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Self-Help and Family/Buddy Care


Dr. Patel
Recovery from an addiction is possible, and support from friends and family is crucial. Dr. Phillips, can you tell us how to help someone with an addiction?

Dr. Phillips
Sure thing, Dr. Patel. It's important to note that abruptly stopping heavy and regular use of certain substances, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, can cause seizures or even death. For this reason, consulting with a medical professional before starting any form of self-help strategy is essential. A medical provider can prescribe medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and make it less likely that the individual will return to substance use. In some cases, a provider may recommend an inpatient stay to more closely monitor physical health during recovery.

Because it's so difficult to overcome addiction independently, many people struggling with addiction often seek help in the community. There are several community-based resources available for people struggling with addiction, as well as concerned family members and friends. For instance, many people have found 12-step programs to be highly effective. Other helpful programs include SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, Moderation Management, and Rational Recovery.

Some helpful tips for friends or family members of an addict include:

  • Find a therapist or support group that can assist you in managing your emotions and determine how to respond to difficult situations with your loved one.
  • Learn all you can about alcohol and drug misuse and addiction.
  • Speak up and offer support. Talk to the person about your concerns, and offer to go with them to get help.
  • Don't wait for your loved one to "hit bottom." The earlier addiction is treated, the better.
  • Be specific about examples of behavior that have you worried.
  • Don't expect the person to stop without help. (and)
  • Support recovery as an ongoing, long-term process.

There are also things you should NOT do as a family member or friend of a person struggling with an addiction. Those things include:

  • Don't preach, lecture, threaten, bribe, or moralize.
  • Don't be a martyr. Avoid emotional appeals and guilt trips.
  • Don't cover up, lie, or make excuses for the addict's behavior.
  • Don't take on their responsibilities or protect them from the consequences of their behavior.
  • Don't argue when they are under the influence.
  • Don't feel guilty or responsible for their behavior. (and)
  • Don't join them or try to keep up with them by drinking, using, or engaging in the activity.