How to Help Someone Get Help With Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a prevalent problem in America. People with substance abuse issues often develop or already are plagued by mental and physical health issues, and their loved ones suffer alongside them in many ways as well.

When someone you love is experiencing drug or alcohol addiction, it’s essential to be able to spot the signs and be prepared to help in a caring and nonjudgmental way.

Signs and Symptoms

There are several signs and symptoms to recognize when someone is struggling with addiction. Some of these include:

  • Appearing intoxicated more often
  • Problems with cognition and memory
  • Attending social events only if there are drugs or alcohol; becoming intoxicated before the social event, or going to fewer social events specifically to drink or use drugs
  • Lethargy, sleeping more, sleeping irregular hours, or appearing sick or tired
  • Neglected appearance and poor hygiene
  • Problems at work or school; sometimes losing one’s job or dropping out of school
  • Lying about the substance or the amount they are using
  • Stealing money or valuables to buy drugs
  • Expressing anger, sadness, or lashing out when asked about their substance abuse
  • Showing withdrawal symptoms when they can’t take the drug

People with substance abuse issues will behave differently when they are intoxicated compared to when they are sober. They may say and do hurtful things and may even take severe risks in their life. These issues can worry their loved ones.

Influence, Not Control

When you love a person with an addiction, you may try to force the person to get help at one point. But even if you talk them into it, they likely fail at their attempt to get better. Addiction is not a controlled choice. It is a compulsion that cannot be deviated without help.

Addiction rewires the reward center of the brain. It causes them to crave the substances and releases chemicals when they do abuse substances.

Because of these factors being out of their control, blaming the victim will get you nowhere. But, loved ones do hold a great deal of influence in the victim’s life.

Staging an intervention by gathering several loved ones together is one thing a loved one can do. Interventions should be planned thoroughly and geared toward helping the addict. Interventions are a positive way to show support for the addict while setting boundaries in the process.

If you sit down with an addict and express your feelings in an exact, calm way, you can still have a great deal of influence. Offering social support repeatedly, information on drug rehabilitation programs, and other healthy methods can inspire the person to get help.

5 Signs of Codependency

Codependent relationships are common when it comes to loved ones of addicts, especially spouses and children. Codependency consists of the desire to help the person and show love but trying to help them fosters addiction. Codependency causes long-term damage.

Signs of codependency include:

1. Taking responsibility for the addict

People in codependent relationships often feel an increased responsibility for their loved ones’ decisions, behaviors, and thoughts. Loved ones may feel a need to make sure their loved one is happy, often to the point of causing unhappiness for themselves. They feel protective of their loved ones. Examples include driving them to and from the bar to avoid a DUI or calling in to work for them when hungover, and making excuses.

2. Putting the addict’s feelings first

A codependent person will put their feelings last. As a result, they will overlook their feelings, values, and beliefs to align with their loved ones. The result is self-neglect.

3. Clinging to the relationship to prevent abandonment

Those who are in a codependent relationship fear abandonment, rejection, and loneliness. Many desperately need approval, and they seek it by always trying to please someone. When that person is an addict, they may give the person money or shelter them when they are under the influence to maintain the relationship.

4. Problems talking about their own feelings.

Someone who is in a codependent relationship might not be able to know their feelings. They have a difficult time discussing their needs and how to fulfill them. Their focus is on helping their loved ones if they are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction instead of helping themselves.

5. Inability to set personal boundaries

Those who are codependent are more likely to agree to anything their loved one asks, even if they are not comfortable with it. This gives the codependent person the belief that they have power over the situation, particularly if their loved one has an addiction. They feel that if they can help their loved ones, they are helping themselves. In reality, they are hurting themselves.


At Lisa Rogers Counseling, I offer a wide range of therapy and mental health services for several areas. You are not alone in your struggle and neither are your loved ones. Reach out today to make an appointment.

Since 1993, I have been providing a combination of all my years of training tailoring specific treatments based on the individual needs and challenges of my patients, facilitating healing. I make every effort to accommodate the busy schedules of my patients by offering evenings, weekend appointments and Telemental Health (Online Counseling-Virtual/Video Conference and Phone Sessions) offered in the following states I am licensed in: New York, California, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey, Florida, and Vermont.