We have all at some time or another been impacted either directly or indirectly by someone who has been using drugs and/or alcohol. This can come in many forms, such as your child hanging out with the wrong crowd and coming home late at night; receiving complaints from your co-workers about an employee who has been observed behaving in ways that are contrary to their normal behaviors; or a loved one who recently lost someone who has been seen to be drinking more to ease the pain. Did you know that according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD):
- Drunk driving costs each adult in the United States Almost800 per year;
- In 2012, 10.3 million people reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year;
- High school students who use alcohol or other substances are five times more likely to drop out of school
According to the National Institute on Drug Use (NIDA):
- Abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costing the United States more than700 billion in costs (e.g. crime, lost work productivity, and health care).
- When drug use or alcoholism hits our own homes and our loved ones are impacted, we feel helpless. Drug addiction and alcoholism's stigma often makes people afraid to seek help because of fear of disclosure and/or retaliation or discrimination.
"...The sense of stigma is most likely to diminish as a result of public education and broader acceptance of addiction as a treatable disease." -- Institute of Medicine
So how do you help someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol? Sometimes reaching out to the individual during the beginning signs of use is a matter of life or death. This is definitely not an easy process and may be very difficult. I am happy to inform you that you have completed the first step in this process, which is trying to find out how to help. Be mindful to expect the worse when it comes to responses. This is relatively normal. As follows are five steps to help out in this process: 1. Learn a little more about substance use and addiction. Becoming educated about substance use is significant in this process. This will help you get some background of what addiction entails and perhaps how it looks, behaves, etc.
- Read up all about the signs and symptoms.
- Look at local resources in your community (e.g. possible treatment options).
- Attend support groups
2. Choose the right time to share your concern. Do not bring up the discussion when you suspect that the individual is under the influence. Establish a time that you can meet with them when there are less distractions, etc.
3. Simply voice that you care about them and are concerned. Come from a place of compassion. Remember you are not there to judge or be confrontational. Use your "I" statements and how you see it from your point of view. Do not shame or blame. Practice or role-play before you speak with them. This will help you remain emotionally stable in case an argument should arise. It is key to develop and repeat consistent and caring messages. Remember you are providing support and guidance on how to get help. This is ultimately their choice.
4. Offer help in getting help. If they come to the realization that they are in need of help, continue to provide them with the support that they need. Remember sharing your concerns and help is just the beginning.
5. Take care of yourself. Remember it is key that in order for you to help your loved one you must remember to take care of your own emotional and physical state of being. You matter in this process.
- Eat healthy
- Get sleep
- Get some exercise
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