How to Help a Loved One or Family Member With Addiction

One of the hardest things in life is to watch someone we love struggle with something we can’t fix for them. Addiction fits that bill: Ultimately, it’s up to your loved one to change their ways. But for you, this can lead to stress, confusion, and anger when you can’t figure out how to help.

Fortunately, there are ways to help your loved one. Read on to learn a little about how addiction affects those around the person with a substance use disorder, as well have find some resources that may help you navigate this tough time.

Resource Guides for Families & Friends

Oxford Treatment Center is also here for you. We’ve compiled several different guides to use when attempting to help a loved one with addiction. Our guide can give you a better understanding about what addiction is, what effective treatment can look like, and how recovery is possible.

How Drug and Alcohol Addiction Impacts Families

alcoholic dad pouring a drink in front of his family

Did you know that addiction is often referred to as a “family disease?” Although only your loved one is the one abusing drugs or alcohol, the effects from this use can touch those who are close to them. Chances are you’re feeling the fallout from their use, which could manifest as:1

  • Monetary hardship from assisting your loved one with bills, legal costs, or other expenses.
  • Emotional strain, because you often feel anxious, angry, embarrassed, depressed, and/or guilty.
  • An unstable relationship with your loved one.
  • Potential abuse or violence.

Even harder is that in some of the ways you might want to help your loved one, like calling their boss to let them know they won’t be in to work, you may be enabling their continued use because it doesn’t allow them to experiences the consequences of their drug or alcohol abuse.

Signs of Substance Abuse in a Family Member or Loved One

Though there may be a tendency to ignore the more subtle signs of drug or alcohol abuse, after a while they may be too noticeable to push to the side. Identifying the signs of addiction in a family member or significant other gives you the opportunity to talk to them about it and help them get the treatment they need.

Not all substances have the same effects, but addiction has some common warning flags to be aware of. These fall under three categories.

Am I Helping or Enabling My Loved One with Addiction?

When someone we love has a problem, our first instinct is generally to help. However, with an addiction, what feels like helping could be enabling. Some examples of enabling are:

  • Bailing them out of messes they’ve created.
  • Making excuses for their behavior.
  • Providing money or resources.

Enabling isn’t only unhelpful, it can reinforce the addiction by helping your loved one skip out on consequences.5, 6 When you want to help a family with an addiction, sometimes taking actions that may feel painful in the short-term for your loved one will help them more in the long run.

Understanding Substance Abuse Treatment: What to Do if A Family Member is Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

If you’re concerned that a loved one has an addiction, you may not know how to talk to them about it. But an intervention like you’ve seen on TV often may not be the most effective way to address the issues.4

A good place to start is to ask your loved one’s doctor or a counselor for help,4 as talking to a professional can assist you with coming up with a plan beforehand.

Discuss any special needs your loved one has with his or her care provider when choosing a program. After meeting, you and the medical professional should talk to your loved one together, and help them develop the motivation to change.4

How to Choose a Rehab Facility for Your Family Member

With so many treatment facilities to choose from, it can be hard to know which one to pick. Whether your loved one is interested in short-term rehab, a month-long rehab program, or a long-term rehab program, you may want to look for:

  • Continuum of rehab care. A spectrum of treatment options may benefit someone at their various points of recovery. A person’s recovery progress should be continually assessed to help shape the course of treatment based on his or her ever-changing needs. There should be a seamless transition between detox and other treatment types can also be beneficial even if the treatment takes place between different facilites.7 This allows people to receive effective care that will give them the tools for a successful recovery.
  • Specialized care for substance use and/or dual diagnoses. Look for a facility with experience in treating your loved one’s specific substance use disorder as well as any co-occurring mental health issues (if applicable). In many instances, an integrated, dual diagnosis treatment protocol may provide better treatment outcomes people with both substance use and mental health disorders.
  • Medical detox and withdrawal management. Some substances are associated with extremely uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous withdrawal syndromes. Certain medications and other medical intervention may be required to keep a person safe and on-track during early recovery, so it will be important to know if such care is available.8
  • Medication-assisted treatment. Beyond the withdrawal period, there are a cohort of FDA-approved treatment medications designed to treat certain types of substance use disorders, such as alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder, in the longer-term. Inquire to see if a program you’re considering can implement a medication-assisted treatment approach.8
  • Evidence-based clinical programs. Treatment methods should be thoroughly evaluated, as evidence-based practices are more likely to keep people in treatment and help them stop using substances, manage stress better, and improve relationships with family.7
  • Licensed staff. Counseling should only be provided by a licensed or credentialed professional, while licensed nurses should be available to monitor patients and administer medications. In facilities running medical detox protocols, the program should be overseen by a doctor.8
  • Customized care. Certain facilities have programs for adolescents or adults only, while others accept a wider range of groups. Many facilities will have therapy groups for veterans, ones that are gender-specific, geared towards the LGBTQ+ community, etc.

Our drug and alcohol rehab facility in Etta, MS and Oxford, MS, we offer all of the above on two gorgeous inpatient and outpatient campuses.

Many people will move between campuses, for example one person may spend a month in inpatient rehab and then transfer to our outpatient program or sober living facility.

You can view the whole “Recovery is Relative” series by clicking here.

Help and Support for Family Members of Drug Addicts

It’s difficult to remember this when you’re in the thick of it, but you’re not alone in your endeavors to help your loved recover from addiction. Lean on your friends and other families—there are also numerous establishments whose main goal is to support the families of someone who abuses drugs and alcohol through this difficult time.

If you believe your loved one is ready for treatment, if you’d like more information about what to expect in inpatient rehab, or if you want to begin the rehab admissions process, our Admissions Navigators are waiting for you call at any time of the day. You can reach them at .

How to Help Your Family Member or Loved One Pay for Rehab

There are a number of ways to pay for addiction treatment. You may have health insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment. Your policy may cover some or all of your care. 4 If you aren’t sure of what is covered, you can to learn what your policy may cover.

If you can’t afford the treatment, many offer treatment plans or may offer sliding scale payment schedules. For our example, our Etta and Oxford rehab facilities offer payment options to ease the financial burden upfront. If your loved one has no insurance coverage, treatment center staff may help them apply for insurance.

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