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How to Approach A Friend Who Needs Addiction Treatment

This fear may drive you away. You may even think that you have no right to interfere in their personal problem.

You have a right to speak up and let your friend know that you are concerned about them and that they may be a danger to themselves and/or others, as well as the right to strongly encourage that they get professional treatment for their addiction and pursue help for their illness.

Understand what addiction is and how it feels

The first thing you will want to do is educate yourself on addiction.

In order to approach an addict or alcoholic in a way in which they will be most receptive, you’ll have to try to do as much research as you can in order to step into their shoes and get into their minds as much as humanly possible.

Addiction is speculated to be caused by legitimate factors such as genetic predisposition and is linked heavily with traumatic experiences and comorbid mental illness. Addiction manifests differently in everyone who becomes addicted, but there are some common signs. For example, everyone who struggles with an addiction will experience anxiety when without their drug of choice and do whatever they can to attain the substance in order to relieve their craving and continue feeding their dependence; however, not everyone will end up homeless because of their drug, and you shouldn’t withhold a conversation with a friend just because it hasn’t gotten “that bad” yet. Empathy and openness are important when approaching your friend on any matter, but especially one regarding their addiction.

Understand what addiction looks like

Some social symptoms of addiction may include becoming increasingly withdrawn, missing school or work, legal issues, or relationship and marital turbulence. Physical symptoms can range from weight loss, strange or sped-up speech, looking malnourished, and an overall “unwell” appearance or demeanor. Withdrawal symptoms include unsteady hands, poor balance, nausea, and an array of other unpleasant symptoms.

Do your research so you can understand the signs and be able to clearly understand why it is you’re deciding to have a conversation with your friend.

Do your research on the types of treatment

Rehab centers, detoxification centers, one-on-one cognitive or dialectical behavioral therapy, medication, and outpatient treatment are some of the many options for addicts who need to overcome their disease.

Speak to them when they are sober

Here, the ideal outcome is addiction treatment or rehab. Catch your friend when they are sober and ask if you can sit with them and talk to them for a bit. No pressure. Insist it is important to you.

Come from a place of love

You are speaking to your friend about their addiction because you love them and because you don’t want to see them hurt themselves and those around them any longer. Make this clear. Try to make as many statements as you can that focus on the way that their actions towards you and themselves have caused you to feel, for example, “Seeing you withdrawal from our normal activities together hurts me and causes me to worry about you.”

Be insistent that their behavior is worrisome, but also keep the conversation about your friendship and the effect their addiction is having on it. Non-threatening language is key here. Clearly state your observations of their behavior and suggest they seek help. Create an environment of safety and openness where your friend feels free to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns.

Know that you may not get an ideal reaction

Understand that part of addiction is denial. It can be overwhelming to the addict to be faced with the effects of their actions at first. Do not let this deter you from speaking to your friend, and you may even want to prepare for it.

Consider an intervention

You may want to contact an intervention specialist. These are trained professionals whom sole specialization is to set up communal mediation for the addict and those who love the addict with the intent of convincing the addict to get help and go to a reputable treatment center.

Consider Al-Anon

Al-Anon is a 12-step program created for the friends and family who have or have had loved ones who struggled with an addiction of any kind.

Addiction affects everyone around the addict. No matter what you think, you have a right to speak up and let a friend or loved one know that it’s hurting you to watch them hurt themselves. You are allowed, and encouraged, to voice your concern and opinion and suggest they get professional help.

You may be one of the reasons a friend chooses to save themselves, and that’s worth a conversation.

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