How to Help an Addict Who Doesn't Want Help
In This Article
Signs Your Loved One is an Alcoholic
Alcoholism is the most severe form of problem drinking. It describes an intense and often uncontrollable desire to drink alcohol.
Those experiencing alcoholism will often place drinking above all other obligations and responsibilities, including work and family. They may also develop a physical tolerance to alcohol or experience withdrawal symptoms if they quit drinking.
It can be challenging to spot the signs of alcoholism, as those suffering from the condition may be secretive about it. They may also become angry if confronted.
The following are signs and symptoms of alcoholism:
- A lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Appearing intoxicated more regularly
- Needing to drink more to achieve the same effects
- Appearing fatigued, unwell, or irritable
- An inability to say no to alcohol
- Anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems
- Becoming secretive or dishonest
- Denial of addiction or hiding alcohol use
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Signs Your Loved One is Addicted to Drugs
Similarly, there are common signs and symptoms of drug addiction. Like those addicted to alcohol, those hooked on drugs often make acquiring their next hit their main priority in life, above family relationships and work.
If your loved one displays any of the following signs, they may be experiencing drug addiction:
- Obsessive thoughts and actions towards drugs
- A disregard of harm caused by their substance abuse
- An inability to say no to drugs
- Denial of addiction or hiding drug use
- Enlarged or small pupils
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Bloodshot eyes
- Unusual body odor
- Poor physical coordination
- An unkempt appearance
- Slurred speech
How to Help an Addict Who Doesn’t Want Help
If a loved one does not want help with their addiction, you can take several steps to help them find the treatment they need. These include:
1. Educate Yourself About Addiction
Before you confront your loved one, take the time to learn about addiction, detox, withdrawal symptoms, and the treatment options available. The more you know, the better you can handle the situation confidently and calmly.
Understanding what the person is experiencing, at least on a scientific level, will help you speak knowledgeably when it is time to discuss the addiction.
2. Offer Support
When you are ready to speak with your loved one, avoid sounding judgmental or patronizing about their alcohol or drug abuse. Let your loved one know that you are aware of the problem and offer your love and support. Go through the treatment options available and encourage them to seek professional help.
3. Follow Through on Consequences
Many friends and family members threaten severe consequences for loved ones with substance use disorders who refuse treatment. However, someone with addiction problems may see these as idle, empty threats.
If you say you will enforce consequences, you must follow through with them. Whether you threaten to leave the family home or say you will take away the car, you must be willing to do it.
4. Stop Enabling the Addiction
It is essential to know the difference between helping and enabling someone with addiction problems. If you are financially supporting someone with alcoholism or lying to help them hide their drug addiction issues, then you are enabling them.
If you notice that you are enabling the addiction, stop it immediately. Once you stop enabling the addiction, your loved one will recognize the consequences of their actions. Additionally, by refusing to allow your loved one’s addiction, you make it more challenging for them to keep feeding it.
If you cannot convince your loved one to seek support on your own, consider hiring a professional interventionist before the situation worsens. If the individual with the addiction problem is your child or partner, you may also have the chance to seek legal intervention.
6. Seek Help for Yourself
It is also essential to look after yourself and seek help if you experience mental health issues related to your loved one’s addiction. Consider attending support groups for relatives, partners, and friends of people suffering from addiction, such as Al-Anon.
What NOT to Do If You Want to Help an Addict
Living with an addict can cause stress, frustration, and unhappiness. The experience can deeply affect you. Understandably, your instinct would be to do everything to stop the addiction. You feel pressured to help your loved one. But you don't have to do everything.
Here's a list of what NOT to do if you want to help an addict:
Don't Blame Yourself
Addicted loved ones typically blame their addiction on circumstances or other people around them. Don't fall for it. If your loved one is a drug addict or an alcoholic, they will abuse the drug or drink alcohol no matter what you say or do. It is not your fault.
Don't Take it Personally
When a person promises they'll never drink again (or promises they'll stop taking drugs) but goes back on their word after a while, it's easy for their loved ones to take the broken promises personally.
It's tempting to think that if they really love you, they would be true to their words. But remember, an addicted person's brain chemistry may have changed from substance abuse. It's the alcohol or the drugs that are making their choices and decisions for them.
Don't Try to Control it
As a friend or a loved one of an addicted person, it's natural if you want to try everything to get your loved one to stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol. While you only want what's best for them, this can actually backfire and cause you more frustration and disappointment.
The truth this, you have no control over your loved one nor the situation. Not even the addicted person can control their actions, even if they try. When a crisis happens, watch from a distance. Because it is during a crisis (e.g., getting arrested with a DUI or getting fired from a job) that the addicted person will finally realize that they need help.
Don't Try to Cover it Up
Addicted individuals usually don't want to know the full extent of their addiction. They are afraid that if someone finds out, they will offer help. However, an addicted person's denial shouldn't be your denial, too. Their distorted sense of reality should not affect the real situation. The best approach is to deal with the problem honestly and openly.
Don't Accept Unacceptable Behavior
Take unacceptable behavior for what is - an unacceptable behavior. If you brush it off as "they're just high" or "they're just drunk," the next time will be worse. Before you know it, you find yourself in an abusive relationship.
Protect yourself and the people around you from unacceptable behavior. If you have a family member who is an addict, protect your kids. Abuse is abuse, and it is not, nor ever will be, acceptable.
Consequences of Waiting Until an Addict Hits Rock Bottom
Waiting for a person struggling with addiction to hit rock bottom before seeking treatment is incredibly dangerous. Sometimes, it can be deadly.
For some people, showing up to work drunk and getting fired may be enough to prompt them to seek help. Taking enough drugs to go into a coma may be the turning point for others. However, for certain people, rock bottom may mean death.
Reaching ‘rock bottom’ often has devastating and lasting consequences, including issues with finances, relationships, and health.
Additionally, assuming that someone needs to hit a dangerously low point in life before seeking addiction treatment suggests no other factors that may lead to their recovery process.
How Addiction Negatively Affects Family Members
Partners, children, and parents who watch a loved one struggle with addiction experience emotional, financial, medical, and legal problems, among others.
The effects of drug and alcohol addiction can be short-term and long-term. Once peaceful and happy homes can be torn by the strain resulting from drug and alcohol abuse. Conflict within a family may become typical and expected. Trust may begin to erode, and healthy communication can be more challenging.
Effective Treatment Options for Addiction
There are various treatment options for drug and alcohol addiction, including:
Individuals who suddenly stop taking alcohol or drugs may experience withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms must be managed with professional medical support.
Certain medications and devices can help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms during detoxification. While detox is not substance abuse treatment itself, it is the first step in the addiction recovery process. It is usually done inside a treatment center. Patients who do not receive any additional treatment following detox usually continue their alcohol or drug use.
There are medications available to establish usual brain function and reduce cravings for the following drugs:
- Opioids (heroin, prescription pain relievers)
- Tobacco (nicotine)
Scientists are still developing other medicines to address stimulant and cannabis addictions. People who abuse more than one drug require treatment for all the substances they use. Taking more than one drug is common for those experiencing addiction.
Long-term residential inpatient treatment offers those with addiction problems care 24 hours a day from health care providers. Typically, residential treatment occurs in non-hospital settings.
The best-known residential treatment program approach is the therapeutic community (TC.) This treatment model provides planned lengths of stay between six and 12 months.
TCs focus on the patient's resocialization and use the recovery program’s community as active members of the treatment process. These community members include other residents and staff members.
Treatment concentrates on developing personal accountability and responsibility as well as encouraging patients to be sociable. Treatment is extremely structured and can be intense at times, with activities introduced to patients who need help assessing damaging beliefs, self-concepts, and destructive patterns of behavior. They are encouraged to develop new, more constructive, and harmonious methods of communicating and interacting with others.
Many TCs provide other services onsite, including employment training and other support facilities.
Questions About Addiction Treatment?
If you have any further questions, we’re here to help. Call us at Addiction Group, and we will answer any queries regarding addiction treatment.
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- "If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs," National Institute on Drug Abuse, October 2019.
- "Helping a Friend with an Addiction," University of Rochester Medical Center.
- Kirouac, Megan, and Katie Witkiewitz. “Identifying "Hitting Bottom" Among Individuals with Alcohol Problems: Development and Evaluation of the Noteworthy Aspects of Drinking Important to Recovery (NADIR),” Substance use & misuse vol. 52,12 : 1602-1615.
- Lander, Laura et al. “The impact of substance use disorders on families and children: from theory to practice,” Social work in public health vol. 28,3-4 : 194-205.
- "Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts," National Institute of Drug Abuse, January 2019.
- "Helping a Friend with an Addiction," University of Rochester Medical Center.