Learning that someone you love is struggling with substance abuse is heartbreaking. However, it’s important to control your emotions and make sure you respond in the most appropriate manner.

Don’t Be Judgmental

Although people used to think that addiction was a sign of weakness or lack of will, recent research suggests that drug addiction happens because the chemicals in the brain are not working properly. Your loved one is not lazy or stupid; he or she has a real medical problem. As a result, you should never blame someone for having a substance abuse disorder. Also, don’t become angry, as you risk damaging your relationship with your loved one permanently. Instead, thank your friend or relative for confiding in you and ask if there’s anything you can do.

Don’t Isolate Your Loved One

People who struggle with addiction already face isolation and judgment from nearly everyone they meet. Don’t contribute to your loved one’s feeling of being a social outcast by withdrawing after you hear this news. Unless you are enabling your loved one’s addiction through gifts of money or access to suppliers, continue to be a supportive presence in his or her life. Here are a few things you can do to prove that you won’t abandon this person:

  • Send texts with funny pictures of the two of you
  • Ask for his or her advice
  • Drop off meals or gift cards for food
  • Offer to help with driving for doctor’s appointments
  • Babysit his or her children

Avoid smothering your loved one with unwanted attention, but don’t leave him or her alone at this critical time.

Do Your Research

Unless you’re a trained medical professional, you probably don’t know too much about drug abuse. Don’t pry into your loved one’s personal experiences, but do some general research online so you understand what he or she is going through. Use reputable sites sponsored by universities or the government to learn about the different substances that are commonly abused, including the following:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamines
  • Prescription drugs such as Oxycodone and Vicodin
  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana

Alcohol is considered a drug even though people who are older than 21 can legally consume it since it is addictive and has damaging effects when consumed in large quantities. You may have heard that marijuana is not addictive, but if it is used too much, it still harms people’s brains and bodies. This drug is all the more dangerous for being easily accessible because it is legal in many states.

You should also research the ways that people overcome drug addictions. Many people who have substance abuse disorders also struggle with their mental health, so they need to treat both issues through therapy and medication. Even if your loved one always seems happy, don’t rule out the possibility of a mental health disorder. Frequently, those facing drug addictions also need to separate themselves from their current environments. This is especially true if their neighborhoods or homes contain triggers for their drug use, such as the following:

  • Sites where they used drugs in the past
  • People who supply drugs
  • Stressors that trigger the urge to use drugs

If your loved one’s environment contributes to his or her addiction, a rehabilitation facility is a good pathway to recovery. Research different programs in your area and offer to take your friend or relative to one of these sites.

Substance abuse is a complicated issue without an easy solution. Because your loved one is already under so much pressure, it’s critical that you follow these tips as you help him or her find a solution. Remember, offering support isn’t enabling; it’s guiding your loved one towards a better future.