Five Tips for Families and Friends of Addicts

Addiction is a disease that turns life upside down for the victim and for the victim’s family and friends. It is often difficult for families to understand that the nurturing care they provide can be detrimental to the addict. That’s why getting support if you love someone who is addicted is critical, not only for the addict, but for yourself and your family.

Below are 5 Tips compiled from experts with decades of experience helping addicts and their families:

1) Learn about addiction and overdose
Information is king when it comes to addiction. Understanding the nature and compulsions of the disease can help you prepare for and cope with the realities of caring about an addict.  Because opioids are so deadly, you should also learn what to do in the case of an overdose.  Download the guide on this site to your phone, keep naloxone on-hand, and educate your family members and friends about the Three Steps To Save A Life.

2) Avoid enabling
Most long-time recovering addicts will tell you that their families – meaning only to show love and support – separated them from the consequences of their behaviors… and that they could not stop using drugs until those consequences were so painful that they had no choice. It is very difficult for families to withhold support like a place to live, money or transportation. It seems cruel. And when addicts have to face the consequences of their actions, they are usually angry, reject their family members, and make threats. It is terrifying for those who love the addict. It’s also a vital part of helping a loved one recover. This is very difficult work, but it may be the most loving thing you ever do for the addict. No matter how strong you think you are, you cannot do this alone; so gain from others’ experiences.

3) Get support
Groups like Nar-Anon Family Groups can be a tremendous support.  On their web site you can enter your zip code a find a meeting near you.  If you can’t find a meeting, consider Al-Anon.  There are definite differences in addiction to the two drug families of alcohol and opioids, but you can gain important guidance that can help you in your situation from either group.

4) Treatment
Helping opioid addicts who have faced the consequences of their behavior and want to stop using may mean helping them find and pay for treatment.  Sometimes legal problems related to the addiction can create an important consequence that motivates an addict to seek treatment.  Sometimes, it is an overdose, loss of a place to live or the loss of a friend to addiction.

Our experts recommend a treatment program that includes a spiritual component like 12-Steps because those programs have such a long history of success. Most medical experts recommend 30-90 days of residential treatment for opioid addiction. Treatment can be expensive so you want to find a program that use principles that are proven effective. Do your research. Talk to friends.  And participate in the family components of treatment.

5) Stay involved in helping others
Addiction is for life.  Drug use is not. Thousands of former opioid addicts are now living healthy, productive and fulfilling lives. But relapse is always a possiblility.  Your experiences with your loved one – whatever the outcome of his or her addiction – have the potential to do tremendous good for others. Keep learning, not only so that you can help your recovering family member, but also so “that no addict seeking recovery need ever die.”