Drug Abuse and Dependence - For Family and Friends

If someone you care about has had a drug problem, you know how hard it can be. You know how living or dealing with someone who has a drug problem can change and even destroy your life. But family members and friends can play an important role in helping a loved one recover from drug use and addiction.

Encourage treatment

It's hard to get someone who uses drugs into treatment if he or she doesn't want it. You may be able to help the person get treatment by:

  • No longer making excuses, such as covering up for missed work or missed activities with children. Don't lie or stretch the truth to help the person.
  • Finding a good time to talk to the person. Say clearly how the person's drug use is harming you and that you will take action if he or she doesn't seek help.
  • Being ready and able to help when a decision is made to get treatment.

Help with treatment and recovery

After the choice for treatment has been made:

  • Make sure the home contains no drugs or items that help people use drugs.
  • Be involved and patient. Attend recovery meetings with your loved one, and be supportive. Know that it may take a long time for you to trust and forgive the person and for the person to forgive himself or herself.
  • Be aware that your loved one may seem like a different person after he or she is drug-free. You may need to build a new relationship.
  • Understand that you have the right to know how recovery is going, but you should ask about it in a respectful way.
  • Help your loved one plan for a relapse. Most people relapse after treatment. This doesn't mean that the treatment failed. Try to help your loved one see relapse as a chance to do better and keep working on skills to avoid drug use.
  • Focus on the positive actions your loved one is making.

Prepare for complex emotions

You probably will feel relief and happiness when the person decides to get help. But treatment and recovery mean changes in your life too. Your emotions may become more complicated. You may:

  • Resent what the person did to you in the past.
  • Not trust the person. You may not want to give the person the house key, the car key, or money. You also may feel guilty about not trusting the person.
  • Find it hard to give up or share your family role. For example, if you took over raising your child or children when your partner was using drugs, you may resent him or her becoming involved again.
  • Resent that the person is spending more time at meetings or with others in recovery than with you.
  • Worry so much about relapse that you avoid anything you feel may upset the person.


These feelings are common. You've been through a bad period of your life, and what happened isn't easy to forget. Nor is it easy to forgive the person. Keep in mind that recovery is the road to a better life and that you can help your loved one get there.

Find your own support. Nar-Anon and similar programs are for people with family members or friends who have drug problems. They help you recover from the effects of being around someone who was addicted. You also may try family therapy.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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