Addiction and substance misuse can have a serious impact on any individual’s well-being. Alcohol alone is the single biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49-year-olds in the UK, and the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages.
The misuse of illegal or prescription drugs can also cause, influence or exacerbate a wide range of physical and mental illnesses and other health conditions.
It is not only the person involved in the drinking or drug use who is affected, however. Addiction tends to be accompanied by a range of harmful behaviours that could include dishonesty, violence, theft, mood swings, the neglect of responsibilities and more. All of this can be very distressing for family members, partners, friends and other people close to the addict.
Addiction can also have a wider impact in the workplace, school and other settings.
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If you have been watching someone you care about damage themselves and others with drugs or alcohol, you might be wondering how you can help. Getting the person to attend rehab is one hugely positive step forward as this has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to treat addiction, enabling a full and long-lasting recovery.
At the end of the day though, the person must attend rehab voluntarily. You cannot ‘send’ someone to rehab but you can certainly offer them love and support and help them to make the best decisions for themselves.
The Warning Signs of Addiction
There are some symptoms of addiction that the addict themselves may notice, such as needing to take more drugs or alcohol for the same effect, feeling ill-effects (withdrawal symptoms) when they don’t use drugs or alcohol, feeling strong cravings and anxiety about situations where they will not be able to drink or use drugs. People with a substance misuse problem will often be in denial about the extent and sometimes even the existence of their problems, however.
Some warning signs that may be visible to others could include:
- Directly observing heavy or frequent drinking/drug use
- Problem behaviour when intoxicated
- Blackouts or loss of memory
- Evidence of drinking or using drugs alone; secrecy and hiding ‘evidence’
- Choosing drinking or drug use over other activities, friends and family
- Drinking or using drugs at inappropriate times and places
- Becoming isolated and distant from friends and family
- Mood swings and changes in behaviour
- Neglecting themselves and their responsibilities
Some of these may be signs of other problems, such as depression, and the list is not an exhaustive one. If any of the above apply though, there may be an addiction or at least a substance misuse issue that needs to be addressed.
Talking to Someone About Their Addiction
The first thing that you can do to help someone with a substance misuse or addiction problem is to talk to them – although that is sometimes easier said than done. It can be very difficult to know what to say or how to approach and many people are not initially receptive to talking about these issues and may react with hostility. In general terms you should try to remain calm and supportive and not get angry, even if their behaviour has been problematic. This may mean waiting until they are ready to talk and not trying to shame them into talking before they are ready.
At the same time, you should avoid enabling their drinking or drug use and there is often a fine line to walk here. You certainly shouldn’t procure or fund their substance misuse and problem behaviour can be calmly addressed – preferably at a time when they are sober and relatively calm themselves. Taking on a person’s tasks or responsibilities when they are struggling can also seem like a good thing in the short-term but in the longer term this may be counter-productive.
Do You Need to Intervene?
One valuable way to get people to face up to their drink and drug issues could be an intervention. This is generally staged with friends, family and others close to the person and it allows everyone involved to discuss the impact of the subject’s drinking or drug use. They may not be aware of the impact their behaviour is having on others.
Again, this should all be done in as calm a manner as possible, without angry recriminations. This can be difficult, as these things can get heated if not planned and carried out properly. Many people find that having a trained professional who is experienced in leading interventions can help to keep things on track and provide the best chances of a successful result. The aim is to help the subject of the intervention to accept that they need help, such as a treatment programme at a residential rehabilitation centre. Once they do, you can still help with all the practicalities involved.
Booking a Loved One into Rehab
When a person is struggling with an addiction they not generally at their most organised and capable. You can help them to find the right rehab for them via a service like Action Rehab. We work with a range of different rehab centres and can help find the one that provides the best fit for their individual needs and circumstances, whether it is local or further afield.
Loved ones can also help to take care of practicalities, such as organising payments and transportation to the rehab. They may even find themselves taking part in the treatment side of things, as family therapy can be a valuable part of some holistic treatment programmes. This can help the person in rehab to explore some of their emotional issues and root causes of their substance misuse, as well as helping the family as a whole to explore relationships and interactions.
We can also offer confidential advice and support to friends, family members, colleagues and workplaces if the person you are close to is not yet ready to take that step.