Dealing with an Addicted Person
How Do I Deal with a Person Who Is Addicted to Drugs?
Having someone in your life who is addicted to drugs or alcohol can be disruptive and challenging. It becomes confusing when you begin to wonder what, if anything, you can do to help or just to manage having them in your life. The most important thing to remember is that you can’t save them, but there are a few things you can do to help you relate to them and, in some cases, offer an opportunity for them to get help.
• Seek out education and support about healthy ways to interact with an addicted loved one or coworker. Groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are a good place to start.
• Do not enable them in their addiction by shielding them from the natural consequences of their behaviors (e.g., pay their rent, give them money, or make excuses for them).
• Set clear, firm boundaries around what behaviors you will and will not tolerate—and stick to them.
• Talk to addictions professionals (e.g., interventionists, counselors, doctors) about the right time to intervene, and don’t try to go it alone.
If you live, work or socialize with a drug addict, you may spend a lot of time wondering how you can help this person or whether you should help at all. Finding that line between saving someone who is addicted and saving yourself isn’t always simple, especially if the person is your spouse, a close relative, or the parent of your children. When you’re dealing with a drug addict, it’s important to remember that:
- Addiction is a disease that triggers obsessive drug seeking and drug use.
- Chemical dependence can drive a person to lie, steal, and hurt others.
- Recovery is always possible, but relapse is common.
- Family support can make a difference in the addicted person’s recovery.
- Families need their own support system to help them deal with the person who is addicted.
Finding Support and Education
Confusion, anger, frustration, fear, and sadness are common emotions for people who are close to a drug addict. It’s important to remember that it’s not your responsibility to “cure” another person’s addiction, and it’s not your fault if he or she relapses after a period of abstinence. Charles P. O’Brien and A. Thomas McLellan of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychiatry compare addiction to chronic diseases like asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis because it can change the way a person thinks and behaves, and because relapsing from treatment is common.
Relapse rates among drug addicts are notoriously high. A study of methamphetamine users published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs showed that out of 98 meth users who went through a recovery program in Los Angeles County:
- About 50 percent of the study participants went back to using meth
- Out of this percentage, 36 percent went back to using after six months
- Approximately 15 percent went back to using after seven months.
- Users who had shorter treatment times also had higher relapse rates.
Drug addicts need to be professionally evaluated and may require treatment from both medical doctors and mental health professionals. You can seek education and support from self-help groups like Nar-Anon, from a counselor or social worker, or from a spiritual advisor. We can help you find the best exclusive addiction treatment resources in your area, not only for the addict in our life, but for yourself. Call us today.
*When Helping an Addict Turns Into Enabling
There’s often a fine line between giving a drug addict your support and enabling self-destructive behavior. How do you know when you’re enabling instead of helping?
- Your help perpetuates the addiction. Examples might be paying an addict’s rent when he’s spent all his money on drugs or letting him use your cell phone to set up deals.
- You’re covering up the addict’s behavior. If you’re often calling an addict’s boss or family to lie about her erratic behavior, you’re enabling rather than helping.
- You feel like you’re being manipulated. Addicts can be extremely manipulative. If your intuition tells you that an addict is lying to you or playing with your emotions in order to get your help, you’re probably right.
- Helping the addict endangers your own welfare. If you’re late paying your own bills because you’ve been lending money to an addict, or you’re giving him rides to sketchy neighborhoods so he can score, it’s time to stop enabling and start looking out for yourself.
Deciding When to Intervene
There’s no ideal time to get directly involved in trying to stop an addict’s self-destructive behavior. Most interventions take place when the addict’s behavior threatens his own safety or the welfare of others. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you prepare for an intervention by educating yourself about the disease of addiction, doing some research on treatment programs and seeking advice from an addiction specialist.
Sometimes the only intervention that you need is an honest conversation with the addict. At other times, you may need help from a social worker, a medical professional or an addiction specialist. When you decide that it’s time to get help, build your support team before you have that talk or stage an intervention. Always keep in mind that your own physical and emotional well-being are as important as the addict’s welfare.