Witnessing someone you care about struggle with addiction can be very distressing. It can take a huge toll on your own emotional and mental well-being. Whether that person is a spouse, child, friend, parent, or another family member, it’s too simple for their addiction to take hold of them and control their life. It can test your patience, pile on the stress, leave you racked by feelings of anger, fear, guilt, and sadness, and strain your bank account.
Whether it’s prescription medication or illegal drugs, you can’t make someone stop using substances. But, there are ways you can help support them in their recovery. But, if they’re denying their addiction or refusing treatment, it’s important to learn how to help a drug addict who doesn’t want help.
Individuals begin using drugs for various reasons. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol to help them cope with the emotional pain caused by mental health issues, such as anxiety, PTSD, or depression.
Some individuals are aware they have a mental health problem, but they can’t find healthy ways to cope, so they turn to drugs. This is known as self-medicating. Others don’t receive the proper diagnosis for their mental health problem and use drugs instead to help them manage their symptoms.
Other individuals use drugs to fit in, change how they feel, or ease dissatisfaction or boredom with their lives. Then there are individuals whose addiction develops from the use of prescribed medications their doctors prescribed to them with good intentions to help treat a medical condition. Many share their prescription medications with others, not realizing the dangers of using opioids for nonmedical reasons.
Here are some other scary statistics:
- As of 2020, among individuals in the U.S. aged 12 years old and older, approximately 37,300 million were using illegal drugs within the last 30 days
- Around 21.4% (59,277 million) of individuals 12 and over have misused prescription medications or illegal drugs within the last year (as of 2020)
- Around 138,522 million individuals in the U.S. who are 12 years old and older consume alcohol
- Approximately 24.7% of individuals with drug addictions have an opioid disorder, which includes painkillers or prescription pain relievers and heroin
Regardless of what your loved one’s reason is for beginning drug use, not all people who use drugs will develop a problem. And, while it’s not clear what the exact causes of addiction are, environmental factors and genetics play a role. While one individual can use substances and not experience detrimental effects, others find even casual use to escalate quickly into compulsion and then addiction.
Symptoms of Drug Addiction
Symptoms of addiction can vary from one individual to the next, however, there are different signs that your loved one could be potentially struggling with substance use disorder. Not all people suffering from drug (or alcohol) addiction will exhibit all of these signs, but you must be aware of what they are if your loved one is showing one or several of them.
1. Being Evasive or Secretive
Admitting you have a problem is generally the initial step to recovery. Unfortunately, some individuals who are struggling with addiction will do their very best to keep their addiction hidden from others. This can include keeping secrets, avoiding clear answers to questions, or acting in irregular manners.
2. Mood Swings
Mood fluctuations can be due to the substance the individual is abusing or a result of a psychiatric condition frequently associated with addiction. Alcohol and certain illicit drugs trigger certain emotions and the frequency of abuse and the amount of the drug they’re abusing can lead to huge mood swings.
3. Loss of Interest in Activities Once Enjoyed
Drug and alcohol addiction consumes a big part of a person’s life. In turn, this gives the individual very little time to pursue the activities they once enjoyed. If you notice that your loved one stops participating in activities they typically would enjoy or no longer want to spend time with friends and family, drug or alcohol addiction could be the case.
4. Appearance and Attitude Changes
Similar to weight fluctuations, when a person is struggling with addiction, they frequently change how they live, including how they carry themselves, how they dress, and how they treat other people.
5. Not Meeting Obligations
Addiction can overtake a person’s rational thinking. This includes going to work, meeting deadlines, finishing tasks, and so forth. A big sign of drug addiction is when a person you would typically see as driven and responsible begins to stop meeting their obligations or commitments because they don’t seem to care any longer.
6. New Health Problems
You might notice new health issues in your loved one such as appearing run-down or fatigued often, changes in their sleep schedule, pronounced weight gain or weight loss, bloodshot or glassy eyes, or cognition issues like forgetfulness. Depending on which drug they’re abusing, they might also exhibit frequent nosebleeds, sniffing, or shaking.
How to help a loved one
There are ways you can help your loved one who is struggling with addiction, even if they don’t want help.
1. Become Educated on Addiction
Before talking to your loved one, you should take some time to become educated on addiction, withdrawal, detox, and the different types of treatment options. The more educated you are, the better you’ll be able to approach your loved one with confidence and calmly. It will help to know what your loved one is going through, at the very least, through addiction education.
2. Offer Support
Let your loved one know that you’re there to support them no matter what. It’s simple to have a conversation with your loved one and keep the matter at hand silent, while both of you stay aware of the situation. By not bringing their addiction up in unveiling anger or direct words, you’re showing them that you want to support them without being judgmental.
3. Make them Aware of your Concerns
Ensure your loved one knows you’re worried about their well-being and care about them. Provide specific examples of the different drug-related behaviors your loved one engaged in that caused you concern and be honest with them about how it made you feel.
4. Avoid Threatening, Lecturing, or Punishing
Making emotional appeals or getting angry will likely increase your loved one’s feelings of shame or guilt and add to their compulsion to use.
5. Stop Enabling Them
If your loved one is aware of their problem and refuses to get help, stop enabling them. Don’t let them stay at your house or give them money. Often individuals with addiction will refuse treatment because they know there’s a simple way out, which is why it’s important to stop enabling them. Putting more money into your loved one’s hands when they don’t intend on getting better will only prolong their addiction and further hurt all other people involved.
Treatment can occur in a sober living or residential facility, as a hospital outpatient. Although treatment can vary depending on your loved one’s age, the type of drug they’re addicted to, or any other problems they’re facing, most options of treatment will include a variety of treatments. Treatment programs provide addicts with the support they need to recover from substance abuse.
Common treatment options include:
- Co-occurring mental health issue treatment
- Detox to rid the body of the abused substances, manage symptoms of withdrawal, and achieve stability
- Medication to help treat any co-occurring conditions and/or help with withdrawal
- Counseling, (group, individual, or family therapy or all three) to help treat the root cause of your loved one’s addiction and teach them better ways to cope
- Ongoing peer support meetings like a 12-step program will help your loved one maintain sobriety and keep their recovery on track
When a loved one has a drug addiction, it’s too easy to try and shield them from the consequences addiction can place on them. Be sure to set some healthy boundaries and encourage treatment.
Looking for Help
If you’re looking to learn how to help a drug addict who doesn’t want help, whether it’s a friend or family member, it’s time to consult the professionals. A qualified treatment facility can help the person learn healthy coping skills and recover from their substance use disorder. Turning Tides Treatment Center can offer your loved one effective treatment to help get them on the road to lasting sobriety and recovery.
Here at Turning Tides, we are committed to helping our patients release themselves from addiction and find long-term recovery through our evidence-based therapies. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced drug addiction healthcare professionals.