Helping your loved one who is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction can be overwhelming and painful. However, with the help, it will be extremely rewarding. You have to understand that you aren’t in control of your loved one. You didn’t cause the addiction and you can’t fix it. While you are a huge influence on your loved one, the decision to become sober is ultimately up to them.

Here is some advice for anyone helping their loved one through an addiction:

Get Educated

You can’t help your loved one recover if you don’t know about the addiction. Learn about addiction signs, treatments and relapse triggers and make sure to talk to children or other loved ones about drugs and alcohol at an early age. While education is not a guarantee for healthy choices, it can be a powerful tool in preventing addiction. It’s a good idea to participate in any family programs if your loved one enters treatment. Education and encouragement offered by a drug rehabilitation center supports your loved one and will help you at the same time.

Look after Yourself

If you want to support your loved one, you need to take care of yourself. Eat healthily, exercise and get an adequate amount of sleep so you can remain physically and mentally strong. Support groups can also be extremely helpful when a loved one has an addiction problem. Consider joining one if the stress of addiction is difficult to cope with.

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk

Talking about the problem is beneficial for everyone involved. A person with a drug problem might hesitant to ask for help, but it is necessary for you to be available to them. Silent shame is toxic, so encourage your family to be up front about struggles. The realities of substance abuse are painful, but the consequences of silence can be even worse.


Between 26.4 and 36 million people worldwide suffer from abuse of prescription opioid pain relievers. Do you suspect that your loved one might one of these abusers? Just like with other addictions, the longer someone struggles, the more signs there will be.

These signs include:


The individual might start falling asleep during conversations, at the dinner table, while watching a movie, etc.

A change in sleep habits

The person’s sleep may become prolonged or excessive, and then shortened or non-existent when not using the drug.

A lack of hygiene

Looking presentable and clean is no longer important. The individual might look scruffy, tired and disheveled.

Frequent flu-like symptoms

Fever and headache are signs of withdrawal when someone can’t get enough of a drug.

Weight loss

Opioid addicts usually lose weight from metabolic changes and changes that occur in the brain’s reward center.

Changes in exercise habits or energy level

If someone worked out regularly before forming an addiction, they might feel too lethargic and stop completely.

Decreased libido

Opioid use lowers testosterone and estrogen levels, which are necessary for normal libido and sexual function. They also help maintain muscle mass and bone density.

Social withdrawal

An individual will no longer want to see friends or maintain relationships. Relationships that were once important no longer seem to matter.

Changes in work habits

Someone with an opioid addiction might excessively miss work, forget meetings and skip deadlines.

How Can I Help?

Show your concern for your loved one’s well-being without being judgmental. You need to display empathy and compassion in the same way you’d show it someone suffering from another chronic illness. Don’t tell someone what to do; it’s more effective to show someone you’re on their side and prepared to help them.

Create a structured, stable environment for your loved one. Establish basic expectations for behavior along with simple, predictable routines will reduce stress and limit the chaos that encourages addictive behaviors.

If you aren’t sure whether or not someone is addicted, seek out assessment with a licensed addiction treatment specialist. Make sure to keep track of your loved one’s medications and refills so you know what they’re taking and how much. Stay aware of overdose and ask about naloxone, a medication that cannot be self-administered and is used to counter the effects of opioid overdose.