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How to Help a Friend Overcome Drug Addiction

It can be challenging to help a friend or loved one who is struggling with an addiction. Perhaps the worst part is many who struggle with addictive behaviors are often in denial about their situation or are unwilling to seek treatment. Often they don't recognize the negative effects their behavior has on themselves and others. Sometimes a direct, heart-to-heart conversation can start the road to recovery. When it comes to addiction, a more focused approach is often needed. If you would like to learn how to help a friend overcome drug addiction, these steps can put you on the right path.

Stage an Intervention

People with addiction often don't see the negative effects their behavior has on themselves and others. It's important not to wait until they "want help." Instead, think of an intervention as giving your loved one a clear opportunity to make changes before things get really bad.

Planning an intervention can be a lot of work, but the payoff may save a life! The first thing you’ll need to do is gather family, friends, colleagues, clergy members and anyone else who cares about the person struggling with addiction. When planning an intervention, it's best if you consult with an intervention professional (interventionist), a qualified professional counselor, or a social worker. An intervention is a highly charged situation and has the potential to cause anger, resentment or a sense of betrayal. If you have any concerns that the intervention may trigger anger or violent behavior, consult an intervention professional before taking any action.

Don’t tell too many people about someone's addiction. Not only may they not understand or appreciate the gravity of the situation, it also may be none of their business – your loved one is entitled to his or her privacy, after all. The stigma of addiction is very hard to overcome with some people who have fixed ideas about drug use. It should be treated as a sensitive subject, and discussed only among close and trusted individuals.

Gather Information about the loved one’s problem and coordinate with the intervention group members (including a professional counselor) on a possible treatment plan. You may settle on enrolling them into a treatment program if the situation is severe enough.

Plan how you deliver your message before the actual intervention. Rehearse with one another and arrange the order in which you all speak. A well-rehearsed and structured delivery will drive the point home and will leave no gaps in your plea to them to seek help. Talk about how their addiction is harmful, including physically, emotionally, and financially. Discuss the toll of your loved one's behavior while still expressing care and the expectation that your loved one can change. Be sure not to let them know what you are doing before the day of the intervention.

Make a backup plan in case your loved one doesn’t want to seek treatment. You will need to decide what action to take should he or she reject your help, even if it means an ultimatum, such as evicting him or her or taking away contact with their children. Tough love should be reserved as a last resort tactic if they refuse help.

Invite your loved one to the intervention meeting without revealing the meeting’s true nature. Members of the core team then take turns expressing their concerns and feelings. The loved one is presented with a treatment option and asked to accept that option on the spot. Each team member will say what specific changes they will make if the addicted person doesn't accept the plan.

Stay in the picture and follow up with the afflicted individual. Let your loved one know that you care about his or her sobriety; offer your loved one counseling or simply an ear to talk to should he or she want someone to lean on. You may even have to change some aspects of your own lifestyle to make the battle to overcome addiction easier to cope with.

Expect relapses. Because drug addiction is a chronic disease, it can be managed, but not cured. Depending on the severity of the situation, relapses are likely to happen, and the addict should not consider a relapse a failure. However, treatment will be needed following each relapse.

A successful intervention must be planned carefully to work as intended. A poorly planned intervention can worsen the situation — your loved one may feel attacked and become isolated or more resistant to treatment.

Be the Best Friend You Can Be

This may seem obvious, but sometimes we forget how much of a struggle recovering drug addicts endure. So just be there for them! Text them, call them, go see them, do fun activities, play sports, hang out, and support their hobbies and interests often. Try to remain positive in your outings with them and avoid places where temptation may be present (even places where drug use is simply talked about). Encourage and suggest the potential freedoms of new, healthier lifestyles. They need to know that there will be people to support them on the road to recovery.