2 MIN READ | Clinical Psychology

How to Help a Loved One Who is Suffering from Addiction

Dennis Relojo-Howell

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Addiction can happen to anyone at any point in their lives. It can start as simply taking medication as prescribed, but then taking a little bit more to help with severe pain or as having a few drinks with friends then expanding to drinking every day. When a loved one is suffering from an addiction, it can be hard to watch without wanting to intervene. If you want to help, use these tips to get started.

Look into treatment options and what they include

Take some time to look into the different treatment options that are available. Many treatment facilities start with a detox program to get the drugs out of the person’s system. From there, options include inpatient treatment facilities, day treatment facilities, outpatient treatment, and sober living communities. No one option is right for everyone and, in fact, some people will use more than one of these options as they work towards their recovery.

Learn more about addiction

A huge part of being able to effectively help someone is understanding where they’re coming from and why they ended up with an addiction. Take time to learn more about addiction in general as well as addiction to alcohol or the specific drug the loved one typically takes. An understanding of what they’re going through can help when providing support and working with them through their recovery.


Support but don’t protect

Many people want to help their loved ones recover from an addiction, but they do so to the point they’re actively protecting their loved one from any bad consequences. It’s important to understand the line between support and protection as people with addiction usually need to have consequences for their behavior before they’re willing to accept help and start their recovery. Be there to support the loved one through recovery, but step back to avoid protecting them from everything.

Get help for yourself

Family and friends to people suffering from an addiction may benefit from speaking with a therapist or a counsellor on their own. They’ll get important insight into what is happening with their loved one and their own reactions to it. This is often very helpful for those who go beyond support and protect their loved one so they can learn to step back and just offer the support that’s needed.

Understand that relapses can happen

Those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol aren’t going to just go to a rehab programme and come home completely better. Many people are going to relapse and start drinking or taking drugs again. This is a part of the recovery process for many and it’s important to understand this doesn’t mean they’ve failed. Instead, understand that this is an opportunity for them to learn more about what happened, why they went back to drugs or alcohol and what they can do to avoid it later.

It can be hard to watch a loved one suffer from addiction and not know how to help. If your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, use the tips here to learn how to start helping them and supporting them through their recovery. While the recovery might be a long road, they are going to benefit greatly from having someone who understands what they’re going through and who is ready to support them when they need it.


Dennis Relojo-Howell is the world’s first blog psychologist and founder of Psychreg. He writes for the American Psychological Association and for Free Malaysia Today. 


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