How to Help a Drug Addict
If you are concerned that a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker is abusing alcohol or drugs, it is only natural that you want to help them overcome their addiction. However, you may have concerns about whether you should discuss the matter with them, and even if you do decide to talk to them, you may not be sure how best to approach the subject. For instance, you may worry whether it is your business to do so, but as substance misuse is a significant cause of death and addicts usually cannot appreciate the extent of their destructive habit, speaking up is vital. Alternatively, you may think that someone else will step in to tackle the issue, but by waiting this can delay addiction treatment, which potentially reduces the chance of success. Before stepping in though you should make sure you are armed with the facts about alcohol and drug abuse, and think how their behavior is specifically impacting on their life.
As the University of Rochester explains, it is best to discuss their drink or drug habit when they are not under its influence, as your conversation will likely have more impact when they are sober and they are less likely to react aggressively when you raise their substance abuse problem. You should explain to them how you feel that their habit is adversely affecting the areas of their life that are important to them, whether this is their family, work, studies or other interests, as highlighting those areas that they care about most is usually most effective. If they appear receptive to this and want to tackle their alcohol or drug misuse, you should encourage them to speak with their doctor, contact relevant support groups in the community and find out about specialist treatment services for substance use disorders. However, when someone is unwilling to acknowledge that their drinking or drug use is a problem, concerned family members can organize an intervention to make them more aware of their destructive habits.
An intervention is facilitated by addiction professionals and allows family, friends and others with concerns to meet with the person in their lives who has a problem with alcohol and drug abuse. The purpose of this meeting is to help the addict to connect their habits with the difficulties they now face, whether relating to their health, employment, finances, legal trouble or relationship breakdown, with the aim of them accepting the alcohol or drug help they need to turn their life around. Prior to the intervention, the relevant parties gather to share information and discuss their concerns about their loved one, as well as receiving education and support regarding substance misuse, which makes sure everyone is ready to get the most out of the process. When conducted by trained interventionists, there is around a 90% success rate, so the vast majority of substance users are able to recognize that they have a problem and seek help. Even if someone refuses addiction help at the time of the intervention, they are more likely to request help at a later date as a result of taking part in this discussion.
Drug Addiction Help
Once someone has agreed to seek treatment for their destructive habit, the next step is to help them to find a suitable alcohol or drug recovery program. While there are a wide range of treatment centers offering help with drug and alcohol abuse across the country, the care they offer is variable. In accordance with recommendations from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most effective substance abuse programs will offer:
- A range of treatment options to take into account the fact that different approaches suit different people
- Treatment to address problems beyond alcohol and drug misuse, as managing these can reduce the risk of a relapse
- The chance to stay in treatment for as long as necessary, whether that is 30, 60 or 90 days as an inpatient, followed by ongoing support
- Medically assisted detox followed by a program of rehabilitation
- Counseling and behavioral therapies, both on a one-to-one and group basis
- Medication where appropriate, as when combined with behavioral treatments these can enhance the chance of success
- A personalized treatment plan that is updated regularly to meet someone’s changing needs as they progress through rehab
When medications are used as part of addiction recovery, they can help relieve withdrawal symptoms and restore brain function to reduce cravings and the risk of relapse. While medically assisted withdrawal is an effective first step for how to help a drug addict during the recovery process, further treatment is essential for users to change their behaviors as otherwise they quickly return to their old habits. Medications used for treatment purposes are available to help with addictions to alcohol and opiates, though those to treat abuse of cocaine, amphetamines and marijuana are currently under development. The medications used during treatment are tailored to an addict’s needs, so if they abuse multiples substances, this will be taken into account when drawing up a treatment plan.
Behavioral treatments are designed to help users change their thoughts and behaviors regarding substance abuse, while helping them to adopt healthy habits and skills. Motivational interviewing is beneficial at the start of the recovery process, as it assesses someone’s readiness to change and enter treatment. One of the most widely used treatments is cognitive behavioral therapy, which gives addicts the skills to identify, avoid and manage situations where they are more likely to misuse substances. Motivational incentives, which use healthy rewards to recognize someone’s avoidance of drink and drugs, is also an effective strategy to reinforce abstinence. Finally, effective addiction programs also offer family therapy, which not only helps users to identify additional factors that may have contributed to drug taking, but also aims to enhance overall functioning within the family unit.
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