side of addiction can make it difficult for people to quit using drugs or drinking, or even to admit they have a problem. Substance use can become all-consuming and make someone unrecognizable to the people closest to them.

The truth about addiction is that it doesn’t only harm the person struggling, but also the people around them – especially those who care about them the most. Getting a family member into treatment for addiction may not be an easy process, but it can be life-saving.

How Do I Know If My Family Member Needs Help?

Many people with substance use problems attempt to hide or lie about their problem for as long as they can to avoid detection among those close to them. Over time, this will become more difficult for them to control. Signs of their substance use may become too obvious to ignore.

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The early signs of drug and alcohol addiction can differ somewhat from people who have been struggling with substance use for a long time. Addiction is a progressive disease, causing greater damage to a person’s physical health, their ability to function, and their psychological well-being the longer it goes untreated.

Some of the early signs of drug or alcohol use can include:

  • avoiding friends or family members
  • drinking heavy amounts of alcohol
  • hostile or aggressive behavior
  • engaging in risky or illegal activities
  • loss of interest in hobbies they used to enjoy
  • often talking about obtaining or using drugs/alcohol
  • lying about where they’ve been
  • changes in weight and appetite
  • skipping classes or missing days at work
  • experiencing financial problems
  • becoming physically ill when drug or alcohol use is stopped
  • continuing to use drugs or alcohol after experiencing health, social, or financial consequences

Millions of teens and adults in the United States struggle with substance use, yet only a small percentage of those people get professional help. In many instances it is the intervention of a family member, close friend, or partner that gets a person into treatment.

If you are concerned about a family member’s drug or alcohol use, then that itself is an indication that they have a problem that requires attention. Based on the severity of the problem, your family member can receive a customized plan for how to proceed forward with treatment.

If you are worried about how your family member may react to being confronted about their problem, talking to a doctor or treatment specialist can help you figure out what level of care your loved one may need.

Steps For Getting Your Loved One Into Treatment

Most people who are struggling with a drug or alcohol problem will require professional treatment to stop using drugs and remain sober. Formal treatment programs for substance use can provide a strong support system capable of helping people heal from the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of addiction.

Trying to get someone to stop drinking or using drugs on their own can be dangerous. Without medical support, this can lead to risky and potentially life-threatening withdrawal.

The reality of drug and alcohol addiction is that it is complex and requires more than a simple or quick solution. There are a few steps you may need to take to get the person you care about into treatment. The first step involves gaining an understanding of the problem you’re facing.

Step 1: Understanding The Problem

Understanding what your family member is going through can be one of the most important tools for convincing them to get help. Many people who are abusing drugs or alcohol feel misunderstood and can become isolated in their struggles.

Educating yourself on the signs of addiction, common causes, and its effects can provide greater clarity in what your family member is going through and what lies ahead. The road to recovery is not free of bumps, but it is a path that leads forward.

Other helpful information to research might include:

  • treatment options for addiction
  • local Al-Anon groups in your area (for family and loved ones of those with an addiction)
  • the medical consequences of drug and alcohol use
  • ideas on how to support your loved one in treatment and in recovery
  • your insurance coverage for addiction treatment options

Step 2: Talk To Them

Once you have a basic understanding of the issue your family member is facing, the next step is to talk to them. This can be a one-on-one interaction, or you may wish to request the presence of another family member or close friend for support.

Many people can become defensive when approached about a drug or alcohol problem. The best approach when talking to someone about an addiction is one of compassion and understanding. While it’s important to remain firm in sharing your concerns, it is also important to demonstrate that you support them and are thinking of their best interests.

Talking points to address may include:

  • pointing out signs and symptoms that you and/or others have noticed due to their drug or alcohol use
  • expressing concern about how their drug or alcohol use has impacted various aspects of their life (e.g. work, school, social, health, participation in hobbies, etc.)
  • offering to help them find a doctor or specialized addiction professional to determine what their next steps should be
  • emphasize that getting help would be an act of courage and that you are there to support them

What to avoid when confronting someone about their substance use:

  • talking to them when they are drunk or under the influence
  • confronting them in a large, public space with other people around
  • becoming angry or placing guilt on them for the damage their substance use has caused
  • telling them they are selfish

Reactions to being confronted about a drug or alcohol problem can vary, and in some cases, be hostile or upsetting. If your family member reacts with anger, denial, or violence, then they may require additional intervention.

Step 3 (As Needed): Intervention

If talking to your family member about your concerns is not successful, staging an intervention may be a beneficial option.

Interventions are a group-based process during which people close to the person with the drug or alcohol problem come together to confront the person with the goal of convincing them to seek treatment.

Staging an intervention requires a process of organizing people who are willing to be a part of the intervention, planning how the intervention will proceed, and choosing a date and time.

One of the most effective options for achieving a successful outcome is to seek the help of a professional interventionist. This can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed, and give your group a better understanding of how the process should proceed.

The benefits of enlisting the aid of an intervention specialist include:

  • Professional experience: Intervention specialists have the training and professional knowledge necessary to plan, guide, and moderate the intervention process. This can be beneficial for determining an appropriate course of action.
  • Managing challenges: It is common for emotions and impulses to run high during an intervention. This can result in angry or concerned outbursts, and other challenges. An interventionist is trained to manage these challenges, and redirect the conversation as needed to keep the process on track.
  • Lending Authority: Having a professional in the room can make the process seem more real to the subject of the intervention and provide a sense of urgency. Interventionists can provide an outside, professional perspective capable of validating a person’s need for treatment. While some people are more responsive to emotional appeals from family, others can be more receptive to logic and feedback that comes from a professional.

During an intervention, participants are encouraged to share how they have been personally impacted by their loved one’s addiction. It is recommended that family members and other loved ones try to maintain a supportive attitude focused on love and compassion, rather than relying on anger, guilt, or shaming the person into seeking help.

The ultimate goal of an intervention is to convince your loved one to get treatment. What this will look like will depend on the severity of your family member’s addiction and other personal needs.

Types Of Treatment For Addiction

Seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction typically begins with detoxification (detox) to remove the drugs or alcohol from a person’s system. The safest and most efficient option for this is to seek medical detox services, which are commonly offered through many rehab centers.

The type of treatment a person requires will depend on the severity of their addiction, and other personal factors such as co-occurring mental health problems. The most effective treatment option for achieving long-term recovery is to enter an inpatient or residential treatment program.

Descriptions of the types of substance use treatment services are provided below:

  • Medical detox services: Attempting to detox in a home environment can be highly uncomfortable at best, and at worst, dangerous. Medical detox provides a safe setting that offers 24/7 medical supervision as patients undergo drug or alcohol withdrawal. People within a medical setting are monitored for health complications and may receive medications to ease pain or discomfort caused by withdrawal.
  • Inpatient treatment: Inpatient addiction treatment is an intensive type of treatment that requires patients to live on-site and participate in a treatment program. The length of these programs can vary, with the average stay being 30 to 90 days. Inpatient treatment offers structure and a variety of therapeutic services capable of treating all aspects of substance use, including: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, family counseling, and medication-assisted treatment.
  • Behavioral counseling: One of the core components of treating drug and alcohol addiction is individual behavioral counseling. Counseling provides a space for patients to explore the causes and triggers of their substance use, and to learn how to cope with urges to use substances. Counseling can also teach valuable life skills useful for navigating everyday stressors and maintaining long-term addiction recovery.
  • Family counseling: Family counseling can be beneficial for repairing relationships damaged by a person’s substance use. The two main purposes of this type of counseling are to emphasize how a strong family system can support a person’s recovery, and to repair the harm caused by addiction.
  • Support groups: Attending daily support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can provide beneficial assistance and support in recovery from addiction by connecting people with a local support system, providing an outlet for people to discuss their successes and struggles, and providing an opportunity to learn from others who have overcome struggles commonly faced in sobriety.

Finding Treatment For Your Family Member

There’s almost nothing more painful than watching someone you love struggle with something as destructive as addiction. At Vertava Health, we understand the struggles that family members and other loved ones can face as bystanders of their loved one’s addiction.

Our treatment specialists are available 24/7 to answer questions about treatment options and to provide helpful resources for supporting a loved one battling an addiction.

Recovery is possible. Contact one of our dedicated treatment specialists today to find addiction treatment for your family member.