5 Tips For Dealing With A Loved One With Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

heroin withdrawal restless legsAddiction has been declared a disease by the AMA (American Medical Association), SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) and many other reputable medical associations and organizations.  But did you know that drug addiction (also referred to more recently as substance use disorder or SUD) affects more than just the individual and is often considered a family disease?  There is a lot of information out there for men and women suffering from substance use disorder (SUD).  But what about families?  Thus, this article attempts to provide some insight for families who are struggling and provides 5 practical tips for helping their loved one who suffers from substance use disorder.

1. Advantages of Family Therapy for Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

When a family is dealing with the disease of addiction, family therapy can be beneficial during the addiction treatment and/or long-term recovery process. Generally, the addicted individual is considered the patient, but the entire family is drastically affected by the drug use. The goal of family therapy in this case is to help the addicted individual and provide information and support for the family.  Individual therapy provided to the patient also ends up helping every member of the family understand more clearly what their loved one is facing.

Family therapy gives siblings a voice and a means to find the help they need to get through a rather grown-up situation. Ultimately, if the addicted individual in the family can find recovery, the lives of the others in the household can become more stable and enjoyable.

2. Get Educated about Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder)

Drug abuse and addiction are complicated subjects. There are many adults in the world who, until they are faced with drug addiction in their own lives, have very little understanding of it. Many people think that abusing drugs is purely a choice – that if the person wants to stop using badly enough, they’ll just choose to stop. The truth is that taking drugs itself is a choice.  But after the first time, if a drug happens to touch the pleasure center of the brain a particular way due to the individual’s genetic predisposition to addiction, the individual may acquire the disease of addiction.  Choice to use drugs technically still exists.  But the cognitive compulsion that the brain creates is so powerful that it feels almost impossible for the individual to choose to stop using.  Those without this cognitive compulsion typically don’t understand and thus, assume an individual is simply continuing to make “bad choices” for no reason.

It is incredibly difficult for a person to stop using drugs if they suffer from addiction. Educating yourself about your sibling’s addiction will not make the problem go away. However, it might help you understand what is happening to your sibling in a way that can ease confusion and uncertainty.

3. Set Boundaries

The relationship between you and the individuals suffering from substance use disorder may be close. Perhaps you have an older sibling who seems just a bit larger than life, even though some of their bravadoes have been brought on by their drug use. Perhaps you are an older sibling and you want your younger brother or sister to experience the fun and freedom you had when you were their age. Either way, it isn’t unusual for siblings to trust each other with their most precious secrets. Perhaps you are a spouse who is watching your significant other change and slowly deplete your joint bank account.  Perhaps you are a worried mother or father who are seeing your child’s grades slipping.

Some secrets are dangerous, especially for addicted people. You can help your loved one get the addiction treatment they need for drug abuse or addiction by breaking their dangerous secrets. Yes, we know it sounds like a betrayal.  But telling others who may be able to help about your loved ones addiction may just save their life.

How can you tell the difference between a dangerous secret and one that isn’t such a big deal? Ask yourself if the secret can hurt anyone, including the individual who told you their secret and/or you suspect is using drugs.  As another example, imagine if your big sister has a new boyfriend who is violent.  You’d want to tell someone, even if she asks you not to because it may just save her life.  This is also true of drug use (whether they are technically addicted or not).

The important thing is to tell someone. Don’t worry about whether or not they will be mad or angry at you. Don’t worry if they say they won’t love you anymore, or if they’ve made you promise you won’t tell. Your sibling needs help to become healthy again.

Also, never lend money to someone suffering from the disease of addiction.  No matter what story they tell you, there is a very real possibility that they will use the money you’ve lent them to buy drugs or use it in some way to obtain drugs.
Rather than making it easy for them to obtain drugs, let them know that you will not loan them any money until they receive treatment and are living a sober lifestyle.

4. Understand Your Own Risks For Drug Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction is also hereditary, although the scientists aren’t completely sure yet why this is true. The good news is that genetics are not the only factor in substance use disorder.  However, if your sibling or another blood related family member is struggling, there is a higher chance of you developing the disease of addiction.  Thus, to be safe, stay away from all mind altering substances.

5. Take Care Of Yourself

Dealing with a spouse, child, sibling, parent, friend, etc. who is addicted to drugs or alcohol and coming to terms with their disease is difficult and time-consuming. It might seem as though every moment is spent trying to help them or trying to figure out what to do. In order to help them, however, it is important that you remember to take care of yourself.

Moving Forward

Learning how to cope with the effects of your loved one’s drug addiction is an important tool that will help you and the rest of your family to get through a difficult time. You are important. You do matter. If you are concerned that a member of your family is abusing drugs, please remember to talk with a medical professional right away.  This can include your family doctor, a mental health professional, etc.

Need Addiction Treatment and Help?

Our online drug addiction and recovery community helps men and women suffering from Substance Use Disorder, drug and heroin addiction who are sick and tired of being slaves to get the addiction help and treatment they want, need and deserve. For those ready for a chance, fill out our brief addiction treatment contact form. You can also call our drug rehab hotline at 215-857-5151.


Written by Joann Miller, Blogger for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News, and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)

Edited and Published By William Charles, Owner and Publisher

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