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How to help someone with a drug dependence

One of the problems someone can encounter when trying to help a loved one with their drug dependence problems is their mistaken ideas about how recovery occurs.

Myths About Drug Dependence:

Following are some myths and facts about drug dependence:

  • An individual can handle drug dependence if they want to. This is a myth. The fact is that many individuals who continue to suffer from drug dependence problems desire nothing more than to be free from drug use and take back control of their life. However, full recovery is more than just a matter of willpower – as the individual is struggling against strong physical, mental and emotional urges to continue maintaining a level of drug substances in their body at all times.
  • Drug dependence is an incurable disease one can only learn to live with. This is a myth. The fact is that drug dependence can alter the functions of the brain and certain body systems, and there is no doubt that extensive physical damages caused through perpetual drug use may never fully heal, but the individual does not have to struggle with drug dependence for the rest of their life. With the proper help they can fully sever their connection with drugs and gain the abilities they need to remain drug-free long into the future.
  • An individual will have to hit rock bottom before they can recover. This is a myth, and a dangerous one. The fact is that an individual who is suffering from any stage of drug use, abuse and dependence can receive help in order to disconnect from drug use. In fact, the earlier the individual seeks help the easier it will be to fully resolve their drug problems.
  • An individual has to walk into a treatment facility himself in order to successfully recover. This is a myth. The fact is that family members and friends can help their loved one to arrive at the treatment facility, even if they don’t want to. That said, it is also a fact that rehabilitation treatment does not usually work to help the individual stably recover unless they decide to take control of their life and their recovery. Simply going through the motions isn’t enough to bring about the desired results.
  • If treatment didn’t work once, there is no point in even trying again. This is a myth. The fact is that different treatment facilities and programs work for different individuals, and what works very well for one individual may not work so well for another. However, this does not mean that some individuals will simply never find the right treatment program for their needs and therefore shouldn’t even try.

Helping Someone With Drug Dependence

It is very rare that an individual struggling with drug abuse or addiction problems will openly admit these problems to others, and request help. In fact, many individuals suffering from these problems seek to hide them from others, and may even be able to do so quite convincingly. It therefore becomes an important part of helping someone with their drug dependence problems to actually spot the signs and symptoms of drug use, including:

  • Neglect of responsibilities at school, work or home as a result of one’s drug use. This can be particularly obvious if the individual once did very well at school or work and suddenly is having great difficulties.
  • Use of drug substances in dangerous situations or taking risks while high. Individuals who are driving while under the influence, having promiscuous and unprotected sex, using dirty needles and more are likely suffering from drug dependence problems.
  • Encountering legal problems as a result of one’s drug use. This can include arrests for public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, stealing, violence against others or self, driving while under the influence and more.
  • Encountering relationship problems as a result of drug use. The individual may find that they are not as close with family members or friends as they once were.
  • Experiencing tolerance, wherein the individual consumes large amounts of drug substances in order to achieve the desired effects. This usually occurs after drug use has continued for some time, and is therefore a sign of drug abuse or dependence.
  • Taking drugs in order to avoid experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms like nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, anxiety and more.
  • Inability to control or limit one’s drug use, leading to the use of more drug substances more frequently than originally planned.
  • Basing every thought, decision and action around obtaining, using and recovering from drug substances.
  • Abandoning activities that were once highly enjoyed.
  • Continued use of drug substances despite the knowledge that they are causing damages in one’s life.
  • Physical changes like bloodshot eyes, unusually dilated or contracted pupils, changes in appetite and sudden weight loss or gain, problems with sleep patterns, deterioration in one’s physical appearance, unusual smells on breath, body or clothing, tremors, slurred speech, impaired coordination and more.
  • Behavioral changes like sudden poor performance at work or school, stealing or borrowing large amounts of money frequently, isolating self from others, changing friends, hangouts and behaviors and more.
  • Psychological changes like sudden mood shifts, angry outbursts, stranger periods of hyperactivity or exhaustion, lack of motivation, fearfulness, anxiety, paranoia, irritability and more.

When you notice these signs in someone, the first thing you must do is speak up. You need to let them know that you are aware of their drug dependence problems, and that you would like to help them. You should be prepared to meet with some resistance, anger, grief or even hostility, and you will need to be patient, understanding and persistent.

It is important to guide the individual into understanding that there are recovery options available to help them, and you are willing to support them throughout the recovery process. You may find that you also need to be firm with the individual, and really impress upon them your concern for what may happen if they refuse to get the help they need.

Sometimes your dedication to and confidence in their recovery has to serve them well until they develop their own, but it will be well worth it when they are once again on the path to a healthy, happy life.