Addiction can be hard to admit to, especially if it leads to actions you’re not proud of. Professional addiction treatment is a proven way to overcome addictions of all sorts, but getting help and going through medically supervised withdrawal can be difficult to begin. It can be even worse if your loved one is living with addiction but fails to acknowledge it or get help for it.
You may wonder how to convince someone to get help or go into treatment against their will because you want nothing more than for your loved one to get better.
How do you help someone with a drug problem recover successfully? Before you attempt to get someone into an addiction treatment center and on the road to recovery, you first need to understand why treatment is so important.
Why Evidence-Based Addiction Treatment Is Important
Though professional treatment centers offer critical help, some people who misuse substances may not take advantage of that help. Many may not realize the extent of the benefits treatment provides, while others may not be able to afford the services. And in most cases, those addicted either deny that they have a problem, try to minimize their use or are afraid to give up the substance as they are physically and psychologically addicted.
However, there are more reasons to get help beating addiction than to not. Here are some of the reasons why professional, medical addiction treatment tends to be successful for long-term recovery.
1. Total Support
Possibly the most important aspect of an addiction treatment center is the round-the-clock support you receive from the trained, experienced and compassionate staff. These professionals help you set up your treatment plan and provide constant support to help you stay on track. This team of support is crucial if you have a moment of weakness and find yourself craving a drug. Professionals anticipate these sorts of moments and are trained to help you get past them successfully.
2. Medically Supervised Withdrawal
Addiction is a disease that needs to be addressed medically and professionally, which is why treatment centers slowly taper you off a drug until you’re no longer craving it. Some people think getting help means dealing with withdrawal from the moment you check into the center. While withdrawal is a part of the recovery process, addiction specialists understand withdrawal and the sometimes dangerous symptoms that come with it. Their job is to help you recover by anticipating the symptoms and providing the necessary aid to alleviate them.
3. Treatment Choices
Seeking help doesn’t always mean checking into a facility and living there until you’ve recovered. Sometimes it’s just not possible for people to spend weeks or months solely dedicated to recovery. That’s why addiction treatment centers often give you a choice between inpatient or outpatient treatments.
While outpatient treatment is less intense than inpatient, it is a great option when you have other obligations in your life — such as small children and no close loved ones to watch them while you go through an inpatient program or important work obligations. The determining factor for which level of care is best for you is the acuity of your illness, which can be assessed by a professional. Both inpatient and outpatient treatment can be used sequentially to increase the likelihood of sustained recovery.
4. Routine Development
A key part of recovery is developing a healthy routine to follow, which will allow you to retrain your day-to-day actions for the benefit of your well-being. This includes simple structures, such as establishing dedicated times for meals, rest and recreation. You’ll also be encouraged to establish new, healthier habits, including better nutrition, physical health and mental health.
5. Better Chance of Recovery
There’s a reason many people praise professional treatment for substance use disorders: it’s because it works. The structure, discipline and attention you receive in recovery are incomparable to anything you may be able to accomplish without it.
What Makes a Person Have to Seek Professional Treatment?
How do you know if you or a loved one may need professional help beating a substance use disorder? Several points help to identify a potential substance use disorder, including:
- Tolerance: The human body may be so used to a drug that it becomes more tolerant of it. This means the initial effects of the drug — which may have been the reason you or your loved one began using it in the first place — can only be achieved with increased doses. High tolerance for drugs or alcohol means the body has adjusted to receiving the substance and needs more to continue to achieve the “high.”
- Withdrawal: Those who have begun using drugs or prescriptions in a disordered way will likely show more severe withdrawal symptoms. While withdrawal symptoms can be mild, like irritability or constipation, they can also be dangerous, such as seizures or hallucinations.
- Weight: Unexplained weight loss may be a sign that your loved one is living with a substance use disorder. Amid an addiction, you often sacrifice healthy and nourishing food in favor of the drugs, leading to sudden and unintentional weight loss.
- Eyes: A side-effect of many substances is red eyes, though red eyes can also be a symptom of withdrawal.
- Responsibilities: With thoughts of getting high dominating their minds, people with substance use disorders often begin to ignore their responsibilities. This could mean abandoning household chores or even disregarding professional responsibilities and endangering their job.
- Relationships: Similarly, the quest to fulfill a craving may lead a person with a substance use disorder to neglect their loved ones, often straining or even severing relationships with friends and family.
- Risks: If your loved one seems to be taking more risks than usual, such as driving under the influence or shoplifting, it may be a symptom of a substance use disorder. An increase in risky behavior — both criminal and not — is a common sign of addiction.
- Finances: If your loved one seems to be low on money all the time or suddenly begins asking to borrow money from friends and family, it’s likely a way to round up funds to pay for their substance use.
- Lies: Many people with substance use disorders know they have a problem but are not ready to address it yet. This could manifest in things like lying to hide the addiction or aspects of the addiction, such as why they need to borrow money or why they’re canceling plans again.
- Inconsistent and erratic behavior: Chronic substance use increases irrational thoughts and actions. The brain is impaired, which affects mood, memory, perception, movement, reaction time and overall cognitive functioning. Your loved one may not be aware of their behavior and the implications.
When it comes to knowing how to help someone with drug addiction, identifying the signs of a disorder is the first step. The next step is figuring out how to get help for someone on drugs, including whether addiction treatment is a viable option.
How to Help Someone on Drugs Begin the Recovery Process
If you’ve established that your loved one has a substance use disorder and would benefit from treatment, your next step is to help them realize it for themselves. Interventions are a popular option to convince someone to get help since they allow loved ones to work together to help the person understand the extent of their substance use. However, sometimes an intervention may not be necessary to get a loved one into a professional treatment center. Simply talking with the person can be the final push they need to accept their problem.
1. Educate Yourself
Understanding your loved one’s addiction and the treatments available for it is the first step to helping convince someone to get help. Do your research and figure out how addiction works and how it affects the lives of the user and their loved ones.
Research the substance your loved one uses to understand how it affects the mind and body since not all substances have the same effects. If possible, try to figure out whether your loved one may be dealing with co-occurring issues, such as a mental illness for which your loved one uses drugs to self-medicate. Finally, research the options for treatments available, including both inpatient and outpatient programs.
When researching treatments, you should explore things like how the substance use disorder is treated, which therapies are offered and what the aftercare program is like. Your final decision among treatment facilities will depend on the severity of your loved one’s substance use disorder, the type of substance they use and what the risk of relapse is for people recovering from that substance. You will also need to prepare financially based on the insurance benefits available to you or your loved one, the policy copays and deductibles and treatment costs.
2. Plan an Intervention
While seeking the advice of a professional is a good idea, you can also organize an intervention yourself with the help of close friends and family. The key to holding an intervention is planning — you don’t want to leave anything to chance, and you want to be prepared for every possible outcome.
Your planning may include:
- Accounting for your loved one’s reaction to the intervention
- Choosing who will speak
- Deciding what the speaker will say
- Understanding what leverage you have — whether it’s money, children, a job, a relationship or more
- Determining what options you’ll present to your loved one at the end
By having a solution ready for all potential problems and ensuring the intervention is well organized, you have a better chance of convincing your loved one that they need to seek professional help.
3. Control Your Emotions
Realizing your loved one needs addiction treatment is going to be an emotionally charged time, but it’s important to put your emotions in order and let objectivity take the lead. While your emotions are valid, allowing them to run free may be counterproductive.
Anger, guilt, sadness and frustration are just some of the strong emotions people feel when their loved one refuses to acknowledge their substance use disorder. But unreined emotions can spur more explosive emotions from the person with the addiction, which could then lead them to become closed off or aggressive. If this is a concern, a professional intervention is recommended.
Prepare what you’re going to say ahead of time — you can even write it down if that helps — and do your best to present the honest facts objectively.
4. Prepare for Rejection
Despite all your work and effort, there’s still a chance that your loved one will decide not to accept your help. In cases like this, you may have to accept the fact that you’ve done all that you could. Even in cases where you’re successful, there’s a chance your loved one may relapse or stop treatment before they have recovered.
It’s important to avoid shifting the burden of guilt onto yourself. Preparing yourself emotionally and mentally ahead of time is an excellent way to do this and remind yourself there is only so much that you can do to help.
5. Act Quickly
Some people think the best time to hold an intervention is when a person has hit rock bottom. While many people do see rock bottom as a much-needed wake-up call, it’s not necessary to watch your loved one spiral and wait for them to get worse. Many times people wait too long, which can result in extreme and adverse consequences, including death.
The opioid crisis is still raging across the country — research shows the chances of dying from an accidental opioid overdose is 1 in 96, while the chances of dying as a result of a car accident are 1 in 103. And opioids aren’t the only substances that have the potential to kill people. In 2018 alone, over 67,300 Americans died as a result of an overdose from an illicit or prescription drug.
Given this severity, if you suspect your loved one may have a problem, it’s a good idea to start seeking help as soon as possible.
What Not to Do When Helping Somone on Drugs Begin Treatment
Being told you have a substance use disorder can be a difficult thing to hear, and if you’re in denial, it can be even harder to deal with your friends and family telling you to seek help. For optimal results, there are several things you should avoid doing when planning how to help someone on drugs seek professional treatment.
1. Get Angry
Another reason to keep your emotions in check is to manage your temper, especially if you suspect your loved one will react to the suggestion of getting help with fury. Anger is a perfectly valid emotion in situations like this. But taking your anger directly to the person with a substance use disorder will only force them to get their defenses up and potentially prevent them from listening to your concerns.
A good way to keep your anger in check is to remember that addiction is a disease that can dominate a person’s mind, leading them to make choices they wouldn’t otherwise make. The addiction manipulates them into believing that feeding their cravings is their main priority, no matter the consequences. Like any disease, treatment offers your loved one their best chance at recovery.
2. Invoke Shame and Guilt
It’s counterproductive to shame or guilt someone who has a substance use disorder. This makes them feel bad, and it’s ineffective in encouraging them to seek help. When you view addiction as the disease that it is, it becomes easier to separate it from the person.
The same way you wouldn’t guilt someone for having diabetes is the same reason you shouldn’t guilt someone for having a substance use disorder. While it may have been a choice initially, the longer the addiction progresses, the less it becomes a choice and more a chronic illness for which they need support, not shame.
A good way to ensure your loved one isn’t feeling blamed for their addiction is to use “I” statements. These are statements that focus on you as the subject rather than the person with the addiction. Instead of saying, “You missed my birthday, and you made me cry,” a better option would be to say, “I was hurt when you missed my birthday, and it made me cry.” With “I” statements, there’s no blame thrown around, which reduces the likelihood of your loved one becoming defensive or closing themselves off.
3. Nag Persistently
It’s crucial to realize that if a person with an addiction was able to stop using drugs, they would likely do it. But as we’ve mentioned, addiction is a disease, so constantly nagging your loved one to stop using drugs is counterproductive.
As your loved one has struggled with addiction, there’s a chance you’ve unintentionally acted as an enabler — making excuses for them, quickly fixing their mistakes or shielding them from the consequences of their actions. At this point, your loved one may not feel justified taking your advice to just stop.
Instead of nagging, establishing ultimatums in the intervention is ideal. Whether it’s cutting them off financially or refusing to answer when they call for favors until they get help, establishing and maintaining these ultimatums are more beneficial than nagging. If your loved one opts not to seek help despite hearing the ultimatums, it’s important to follow through with them instead of succumbing to the need to care for them.
4. Try Scare Tactics
Though it may be tempting, using scare tactics to set your loved one onto the path to recovery is not advisable. These often take the form of horror stories about what happened to other people who had substance use disorders and those who opted not to seek help. Instead, it’s more useful to share positive stories that encourage hope and a brighter future.
5. Make Comparisons
Often, there are external factors in a person’s life that pave the road to a substance use disorder, but it’s counterproductive to compare those problems with the average person’s. Avoid using phrases like “Everyone’s got problems,” since these invalidate the very real feelings of the person with the substance use disorder. Plus, someone with a substance use disorder may be so manipulated by their disease that they will be unable to believe that anyone else has it as bad as they do.
Can You Force Someone Into Treatment Successfully?
In the United States, 37 states along with the District of Columbia have regulations that allow for involuntary commitment to addiction treatment facilities. These regulations were established for parents whose children were facing a substance use disorder and refusing to get help for it. Parents wanted to find out how to involuntarily commit someone to a drug treatment facility, and the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL) established strict stipulations for involuntary commitment.
If you figure out how to get someone in treatment that doesn’t want to go, it doesn’t mean you should force them to get help. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health researched the effects of forced recovery and found that people involuntarily committed into a treatment facility were twice as likely to die from an overdose than those who consented to enter treatment. Another similar study found that the long-term recovery outcomes for people who were forced into getting help weren’t any better or worse than those who chose professional addiction treatment of their own free will.
In general, it’s usually better if a person chooses to get help rather than if they’re forced into it. Resentment and an unwillingness to complete recovery are potential risks of forced treatment. People are more likely to take their recovery process more seriously if they truly want to become sober.
Get on the Road to Recovery With Gateway Foundation
At Gateway Foundation, we believe recovery doesn’t end when you leave one of our treatment facilities. Instead, it’s a lifelong activity — which is why we are with you for life. For over 50 years, we’ve provided clients the tools they need to live a life free from addiction and regain control of their health and happiness. Each client’s recovery journey is unique, and we’re dedicated to personalizing the treatment experience to see everyone who seeks our help maintain a life of sobriety.
If you or a loved one needs professional addiction treatment, take the first step and get in touch with Gateway Foundation by calling 877-381-6538. Reclaim control and get your life back on track.