How do I Help a Drug Addict?

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It can be difficult when someone that you love is struggling with addiction. You want to help, but don’t always know what to do. Living with an addict can be heartbreaking, and ignoring the issue is sometimes easier than facing it head on. If you love someone who is struggling with addiction, you’re not alone, and there is hope.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at things that you can do to help your loved one get better. We use the word “drug” in this post, but it can be used interchangeably with the word “alcohol,” which is another type of drug that causes addiction in many people’s lives.

What is Addiction?

Before solving a problem, it’s important to have an understanding of what the problem actually is. People don’t set out to become addicts. There are many different reasons why people start using drugs – for fun, peer pressure, to numb physical or mental pain, or even to heighten athletic performance. Not all drug use turns into addiction, and it can be difficult to determine when using a drug turns into needing a drug.

Often, addiction stems from the reasons behind using a drug, and negative consequences from drug use are good indicators of a problem. For example, while no drug use is good, there is a difference between a person trying a drug for fun or peer pressure and trying a drug to escape feelings of depression or anxiety. If the drug is the only thing that will alleviate those negative feelings, that person may be more likely to become addicted in the long run. If the drug use is having a negative impact on that person’s life, such as losing a job, damaging relationships or getting into trouble with the law, it is likely that person has a drug problem.

Why do People Become Addicted?

As mentioned above, there are many reasons why people decide to try drugs in the first place. That being said, not everyone who uses a drug will become addicted. To better understand if your loved one has an increased risk of addiction, take a look at the following risk factors:

  • Abuse, neglect or other traumatic experience
  • Family history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression
  • Use of drugs at a young age
  • Method of intake (smoking or injecting a drug can increase the likelihood for addiction)

The reasons behind addiction are complex and difficult to understand. Quitting is not simply a matter of willpower – it’s changing behaviors and brain patterns. In fact, drugs have a powerful affect on a person’s brain, affecting their reward system, which is what causes a person to feel pleasure and motivates reasons to thrive in life, such as living a healthy lifestyle or spending time with loved ones.

Long-term drug use reduces the “high” that a person experiences from the drug, and also robs that person of feeling “good” or “normal” in day to day situations when they are not high. At that point, the person is in survival mode, with their primary focus being taking more of the drug to simply feel better.

What are Symptoms of Drug Abuse?

If you’re concerned about a loved one, it’s important to know what symptoms to look out for. Here are some common characteristics of people who are struggling with drug abuse and addiction:

  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Mood swings
  • Withdrawal from family members or old friends
  • Red or glassy eyes
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Problems at school or work
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Carelessness with personal grooming
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, sports and other favorite activities
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Sudden requests for money, or a spike in spending habits

It’s also important to understand how long-term drug use can affect the brain. Here are some areas to look out for changes in behavior:

  • learning
  • judgment
  • decision-making
  • stress
  • memory
  • behavior

If your loved one exhibits some of the behaviors listed above, it is necessary to support them in finding help.

How can I Help?

It is important to understand that, while there is no cure for addiction, it can be managed successfully. People who are recovering from addiction are at risk for relapsing for several years, and in some cases, for their entire lives. Because of this, addiction treatment in partnership with behavioral therapy is important for creating lasting results. At the Strawberry Center, we believe in the importance of a Christian-based recovery program for building a lasting recovery.

If you are struggling with finding ways to help a loved one who is struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. It’s important to realize that it’s OK if you do not understand everything about addiction or recovery. Here are a few things you can do to help:

  • Learn more about addiction, and the reasons behind it
  • Offer your support, and voice your concerns
  • Encourage them to get help – you may receive pushback, but be persistent and offer support. Don’t make the person feel bad or guilty. You might also consider holding an intervention.
  • Understand that recovery is an ongoing process. A person is not “healed” after visiting a rehabilitation facility. It is here that they are given the tools to succeed, but using the tools after checking out is imperative to developing a lasting recovery.
  • Take care of yourself – make sure that your needs are being fulfilled (eating healthy, exercising, etc.) and that you are setting boundaries when you need to. Don’t feel guilty about meeting your own needs.

A few things to avoid include:

  • Preaching, threatening or lecturing your loved one
  • Guilt-tripping
  • Making excuses for their behavior
  • Enabling their behavior by covering up for them or offering them money
  • Taking over their responsibilities
  • Arguing with them while they’re using – they likely don’t have the ability to hold a rational conversation when they’re using
  • Feeling guilty – don’t blame yourself

If you are concerned about a loved one, and would love more information about recovery, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (877) 780-6664, and one of our patient coordinators will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.