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How to Help a Person with Addiction Get Treatment

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Addiction is a family disease. Meaning, it doesn’t just impact those with substance use disorder; it impacts their family, friends, and even their working relationships. Helping your loved one get the help they need may feel impossible. Perhaps you’ve tried to talk to them about addiction treatment but can’t get through. Or maybe they realise they need help, but they didn’t follow through on your suggestions. 

Either way, experts say there are some key factors to consider when trying to get a loved one to attend drug or alcohol rehab

What is substance use disorder?

According to The Ridge, substance use disorder is the medical term used to describe addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder, characterised by compulsive drug-seeking behaviours despite the impact of those actions.

The key thing to know about addiction is that it is a lot like other diseases, such as diabetes. Meaning it is progressive, causing harmful and potentially fatal effects if untreated. But effective addiction treatment is available, which can help lead to a life in recovery.

What causes addiction?

According to NIDA, there are several risk factors that contribute to the risk of developing substance use disorders, including:

  • Adverse childhood experiences, such as witnessing or experiencing aggressive behaviour
  • Trauma
  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Peer pressure and the availability of drugs at school
  • Poverty

While these factors alone don’t necessarily mean a person may develop an addiction, there are other environmental, social, and genetic risks that increase the risk. Such as living in a home environment where addiction is present, using drugs at an early age, and peer drug use. 

How do I figure out if my loved one is addicted?

According to Harvard Medical School, people with addiction tend to display the following symptoms:

  • Mild to intense cravings for substances
  • Loss of control over substance use
  • Continuing to engage in substance use despite harmful consequences

If your loved one is displaying these symptoms, they may have a problem or be struggling with addiction.

How can you help an addicted person?

There are several ways you can help a person with substance use disorder, including:

  • Educate yourself about addiction. The first step in trying to support someone with substance use disorder is to educate yourself about the condition. Try to place yourself in their shoes and understand 
  • Acknowledge the problem. Now that you know what addiction looks like you can help your loved one identify the ways that it has impacted their lives and those around them.
  • Find professional help. Experts can help in a number of ways. First They can help you to address the problem. Sometimes speaking to a loved one isn’t enough, and we have to seek the guidance of an interventionist who can expertly guide the family through the process. Second, an addiction professional will be able to assess your loved one for the appropriate addiction treatment. Third, by researching treatment professionals, you will have a list of resources to support your loved one when they are ready to take the next step.
  • Focus on building trust. When speaking to your loved one about addiction it’s important to be empathetic, respectful, and considerate of their circumstances. With a highly stigmatised condition like addiction, oftentimes the person struggling is thought of as in control of the situation when in fact addiction is a medical condition that overrides rational thought. By treating your loved one as if they have a chronic medical condition, you’re more likely to build trust so that they feel comfortable confiding in you and seeking your help and support. 
  • Find support for yourself. Just as addiction is a family disease, recovery is for the whole family, too. Addiction damages relationships and for recovery to be effective it works best when the whole family is involved in the recovery process.
  • Expect challenges. As with any chronic condition, treatment and remission can be a difficult process full of roadblocks. Rarely is it smooth sailing and so anticipating challenges will help you and your family be more successful in sustained recovery.

Which treatment is most effective in treating addiction?

There is a range of recovery pathways depending on the level of intervention required and the severity of the addiction. The main categories of professional addiction treatment include:

Clinical treatments

The main clinical pathways outlined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine include:

    • Prevention/early intervention. This might involve working with a provider, reducing consumption, and mindful use. 
    • Level 1: outpatient services. This might be a day rehabilitation programme a few days or evenings a week.
    • Level 2: intensive outpatient and partial hospitalisation. These services might include attending rehab most days of the week but being able to return home in the evening. 
    • Level 3: residential/inpatient. Clinically managed low and high-intensity residential services. Think of this option as a rehab with medical support. 
    • Level 4: intensive inpatient. This option involves staying in a medical facility with 24-hour medical care.

Behavioural therapies

licensed counsellors, therapists, and social workers can help to work with individuals in weekly counselling/therapy sessions individually and/or in group settings. Therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, contingency management, motivational interviewing and many more. Sometimes behavioural therapy is used alone for mild cases of addiction but is often used in conjunction with clinical treatments

Medication-assisted treatment

There is a range of evidence-based approaches to addiction treatment that include medication-assisted treatment (also called pharmacotherapy).

Holistic therapies

treatments like yoga, meditation, equine therapy, massage, and reflexology. These are all holistic therapies that can be used with other treatments to support the recovery process. 

Mutual-aid recovery

Recovery support meetings are a helpful way for people seeking recovery to connect with one another and feel supported. There are various free meetings to choose from, and each varies in format and program of recovery, including:

What is the first step in the treatment process for addiction?

The first step in the addiction treatment process is acknowledging that there is a problem. That might mean listing the ways that addiction has affected you, or your loved one and the negative consequences of use; such as debt, legal difficulties, losing your job, and not fulfilling your responsibilities.

Once you or your loved one has admitted the problem, finding treatment is much easier than staying stuck in denial.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.


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