How to Approach a Family Member About Their Substance Use

Substance abuse is an issue that affects not only the individual but everyone around them, including friends and loved ones. If your family member or loved one is experiencing challenges with their use of drugs or alcohol, read on for tips on how to best assist them.

Signs of Substance Abuse In A Loved One

The first step to helping a family member or loved one with a substance abuse issue is determining if they do, in fact, have a problem. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends answering the following questions as honestly as possible to determine if there is an issue:
  • Does your loved one take more than the prescribed amount of the drug or for longer than prescribed?
  • Have they mentioned wanting to reduce or stop taking the drug but can’t?
  • Are they spending a great deal of time getting, using, or recovering from the drug?
  • Does your family member crave the drug?
  • Have they struggled with responsibilities because of their drug use?
  • Is their drug use causing relationship problems, but they aren’t able to stop?
  • Have they given up activities because of their drug use?
  • Are they using drugs even when that use puts them in danger?
  • Are physical or mental problems being caused or worsened by their drug use?
  • Have they increased the amount they are taking to get the desired effect?
  • Do they deal with any withdrawal symptoms which may make them want to take more of their drug of choice?
Answering yes to several or all of these questions may be an indicator that your family member has a drug problem and needs help.

Recommended Approaches

While each family situation is unique, there are some do’s and don’ts that apply to most circumstances. You do want to focus on building trust with the family member who’s dealing with drug abuse. You also want to be honest with them and encourage them to get help. You may also want to set firm boundaries about their drug-taking behavior (for example, establishing a rule that they may not use drugs in your home.) However, you do not want to threaten or criticize them. Also, you don’t want to expect any immediate changes in their behavior. When you approach your loved one about their drug use, they may not be willing to admit they have a problem. They may not want to change their behavior, or they may be embarrassed by it. It is also possible that they are abusing drugs to avoid dealing with another issue such as mental illness, stress, or trauma. Overcoming addiction is not a fast or easy process. Family members need to prepare themselves for that reality. In addition to helping to reestablish trust and communication with the family member, it is also important that you seek out support for yourself. Peer support groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are helpful resources for family members of people in active addiction. If your family member is open to alternatives, you may want to contact a drug addiction treatment professional. They can help you better understand the different programs and treatments available for your loved one and can connect your family member to local resources. At Forward Recovery, we specialize in rehab for adults at all stages of life. We believe that with the right attitude and the right support, it is always possible to start a new chapter. Call us at (844) 387-6889 if you are seeking support in dealing with substance abuse for yourself or a loved one.
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