How to Help Someone With Drug Addiction: 10 Ways to Support Them

How to Help Someone With Drug Addiction: 10 Ways to Support Them

When someone that you love is struggling with addiction, it can also feel like a struggle to find ways to help. The truth of the matter is that recovery from drug addiction is usually a long and complicated journey. With the support of a loved one, it can become that much easier to begin the journey and see it through to the end.

If you don’t have much experience with drug or alcohol addiction, the whole situation can quickly feel overwhelming. Instead of ignoring the situation or backing away because of the overwhelm, take the time to encourage them to identify their problem and seek a solution.

Are you trying to navigate the complexities of addiction by being a support system for a loved one? There are certain things you can do to provide the most help. Some things should be avoided for the best chance of recovery.

Below, we’re sharing how to help a loved one with a substance use addiction and a few things to avoid while supporting someone through it.

10 Ways to Support Your Special Someone With Drug Addiction

For an addict, deciding to get help and kick the addiction is no easy feat. Luckily, studies have shown that with the additional love and support of someone close to the addict, their chances of recovery are much higher.

While each situation of addiction has its own unique sets of circumstances and factors at play, there are some general guidelines as to the best way to help someone and offer support.

1. Educate Yourself

When you’re inexperienced with drug addiction, it can be easy to base assumptions on what you see in the behavior of your loved one. By educating yourself on the addiction itself as well as the symptoms and causes, you’ll be better equipped to recognize it before you and truly understand it.

You won’t become an expert right away, and that’s okay. But putting in the time to slowly educate yourself will be beneficial to both you and the beloved addict in your life. You’ll be more in tune with what they are experiencing and more adept at speaking with them about it.

2. Communicate Your Concerns

They won’t know that you are concerned about them or that you think they have a problem unless you tell them. 

You’ll need to understand that what you identify as a problem might not seem like a big deal to them. That’s part of the power of addiction. They need to be the ones that decide they need change, but you can help them to understand why their addiction is hurting you and those around them.

Be sure not to threaten them, but instead come from a place of love and genuine concern.

3. Keep a Positive Mindset  

It’s essential to try to seek the positives in the situation and celebrate the progress made. Changing addictive behavior is hard, just like making any significant change of habit. Yet it’s even harder than that because there are chemicals involved that interfere with their decision-making ability.

Even if they slip up, try to remain positive. Use supportive communication to explore what led to the slip-up, and then figure out how to avoid it in the future. You don’t want your loved one to slide back, so encourage them to see how far they’ve come already.

4. Offer Your Support

Often, addicts can’t truly grasp how much their family members and friends care about them and love them. Even though it may be evident to you, the drugs can skew their perspective or create distance between them and those they love. 

After you tell your loved one that you are concerned about their health and drug use, be sure to include that you’re along for the ride as support. Knowing they’ll have someone to lean on every step of the way can become a huge relief.

5. Establish and Honor Boundaries

Creating boundaries is crucial when dealing with an addict. It can be easy to feel responsible for keeping them clean and safe, but that’s not your job. If you want to help someone, your job is to provide appropriate loving support. It is not your duty to overextend yourself for their sake.

Establish boundaries to protect yourself and your energy. Limits can be things like the times you’re available to talk on the phone or ways that you are willing to contribute, like healthy meals and rides to doctor’s appointments. Once you establish them with your loved one, honor them. They will respect you for keeping your word and appreciate your involvement.

6. Take Care of Yourself First

It can be easy to feel devoted to helping someone get out of drug addiction, but you need to take care of yourself first. If you are not taking proper care of yourself, you won’t be able to help someone else.

That means getting a full 8 hours of sleep, exercising, eating well, and even seeking mental health counseling or support groups.

7. Keep Their Addiction in Perspective  

Keeping things in perspective in the grand scheme of things will help you from feeling enveloped in their addiction. While their drug abuse may feel like the worst thing that could ever happen, you need to remind yourself that things will get better. Seeing this from you, the addict you love may be able to find hope that things will get better for them, too.

8. Lead by Example

By creating a positive role model for your loved one, you can lead them to recovery through your example. Often, the social circles that drug or alcohol addicts are involved with include other addicts and those who may encourage the behaviors. 

By remaining present in their life and serving as a healthy, happy, and drug-free example, they may be able to see that life doesn’t have to be this way – that there is another alternative.

9. Celebrate Progress

Recovery is a slow-moving process. There won’t be any overnight cures or fast-tracks to sobriety. Instead, there will be small, gradual changes. These changes can get overlooked when full recovery is the goal, so be sure to celebrate any progress made towards the end goal.

10. Get Professional Help

While it should ultimately be their decision to get help, you should encourage them to seek it out and address how meeting with a drug abuse expert may be able to help them with both mental health and addiction. You may be met with excuses or total denial, so you should expect that possibility. Be persistent, but remain loving, and don’t make them feel ashamed or guilty for their addiction.

You can get help from drug abuse professionals directly at the Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine. Call us today to speak with an expert.

What to Avoid When Helping Someone With Drug Addiction

Just as certain things can help someone’s recovery, some things can hinder the progress or cause relapse. When you are speaking with and supporting your loved one through drug abuse treatment, try to avoid the following:

  • Emotional Appeals

These may increase feelings of guilt or shame within the addict, leading to the compulsion to use drugs again.

  • Preaching or Lecturing

Do not try to moralize your loved one or speak from a pedestal about what they should do. Instead, offer encouragement and loving but firm suggestions.

  • Making Excuses for their Behavior

It’s common for an addict to create excuses to justify their behavior. You mustn’t accept these excuses, as it can enable the addiction.

  • Enabling the Behavior

Covering up the problem from other loved ones or giving them money to help will only hurt your loved one more. Do not provide them with money for drugs, and do not keep the actual situation from other involved family members and friends.

  • Arguing When They are High

When someone is on drugs, they won’t be thinking or speaking rationally. Don’t waste your time arguing during drug use, because your voice is much less likely to be heard and taken seriously. 

  • Feeling Guilty

Don’t feel guilty for any setbacks or lack of progress. It is not your addiction to face. However, you should prepare yourself to buckle in for the whole ride, no matter how long it takes.


Do you feel as if someone you love has a substance abuse problem or is dealing with an addiction? The best thing you can do for them is to support them, remain present, and encourage them to get professional addiction treatment.

It’s a delicate balance of not only encouragement and love but also boundaries and persistence. You should expect some resistance or push back, but it’s crucial not to give up on your loved one. Be consistent with your concerns and continue to ask them to seek help.

While supporting your special someone through substance abuse is by no means an easy feat, it’s a crucial part of the process and can increase their odds of full recovery.

If you need expert drug addiction support for your loved one, contact an expert at Addiction VA today.