How to Help an Addict

Addiction affects the whole family. Here’s how to help an addict you love.

Family members of an addicted individual are often at a loss over how to help an addict they love. Sometimes it’s difficult to bring up the subject with an addicted loved one, who may be in denial about the addiction or who may get hostile or defensive when you try to talk about their drug or alcohol use. 

Addiction is a family disease, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. It leads to uncertainty and chaos in the household and reduces the wellbeing of family members. It puts everyone under undue stress and leads to unhealthy coping behaviors on the part of family members, which can further perpetuate the addiction.

Here are some tips on how to help an addict you love and how to cope with addiction in your family.

Understand Addiction

The most important way to help your addicted family member is to understand addiction. Addiction is not a choice, and it’s not a moral failing. It’s a medical disease that causes changes in the functions and structures of the brain and leads to compulsive drug or alcohol use despite the negative consequences it causes. Addiction changes thought and behavior patterns, which is why your addicted loved one may not seem to be the same person he once was.

Understanding how addiction develops and how it changes the brain and affects thought and behavior patterns is essential for understanding how to help an addict. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a great place to learn about addiction, how it develops, and how it affects brain function and behavior.

Get Support

A family member’s addiction affects the whole family. Family members commonly develop enabling and co-dependent behaviors as they struggle to cope with the addiction and the problems it causes in the family.

Enabling and co-dependent behaviors–such as using drugs or alcohol with the addicted person to “keep an eye” on them, taking over the addicted family member’s responsibilities, or putting all of your focus and energy on the addicted family member while neglecting your own self-care–can keep your loved one from facing the devastating reality of the addiction.

It’s essential for family members to get help. Individual therapy helps each family member learn to cope with the addiction in healthy ways and end enabling and codependent behaviors. Children living in a household with an addicted person are at a high risk for developing substance abuse problems down the road, and therapy can help reduce that risk by helping them develop essential coping skills.

Joining a support group like Al-Anon or Alateen can help you and other family members learn how to cope with addiction in your family.

Talk to Your Addicted Loved One

Once you understand addiction and have the support you need through therapy and a support group, you’ll be better informed and able to talk to your loved one about the addiction. If your loved one gets angry or defensive when you try to talk about it or denies that there’s a problem, an intervention may help. Interventions are meetings between an addicted person and the important people in her life, during which concerned loved ones lovingly confront the addicted person and explain how the addiction is affecting them. Interventions that are planned and executed with the help of a professional have a 90 percent success rate in getting the addicted family member into treatment.

The Family Role in Addiction Recovery

Family support is a major factor in successful recovery, and the family role in addiction recovery can’t be understated. During treatment, your addicted loved one will develop the skills needed for sobriety and address the underlying causes of the addiction. High quality treatment programs offer programming for family members to help them learn how to best support their loved one’s recovery.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that good intentions and willpower are rarely enough to end an addiction for the long-term. Professional help is almost always needed. A holistic treatment program that addresses issues of body, mind, and spirit has been shown through research to be the most effective treatment approach, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

WhiteSands Treatment offers comprehensive inpatient and outpatient treatment programs that take a holistic approach to treatment for whole-person and whole-family healing. Contact us today for more information on how to help your loved one beat an addiction once and for all. Call (877) 855-3470 now.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.