Convincing a loved one to seek help for addiction is a tricky and delicate situation. But your friend or family member’s health and well-being, and perhaps even their life, could depend on your concern and encouragement.
Contrary to what many people believe, a person does not need to hit 'rock bottom' before seeking help. Don't wait until you see your loved one lose relationships, their job, or their health as a result of substance abuse. If you suspect that your loved one is on a negative path with drugs or alcohol, you may be able to help them avoid much of the suffering that goes along with addiction.
So how do you convince your loved one to get the help they need? First you need to do your homework and make a plan.
Step 1: Learn about addiction, what causes it, what it does to the person's brain and behavior, and why treatment is necessary.
It can be difficult to confront a loved one about addiction if you don't know much about addiction and treatment options, so first you need to understand:
- The mechanism and causes of addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a great resource for understanding what addiction is, how it happens, and what types of interventions and treatments are most likely to help an individual recover. This information can be highly useful in helping you understand why treatment is needed.
- The drug or drugs being used. Different drugs have different effects on the individual’s body. Some of these may cause issues with the individual’s ability to focus or process what is being said. Others may cause the person to feel paranoid or be more likely to respond aggressively. Knowing what to expect can help.
- Whether or not there are co-occurring conditions. If a loved one turned to drugs to self-medicate depression or anxiety, or if there is potential that another mental health disorder is occurring alongside the substance abuse, it is important to understand how this affects the individual’s behavior and how treatment needs to be adjusted to be most effective under these circumstances.
- The options for treatment and when they are used. Inpatient care, outpatient treatment, aftercare, therapy, alternative treatments – each of these has a place, depending on the individual’s readiness for treatment, the degree of the abuse or addiction, and whether or not there is a high risk of relapse for the individual. Understanding what each option brings to the table can help in making an informed decision about the type of care that is needed.
Step 2: Make an intervention plan.
Making a plan for approaching a loved one about an addiction problem can help you prepare for what may happen during the conversation. Gathering a group of people who can help, and even potentially hiring an intervention specialist to help in developing the plan, can ease the burden of the conversation. It can also provide a united front in convincing the person that family and friends have their best interests at heart. Establishing the plan in advance can ensure that you have prepared responses for multiple objections that the individual might raise, making it more likely that they can be convinced of the need for treatment.
Step 3: Be objective and control emotions.
It can be easy to become emotional when confronting a loved one about addiction. Many emotions -- anger, fear, shame, disappointment, guilt, and other feelings -- often boil under the surface of the love and hope that motivate you to intervene. These feelings are natural and understandable. However, letting these emotions get out of control during the conversation can be counterproductive. If you become angry and start yelling, your loved one may also become angry and defensive. This can result in them closing off any open-mindedness toward what you are saying. This does not mean that you should not be honest. Honestly letting your loved one know how their addictive behavior has affected family and friends often comes as a revelation to them, and it can be a powerful tool in convincing the person that help is needed.
Step 4: Avoid judgment.
People who have never had an addiction problem may find it hard to understand why loved ones struggle with addiction. With all of the opinions and ideas about addiction that are presented throughout society, it can be easy to become judgmental of the person and dismissive of the issues that may have led to their problems with drugs and alcohol. This judgment should be avoided as much as possible during the conversation. Instead, asking questions and trying to understand the individual’s situation, even if you don’t agree with it, can help establish their trust that you are acting out of love and concern, providing the support that is most likely to help the person succeed in treatment.
Step 5: Admit the individual to treatment immediately.
Research has shown that getting a person into treatment as soon as willingness is expressed is vital to a positive start and outcome of the treatment process. For this reason, having treatment readily available as soon as the person is willing is considered to be one of NIDA’s Principles of Effective Treatment.
So getting a treatment program lined up to accept your loved one immediately is an essential element of the planning process before the conversation is started. The professionals who work in research-based, certified treatment programs can provide a great deal of support throughout the process of trying to convince the loved one that treatment is needed, and they can help determine the most appropriate level of care for the individual. They can also help plan for immediate admission to the program as soon as the individual accepts that help is needed.
It can be challenging to help a loved one get treatment. However, by keeping all the above advice in mind, you can be better prepared to confront your loved one, providing the needed love and support that can make recovery from addiction a true possibility.
Do your research and call us with all your questions.
Valor Recovery Center is a client driven, evidence-based treatment facility focused on individualized care. Taking a multi-dimensional approach to client treatment and care, we utilize integrated traditional components with a holistic approach to optimize the chance of successful and sustainable recovery. We are certified by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and received the Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission.
We can help you through this process. Call us today at 330-330-8777.