Support for Families of Addicts

The use of alcohol and other drugs alters a person’s brain, ultimately changing their behaviors. This can make the afflicted person act and say things that wreak emotional trauma on their family members and friends. Therefore, addiction is a family problem. Addiction affects not only the individual affected with the disease but also that person’s family and friends. Family members tend to also need counseling, therapy, and peer support to equip them with the tools to cope with the emotional problems that were imposed upon them by their loved one’s addiction.

There are certain support groups for families of addicts. Al-Anon is a mutual support program for people who have been impacted by another person’s alcohol addiction. Alateen is another support group for teenagers who are affected by another person’s alcohol addiction. Nar-Anon family groups are additional help for families of drug addicts.

How to Support Someone with an Addiction

Recovery is a process of change and there are four dimensions that support the recovery of an addicted loved one. The first dimension is health. Families of addicts can support their addicted loved one through helping them overcome or manage their disease or the symptoms of that disease. This can be done by helping the loved one make healthy decisions that support their emotional and physical well-being. Next, support needs to happen in the home. Family members should ensure that the addicted loved one has a safe and stable living environment. This will help the addicted individual reduce their stress by having a safe place to live. Family members need to provide support for a loved one by helping them find their purpose. This can be done through conducting meaningful daily activities and allowing the individual suffering from the addiction to having independence, income, and resources to help them participate in society. Finally, family members need to provide support for a loved one though helping them find community. Community is created through helping the addicted loved one form healthy relationships and social networks that provide them with support, friendship, love, and most importantly hope for a better future.

Another way family members can support someone with an addiction is by continuously repeating a positive message to the addicted individual. For example, family members can tell afflicted individuals that they care about them and want them to get help. It’s important for family members to tell the addicted individual that their substance abuse is a problem that is impacting the entire family. Do not blame or argue with the individual as this can lead to stress-causing the addicted individual to engage in their substance abuse. Time after time, the loved one abusing a substance will deny, distort, avoid, and rationalize their problem. This is their way of justifying their use and trying to make their family members view it as not a big problem.

Avoid Stigma

Despite the positive benefits of getting treatment for substance abuse, few people actually receive treatment. A recent study published in the Journal of Family Issues mentioned that 99 percent of Americans who meet the criteria for having an alcohol or substance abuse disorder did not receive treatment in a facility. The study mentioned this is most likely due to the perceived stigma attached to seeking treatment.

Therefore, it is important to help the addicted loved one avoid the stigma that is attached to substance abuse. This is because the stigma attached to substance abuse leads to negative outcomes for people with substance use disorder. Some of these negative outcomes are avoiding seeking treatment, social withdrawal, and concealing their condition.

Learn About the Disease

A lot of people don’t understand why or how a loved one became addicted to drugs or alcohol. They may believe it has to do with a lack of self-control or low moral principles. That’s just not how it works. Drug addiction is a multifaceted disease that takes more than a strong-willed individual to overcome. Drug addiction changes the chemical balance in a person’s brain making it extremely difficult to overcome without help. With that being said, it is important to learn about the specific disease that is impacting the loved one. This will help a family member or friend be able to find a treatment option that will best support the loved one and help them to overcome the disease effectively.

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Help, but Don’t Enable

Addicted loved ones need help overcoming their substance abuse. A family member or friend should provide help to an addicted loved one, but don’t enable them. Enabling permits the disease of addiction to progress. It occurs when family members or friends of a person who is addicted support their addiction through their behaviors. Enablers prevent the addicted loved one from suffering the consequences of their actions. Some examples of enabling behavior are allowing substance use to happen, justifying a loved one’s use, denying, or ignoring the problem. This behavior gives the addicted loved one no desire to seek treatment and even makes it appear as though there is a tolerant attitude towards drug use.

Getting a Loved One Professional Help

Oftentimes it is difficult to get an addicted individual to come to terms on their own that they need help. The word “treatment” may scare them into thinking that they are going to be locked away in a long-term rehabilitation clinic with all their freedom greatly restricted. It is important to reassure the afflicted loved one that there are other treatment options available that are a lot less intrusive and restrictive, such as outpatient rehabilitation clinics that can provide 12 step programs. The goals of these treatment centers are to eliminate the use of alcohol and substances with the idea that abstinence increases a person’s health, social function, and overall lifestyle.

There are different types of treatment depending on the severity of drug addiction. The loved one with the addiction will first be screened to determine the best course of action to help them overcome their addiction. Screening can be done in a hospital setting with a doctor or nurse, with a clinical social worker, or a licensed substance abuse counselor.

Holding an Intervention

After screening, some individuals may need a brief intervention. A brief intervention provides people with feedback on their substance use based on the results of their screening. If the individual is ready and willing to cut down their use, health care professionals can work with them to set goals based on lowering with the intent of ceasing their consumption. Here, the addicted loved one will be asked to think about why they use and how their use is hurting their families. Rehab clinics can provide help for families by providing support and proper medical attention to assist in helping a loved one overcome their addiction.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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