Mother and daughter talking about drug use

More than 20 million Americans struggle with addiction, but only 1 in 10 who need treatment receive it. Addiction is not a problem that only happens to other people. On the contrary, it’s likely someone we know could be struggling with the disease.

You may wonder if you’re overreacting to a loved one’s substance use, especially when our culture normalizes images of drinking and using drugs. But if you notice your friend or family member is having trouble maintaining relationships at work or home, in declining health, getting into more frequent legal or financial issues, or having trouble realizing their own self-worth, it is likely their substance use has turned into a problem.

If you suspect a friend or family member is using drugs, it can be difficult to know what to do. While there is no foolproof roadmap to approaching someone about their addiction, these tips can help you process your feelings and react in a helpful way.

  • Become educated about addiction. Many harmful stereotypes and stigma exist around addiction. Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone and there are many different factors that can lead someone to use. Do your research before broaching the topic with your loved one so you can avoid stigmatizing language and have a productive conversation about your concerns.
  • Bring up your concerns in a tranquil, safe space. It’s never a good idea to approach a loved one about their substance use at a bar, party or in another social situation when you suspect they might be using. It’s best to have this conversation when you are both level-headed and calm so your loved one feels comfortable discussing the situation.
  • Don’t place blame or make assumptions about why they use. Addiction can be caused by mental, emotional, and behavioral health issues that are not always apparent to others. Rather than jumping to conclusions about their substance use, try to encourage a conversation where your loved one feels safe, respected, and heard.
  • Recognize they may not be ready to face their recovery. No matter how many examples you provide your loved one of concerning situations related to their substance use, they may not be ready to acknowledge the problem. This can be frustrating and emotionally taxing, but you have to recognize that you can’t force your loved one to get help. Remind them you care and try to revisit the topic in the future if things don’t get better.
  • Let them know you’re there for them if they need help. Often, people with substance use issues don’t know how to get help or they’re afraid of how they might feel in recovery. Let them know you’ll be there to support them every step of the way. Sometimes a person needs reassurance to take that first step towards recovery.

If a friend or loved one is ready to get help for their substance use disorder, contact us at 833-505-HOPE today.

Kate Favata

Kate Favata is Community Relations Liaison in Pennyslvania.