Are you worried that a friend or a loved one may be suffering from drug abuse, however you are unclear how to approach them or whether they should be receiving professional help? This is a common experience for those whom are concerned. Knowing whether someone requires treatment for substance abuse and what kind of treatment should ultimately be determined by a professional (preferably with specialty in substance abuse disorders) following a comprehensive evaluation involving input from the drug abuser as well as from the concerned parties. There are several red flags one may notice indicating the presence of a drug problem or at the very least a need for professional assessment.
Tip # 1 – Trust your gut. If it looks like a duck, quacks, waddles like a duck and has webbed feet it’s probably a duck (nothing against ducks). Our own defenses (e.g. denial) often prevent us from recognizing that a loved one has or may have a problem. Listen to your instincts and your intuition. If you suspect a loved one has a drug problem then your hunch is probably right. Don’t delay in seeking professional consultation. The problem will not improve on its own and getting the person to treatment at a later stage will be more difficult as drug abuse disorders worsen and progress over time without treatment.
Tip # 2 - Consultation with a professional is non-negotiable. Whether you are dealing with an adolescent or an adult drug abuse represents a potentially fatal situation (think overdose, car accident, drug deal gone bad, etc.) The stakes couldn’t be higher. As such, meeting with a professional for an evaluation should be presented as something that is non-negotiable. It’s ok to start with a more democratic approach by simply having a candid conversation with your loved one expressing your concerns and inviting them to meet with a professional for an evaluation. However, if this approach fails (and it often does), then a limit must be set with the client informing them that attendance at a professional evaluation is non-optional and there will be consequences for non-compliance (e.g. they will have to leave the home, or be subject to a Marchman Act.) A Marchman Act is a court ordered procedure which essentially forces a person to seek treatment via legal mandate.
Tip #3 – Seek support for yourself. Living with someone whom is suffering from a drug abuse condition can be very isolating. Much stigma still remains regarding this condition and other mental health disorders. It is common for concerned parties to attempt to keep the problem in house and not involve any friends, family or professionals in seeking a solution to the problem. One can be of best service to the sick and suffering if they themselves are practicing self-care and receiving proper guidance. Different ways to do this include participation in self-help support groups such as Alanon, Alateen or Families Anonymous. You can also first meet with an addiction professional to discuss strategies and different ways to approach your loved one and achieve the desired outcome of their attendance to a professional evaluation.
Coping with a family member or friend whom suffers from substance abuse is a very challenging situation. The potential consequences of not acting on their behalf are too great to risk. Time is of the essence. It is our duty to do for them what they cannot do for themselves at this time. They may be upset with you temporarily, but they will thank you later.