There are many reasons why a person might become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Family history of addiction, traumatic childhood or life experiences, mental disorders and even the method of drug administration can all determine whether or not a person will become an addict. As the family member of an addict there is nothing worse than standing by and watching as a narcotic substance ravages the body and mind of the person you love. However, there are ways that you can help them to overcome their addiction:
Understand the signs of addiction – Drug addiction is less about the amount of substance being used by a person and more about the consequences of using the substance. Regardless of how often the substance is being used and the quantity being consumed, if the drug use has a negative and noticeable impact on the work and home life of a user then it is likely that they are an addict. If you are concerned about a family member then look out for some of the following signs which can point to drug addiction:
- Physical signs – Bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, deterioration of physical appearance and grooming, sudden weight loss or gain, changes in appetite, changes in sleep pattern, slurred speech, and impaired coordination.
- Behavioural signs – Reduced attendance and production at work or school, secretive or suspicious behaviour, sudden change in friends and hobbies, an unexplained need for money which could lead to stealing and illegal activities.
- Psychological signs – A sudden change in personality and attitude, mood swings, irritability, periods of uncharacteristic hyperactivity, lack of motivation, and paranoia.
Understand how addiction takes hold – There is a very fine line between regular, social drug use and addiction. Many drug users are not able to recognise when that line has been crossed and the problem can then spiral out of control. What starts off as the occasional joint with friends or a line of coke at a party can turn into a couple of times a week, and eventually become something that is done every day to the detriment of other aspects of life. A person may start using a particular drug as a way to ease stress, anxiety, shyness etc and eventually the drug becomes a crutch that they rely on to get them through each day, requiring more and more of the drug each time for the same high. If the drug is being used to fill a void in a person’s life then this will likely lead to addiction if they don’t have any other significant positive influences on their life, for example bereavement without the relevant emotional support from friends, family and trained professionals.
Helping someone through addiction – Once you’ve identified the signs of addiction in a loved one it can be tempting to wade straight in, stage an intervention and force them into rehabilitation. However, it is something that needs to be handled with a little more patience and tact. Here are a few ways in which you can help your loved one through their addiction:
- Talk to them about your concerns, and offer them guidance and support. It’s important not to come across as judgemental or patronizing as you don’t want to push them further into their addiction. Don’t wait for them to hit rock bottom, try to help them come to their own realisation that they need some form of drug rehab without forcing the idea onto them.
- Don’t blame yourself. All you can do is to be there offering love and support to your relative. If they are reluctant to get help for their addiction or if they keep relapsing and slipping back into their addiction then the most important thing to remember is to not blame yourself. If you’ve been there for them and offered support, non-judgemental advice and guidance then you’ve done the best you can. Sometimes the drug has just got such a hold on the person that it can take a few attempts to completely kick the habit.
- It’s important NOT to threaten, bribe or preach to your addicted relative; don’t try to be a martyr and guilt-trip your relative into seeking help; don’t shield them from the negative consequences of their behaviour, they need to see the full impact of their drug abuse; and don’t hide or throw out their drugs, this is likely to lose you trust and respect and put you back to square one.
- Remember that it won’t happen overnight. Recovering from drug addiction is not an instantaneous thing, it is a journey. The road to recovery is long and arduous, and as the relative of a drug addict the best thing you can do is to be patient, forgiving, non-judgemental and supportive. Help your relative to rebuild their life after drug addiction and ensure that they feel loved and supported enough to not go back down the same road in the future.