Nearly half of all Americans have a family member or close friend struggling with a substance abuse disorder, addiction, or alcoholism. So if you’re wondering how to help an addict, you’re far from alone. Addiction is a disease that impacts not just the person with a substance abuse problem, but also their friends, family members, and loved ones.
Watching someone struggle with a substance abuse disorder is difficult because addiction has the potential to alter thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. During addiction, it’s common to experience increased conflict, which can make it hard to understand how to help an addict.
Addiction as a Disease
Addiction is defined as a chronic mental health disorder that causes you to compulsively use your substance of choice despite experiencing negative consequences as a result of your use and having a genuine desire to stop. Drugs and alcohol are powerful and intoxicating mood-altering substances that impact the way you think, perceive, problem-solve, and act. That means struggling with an addiction can cause drastic personality changes, which can lead to damaged and unhealthy relationships.
Signs and symptoms of addiction include:
- Needing to use as soon as you wake up
- Going to work, school, or social engagements intoxicated
- Engaging in dangerous activities because of your substance use
- Denying or hiding that you have a substance abuse problem
- Feeling guilt, shame, or remorse about your substance use
- Increasing your use as your tolerance builds
The longer you struggle with a substance abuse problem, the more you’re at risk for dealing with severe consequences. Since your liver is responsible for filtering impurities, abusing drugs and alcohol can lead to liver and organ damage. Addiction also aggravates and worsens underlying mental health and medical conditions.
Addiction can also cause:
- Financial problems and debt
- Diminished standard of living
- Issues finding and keeping jobs
- Increased conflict with friends, loved ones, and family members
How to Help an Addict
When a loved one or friend is battling a substance abuse problem, understanding how to help an addict requires knowing how addiction is treated. Addiction damages neurotransmitter receptors in the brain and causes severe neurotransmitter imbalances, as your brain becomes dependent on your substance of choice to release neurotransmitters.
This means that during recovery, your brain has to slowly heal and relearn how to properly release neurotransmitters, which can take time. That means one of the best ways to help a loved one or friend with a substance abuse problem is to help them find treatment.
Knowing how to help an addict can be especially difficult if you don’t know what treatment options are available. Substance abuse treatment programs include both inpatient and outpatient options. Inpatient substance abuse treatment is the highest level of care, making it a great fit if your loved one has a severe or lengthy addiction.
Substance abuse treatment incorporates both evidence-based and holistic therapies. Evidence-based treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, focus on helping you learn healthy coping strategies. Treatment also helps you improve your problem-solving and communication skills.
The goal of substance abuse treatment is to learn how to manage symptoms, like triggers and cravings. Since addiction is chronic and incurable, recovery requires knowing how to handle symptoms like triggers and cravings.
Connecting with a Treatment Center Today
When a loved one is struggling with an addiction, it can make it difficult to understand how to help an addict. Because addiction causes changes in behavior, it’s important to remember that it’s common for people with a substance abuse disorder to make poor and irrational decisions.
Connecting your loved one with a treatment center is the single best way to help them recover. To find out more about our treatment programs, or to discuss how to help an addict, reach out to us today at 1.713.528.3709.