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Help for Friends and Family

Advice for Families and Friends

Many people assume that the addict is the only person who is affected by addiction. However, it is often the friends and family who suffer the most. If you are worried about someone close to you who may have an issue with addiction, help is out there.

What are the signs?

There are many symptoms that are linked to drug abuse that can be explained by other reasons. Many behavioural signs of drug abuse can also be attributed to simple being a teenager. However, if a noticeable change occurs in someone and they display a number of symptoms then it may be worth showing concern.

Physical Signs

  • Large or small pupils (depending on the drug being taken)
  • Sudden change in weight
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor personal grooming or hygiene
  • Frequent nosebleeds

Behavioural or Psychological Signs

  • Erratic behaviour
  • Low motivation
  • Low attendance of school, work or hobbies
  • Secretive behaviour
  • Sudden change in social circles
  • Mood swings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Stealing

Again, it is important to note that individual symptoms are not enough to cause alarm. If you suspect that a particular drug is being used then it is recommended to learn as much about that drug and the effects as possible. Also be on the lookout for paraphernalia that could be used for drug taking. This can include:

  • Emptied out cigarettes
  • Rolled up or bloody bank notes
  • Burned foil or spoons
  • Small sealable plastic bags
  • Pipes
  • Bottles or cans that have holes in or have been torn open.

Why did this happen?

Many people who take drugs show no signs of dependency. So why do some people become addicts when others don’t? There is no single reason that drug or alcohol use leads to addiction and much of it is accredited as much to genetics as it is to lifestyle and environment. Factors such as peer pressure, stress and depression are major environmental factors that lead to addiction. However, a person’s upbringing also has a large effect and those who begin drug use at an early age are more likely to develop and addiction later in life.

How can I help?

It is important to remember that you are not the one to blame and that the user must take accountability for their own actions. However, you also need to be careful that your actions are not enabling the user to continue or worsen their habit. Signs of enabling include financially supporting their habit or covering up their actions to people you know.

The first step is to help the user see that their actions are affecting those around them. This can effectively be done via an intervention. This should be done with others who care about their wellbeing and must be done in a calm and non-confrontational manner. It should be carried out in a safe and familiar environment. Read more on our interventions page. Tell them that they must take part in treatment, such as drug rehab. Offer specific consequences if they do not seek help or continue their actions – these must not be empty threats or they will continue to push boundaries.

REMEMBER: The earlier an addict can begin treatment, the better the chances that they will recover. Waiting until their behaviour has spiralled out of control will make their journey more difficult and long term damage may have already occurred to their health, lifestyle and relationships.

When a person begins treatment for addiction, getting help from family and friends is essential and significantly increases the chances of success. Encourage healthier activities and remain positive. Help them to avoid situations where they may become tempted, such as bars.

How do I cope?

Being close to a drug addict or alcoholic can be a very stressful experience. Not only can their erratic behaviour make them difficult to be around, but the feelings of being helpless and the constant worrying are a familiar theme. Some of the common traits that family and friends of addicts experience include denial, enabling, being controlling or simply giving up and walking away.

Remember that you are not alone and there are others who are going through the same thing. Visit our support groups page for information on how to get in touch with others who can help. Adfam is also a charity that specialises in helping the families of addicts.

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