Substance Use: Helping Someone Get Treatment

Overview

If you have a family member or friend who is using illegal drugs or other substances, you probably want to help. This can be hard. You can't force a person into treatment. But you can talk to the person and encourage them to get treatment. Here are some ideas that may help.

  • Choose a good time to talk.

    Find a time when the person is not using substances, when you are both calm and not angry, and when you can speak in private.

  • Be specific.

    Tell the person that you are worried about their substance use and want to help. Give examples of how the person's behavior has affected you and how it made you feel.

  • Spell out the consequences.

    Tell the person what will happen if they refuse to get help, and be prepared to act. Stress that you aren't punishing the person but that you want to protect yourself from any harm that their habit causes. For example, you may say that:

    • You will no longer allow substance-using friends in the house, or you will move out.
    • You will no longer make excuses, such as if the person is late to work. The person will have to deal with the problems that substance use causes.
  • Be ready to take action.

    Know ahead of time where and how to get help.

    • If the person agrees to get treatment, call for an appointment right away. Don't accept "We'll call tomorrow."
    • Offer to go to the first appointment or meeting.
  • If needed, consider a group intervention.

    Some people ask a group of people to help them talk to the person who has a substance use disorder. It's best to ask for help from a counselor or therapist who has had practice in group interventions.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: November 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Peter Monti PhD - Alcohol and Addiction

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This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.