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How to Help Someone Suffering from Addiction: Your 6-Step Guide

Addiction is a disease that can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. Without swift intervention from an experienced addiction treatment specialist, problems can worsen and eventually impact the person’s entire family. If you know someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you may find yourself wishing you could do something to help your loved one. The good news is that there are many steps you can take to help a friend or family member who is battling addiction. Below are six ways to help someone suffering from addiction along with the single most important step you can take to provide support.

1) Let your friend or loved one know they are not alone

People struggling with addiction often feel a tremendous sense of isolation. Some may feel as if they are alone on an island grappling with their addiction while others are embarrassed to talk about their addiction challenges. Successful recovery begins by putting these notions aside and recognizing that addiction is a disease that affects over 21 million Americans.

One of the best things you can do is to educate your friend or loved one about these statistics and let them know that they are not alone. A good source to cite is The Surgeon General’s Landmark Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, which projects that one in seven Americans will develop a substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives.

2) Help them compare available treatment options

Sometimes people become so overwhelmed by their addiction that they do not know where to turn for help. You can get the treatment process started by providing some initial guidance regarding available options. Here are some qualities to seek as you help your loved one compare options:

  • Detox Treatment: The path to sobriety begins with safe detox treatment that takes place under medical supervision.
  • A Holistic Treatment Approach: Top programs emphasize a holistic treatment approach that features a variety of treatment services.
  • Confidential and Private: Clinics that emphasize confidentiality and offer private rooms are good choices that allow a focus on treatment.

3) Take your loved one to treatment

It sounds simple, but simply driving your loved one to their detox appointment can help get the treatment process started on the right foot. In addition to providing safe transportation to their treatment clinic, you can provide verbal support during the car ride and help reduce the chance that your loved one will abandon their treatment plans.

If your schedule permits, offer to provide transportation to and from subsequent outpatient treatment appointments. This will help ensure that your friend or family member receives the ongoing care they need to properly recover. If you are unable to provide transportation yourself, you can coordinate with another friend or family member to share transportation duties.

4) Provide positive reinforcement when milestones are reached

Encouragement and unconditional positive regard can have a marked impact on a person’s treatment outcome and long-term recovery. Verbal praise, written recognition, and even a smile can provide the boost that a person needs to stay on track with treatment. Here are some examples of ways that you can encourage a person recovering from addiction to continue to make sound treatment choices:

  • Written Praise: You can send a text or card that reads, “Way to make it through detox! Stay strong!”
  • Verbal Reinforcement: You can call your friend to say, “Congratulations on completing your outpatient treatment program!”
  • A Smile and a Hug: Sometimes actions speak louder than words. Give your friend a warm smile and hug for sticking to their treatment plan.

5) Encourage healthy habits  

“…Many patients with various substance use disorders have found that exercise helps to distract them from cravings. Workouts add structure to the day. They help with forming positive social connections, and help treat depression and anxiety in combination with other therapies.” – Claire Twark, MD, Harvard Medical School

Good physical health plays a key role in a person’s overall wellness. A nutritious diet, sufficient sleep, and work-life balance can help reduce stress and focus on treatment. Exercise, in particular, is associated with improved health and successful addiction treatment. Encourage your loved one to establish an exercise routine and stick to it. Regular exercise may help minimize cravings while promoting relationships with new people who lead a healthful lifestyle.

6) Continue to offer support after completion of treatment

Recovery from addiction does not occur in a vacuum. It is an ongoing process that requires a commitment to sobriety and the ability to resist temptations that may arise outside the supportive walls of a treatment clinic.

The best thing you can do to support your loved one after treatment is to continue to offer your support and encouragement. Here are just a few examples of ways you can lend help after completion of treatment:

  • Encourage follow-up care. Encourage your loved one to attend outpatient appointments as recommended by their treatment provider.
  • Help them avoid triggers. Advise them to steer clear of bars or parties at homes where drug use frequently occurred in the past.
  • Be aware of the signs of relapse. Look for signs such as missed treatment appointments and increased absenteeism from work.
  • Recognize and celebrate milestones. Treat your loved one to lunch at their favorite restaurant when they attain one year of sobriety.

What is the most important way you can help a person suffering from addiction?

As outlined above, there are many things a friend or family member can do to support a loved one who is battling addiction. However, the single most important thing you can do is to encourage them to seek treatment right away from a reputable addiction treatment specialist. With the help of an experienced treatment provider, your loved one can safely cease their substance use and begin to regain control of their life.

As a leading provider of addiction treatment in Pennsylvania, BrainSpark Health has helped hundreds of people overcome their addictions and achieve sobriety. We invite you to contact us at BrainSpark Health to discover why people across the country trust us to provide the confidential, professional addiction treatment they deserve. We look forward to helping your loved one regain control of their life.