Knowing how to help a friend with drug addiction can be challenging and emotionally draining. However, with the right support and advice, you can play an incredibly important role in helping them to get onto the path to recovery.
You might have an idea where to start, but in this article, we’ll be discussing a number of ways you can help a friend who is struggling with substance use and help make a positive difference in their life. We also provide advice to those who are actively using drugs and want to get back on the right track.
Signs a Friend Might Have a Drug Addiction
Understanding the signs and symptoms of drug addiction and being able to recognise these symptoms in someone you care about is one of the first steps you can take to help someone.
It’s important to remember that drug addiction signs can vary from person to person, and your friend may also be covering up how they really feel as well as their addiction. Typically speaking, some of the most common symptoms of drug addiction include:
- Physical signs – Weight loss or weight gain, bloodshot eyes, dilated or constricted pupils, poor personal hygiene, unexplained injuries and nosebleeds. Consider looking out for withdrawal symptoms, which can differ depending on the substance use disorder.
- Behavioural changes – Withdrawing from friends, family members and social activities, secretive behaviour, financial problems and changes in friendship groups. Hanging out in new places that seem out of character may also be a cause for concern, as they may be sourcing illegal substances.
- Psychological effects – Obvious signs of a decline in mental health, such as mood swings, aggression, irritability, depression, anxiety, a lack of motivation or noticeable changes in personality.
It’s important to remember that your friend may not show all of the above symptoms. For example, some people may be able to hide physical and mental health symptoms in front of others. But if something has made you question their behaviour, trust your instincts and take action.
Understanding Drug Addiction
Another step you can take in helping your loved one is to try and fully understand what addiction is. In short, it often isn’t a choice and is instead a serious health condition that requires support and guidance. Drug addiction is classified as a complex brain disease that is characterised by compulsive behaviour to seek out drugs and use them despite the negative consequences it will have.
Addiction can affect anyone – regardless of their age, lifestyle, background or financial status. While there isn’t an exact cause of addiction, what we do know is that it can be influenced by genetic predisposition, psychological factors and environmental triggers.
If you do have a friend who is suffering from addiction, it’s important not to judge or criticise and instead approach the situation with understanding and empathy. Addiction is not a failure in life but a serious medical condition.
And if you do have a friend who is struggling with drug use, they are not alone. NHS Digital has revealed their Drug Misuse report, which states that nearly 4% of adults between the ages of 16-59 have used a Class A drug within the last year. This percentage equates to around 1.3 million people.
What’s more, every year, there are thousands of drug-related deaths in England and Wales, and the number of hospital admissions related to drug-related accidents and injuries is also increasing, according to the Office of National Statistics. These stats alone highlight the importance of getting help for addiction amongst friends.
How to Help a Friend with a Drug Addiction
There are a variety of ways that you can support a friend who is struggling with drug use, but it requires compassion, empathy and the right guidance. This includes:
In order for your friend to want to recover, you need to show them that you’re there for them and understand what they’re going through.
Even though addiction can be hard to understand, judging or criticising their behaviour will only likely push them further away from recovery and can make them defensive and shy away. It’s okay to express your concern but make sure it’s coming from a place of love. Listen with empathy and let them know you’re there for them.
For many, discussing their drug use is very difficult. Clear and non-judgemental communication is key if you want your friend to know that you’re there for them and also open up to you.
Be honest with them, engage in open conversations and give them the chance to really express their feelings. Actively listen and, again, voice your concern. It’s important to be prepared for denial or even anger, as these can be common reactions. But simply encourage them to share their feelings and remind them that your concern is coming from a place of love, as well as the fact that you want to help them.
For those who do not suffer from drug addiction, it can be hard to understand. It can be scary to witness a loved one deteriorate right in front of your eyes. But the worst thing you can do in this scenario is approach the topic with an overly emotional appeal or be visibly panicked. Instead, try your hardest to stay as positive as you can.
If you approach the conversation by focusing too much on the negative consequences of their drug and alcohol use, as opposed to sharing more of a positive message centred around kindness and compassion, then you risk pushing them away even further.
Although we know it’s hard, try to keep the conversation, of course, serious – but also try to take a more optimistic approach to this delicate subject.
Interventions are when a close friend or family member stages a structured conversation with the individual suffering from addiction with the aim of getting them to agree to rehab or medical treatment.
Interventions should be done carefully, as these situations have a chance of escalating if not handled correctly. Be sure to hold an intervention in a space that is familiar, with only people who are close to your friend present.
In the conversation, those involved have the opportunity to express how they are feeling about the current drug use that is happening, highlight their concern for the individual and also explain the consequences of the individual continuing to behave in a certain way. The aim is to express your love, concern and support while encouraging them to seek professional help.
Getting Professional Help
Addiction is a hugely challenging journey, and recovery isn’t a straightforward process. That’s why encouraging your loved one to seek professional help is essential for their long-term recovery.
To help them out, you could research help in the local community, including Narcotics Anonymous (NA), as well as community programmes, support groups and counselling services. It may be that you also look into specialist rehab centres and provide your friend with the relevant information. By offering them contact details or even contacting the team on their behalf, you’re showing your friends that you are there for them. You could also offer to attend meetings with them if that makes them more comfortable.
How Action Rehab Can Help
Of course, supporting a friend through drug addiction and recovery is never easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding. By understanding the signs of addiction as well as what addiction really is, approaching your loved ones with compassion and empathy and encouraging them to get help and speak to a professional, you can help them to get their life back on track.
It’s important to remember that addiction is a complex and serious disease, and recovery is also a lifelong process. But to really help your friend, you need to be patient and understanding and continuously remind them that they’re not alone. This can take a toll on loved ones, so remember to take care of yourself, too.
If you require any additional help with drug addiction or want to know how to help addicts, the team at Action Rehab can advise on the various treatment options available to your friend and help them access the right treatment fast.
We frequently receive referrals from friends of those who are struggling. So, if you need help with knowing what to do, making sure they receive the help they need or simply a shoulder to lean on whilst you figure out what treatment options are available, get in touch with us today.