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Addiction is a chronic condition that involves continuing to use drugs (addiction) or alcohol (alcoholism) despite negative consequences, such as harm to a person’s physical and emotional health, relationships, and finances.1 As addiction progresses, a person’s brain experiences changes to the areas involved in pleasure, stress, and self-control.1 Fortunately addiction is a treatable condition that can be addressed with the proper help.2
If your friend is abusing drugs or alcohol, you may notice certain suspicious behaviors. It can be difficult, however, to identify all of these signs if you don’t live with him. Some signs to watch for include:3
Signs your friend’s substance use may be out of control and entering the territory of a full-blown addiction or alcoholism include:4,5
You cannot force a friend to stop using drugs. However, you can support and encourage her to get the help she needs to stop. You may wonder if holding an intervention will help your friend agree to go to treatment. Interventions that confront people’s addictions directly, like those shown on television, are not proven to be effective at helping people recover. In fact, this type of approach can backfire by increasing an addicted person’s anger and resistance to change.5
To help a friend stop using drugs or alcohol, consider alternative, non-confrontational approaches:5
Enabling involves protecting a person from the consequences of drug or alcohol use.6 This makes it more comfortable for the person to continue using, since he does not have to face as many negative effects of his addiction. For example, someone may bail a friend out of jail after the person has been arrested for driving drunk. Often people may not realize that they are enabling a loved one’s drug use.
Enabling negatively affects the user and the person doing the enabling.
Enabling negatively affects the user and the person doing the enabling. The user does not have an opportunity to face the negative effects of drug use, which enables the addiction to get worse. The loved one who is enabling may be left feeling angry and resentful. The pattern of enabling a loved one’s addiction can cause problems in the relationship.
The first step in stopping a pattern of enabling a friend is to be aware that the enabling is happening. Signs that you may be enabling your addicted friend include:7
Enablers have a hard time setting boundaries, but boundaries are necessary to show your friend that his behavior has consequences and also for your own well-being. Take some time to think about what you would like your boundaries to be. For example, you might decide that you will not give your friend money for drugs or alcohol or see him when he’s under the influence.
Once you have an idea of what your boundaries are, communicate them directly and clearly to your friend. Let your friend know you care about her but that you will not support her addiction any longer. You can also tell her that you will be there for her when she is ready to get help, but until that point you will no longer be party to her drug abuse.
If your friend asks for help finding treatment, this is a huge first step. As a friend, you can support him in finding the right program that matches his needs by:
The cost of treatment varies depending upon the level of care a person needs. In general, inpatient treatment is more costly than outpatient, because inpatient requires staff to be available 24 hours a day. Other factors that may affect the cost of treatment include whether the program is private or publicly funded, types of services and amenities offered, location of the facility, and duration of stay.
There are many affordable addiction treatment options available. If your friend has health insurance, all or a portion of the costs may be covered by his insurance company. To find out how much is covered by his specific plan, you can help him call the customer service phone number on the back of his insurance card. Once you connect with an operator, you can ask to verify the benefits in order to find out whether there will be a deductible, copayment, or coinsurance. You can also quickly verify your benefits online for free here with no obligation to attend Greenhouse Treatment Center.
Some addiction treatment programs offer assistance to help reduce the costs of their programs for people who show strong motivation for recovery. These may include:
In order to find out whether a program offers financial assistance, consider contacting them directly to ask how they can help you.
State-funded programs are another option for more affordable treatment. These facilities are funded by the government and may be available to people who have Medicaid or those who do not have health insurance. For a listing of local state-funded programs, see the Directory of Single State Agencies published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Relapse, or a return to using drugs or alcohol after a period of sobriety, is sometimes a part of the recovery process. If your friend experiences a relapse, he may feel guilty, ashamed, and hopeless. Remind him that relapse is a normal part of the recovery process and is not a sign of failure. You can even compare your friend’s addiction to other chronic diseases, like diabetes, and remind him that chronic conditions sometimes involve setbacks.
Encourage him to modify his treatment by staying longer or trying a different approach. For example, he can go to inpatient instead of outpatient treatment or try a facility that offers evidence-based therapies, like Greenhouse Treatment Center. Facilities like Greenhouse offer a variety of therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), contingency management, and holistic approaches. Attending a facility that offers a wide variety of approaches ensures that there is something for everyone.
The most important part of helping a friend through a relapse is continuing to provide support without enabling the addiction. Avoid judging your friend for having a relapse and instead express your concern in a nonjudgmental manner.
You can support your friend’s sobriety in a number of different ways:
As a friend of someone addicted to drugs and alcohol, you can play an important role in helping support your friend’s recovery from addiction.