How to Help Someone with an Addiction

How to Help an Addicted Friend or Family member

This section will guide you on how to help someone with an addiction.

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When someone struggles with addiction, it can have serious negative effects on their relationships with family, friends, and work colleagues. If you know or suspect that someone in your life suffers from alcohol or drug addiction, you will probably want to help the one that you love, but this can be met with hostility or denial.

Addiction is a chronic,  often relapsing emotional illness, and the path to recovery for someone who is addicted is often a long and difficult one. This inevitably impacts those closest to them, and professional help may be needed to get them to treatment and into recovery.

Alcoholism | Drug addiction

Signs of Addiction

It is important for family members and friends to recognise the signs and symptoms of addiction.

These can differ depending on the type of addictions they are coping with, whether it be drugs, alcohol or gambling addiction. Many people are able to hide their addiction even from those closest to them, and it can be tempting to ignore the problem when that seems easier. Some of the most common signs that someone is suffering from addiction include:

Behavioural changes

  • Developing problems at work or school
  • Lying about the substance or how much they use
  • Becoming angry when asked about their use
  • Changing friends groups
  • Secretive behaviour, lying, stealing
  • Changes to normal habits or mood swings
  • Quitting social activities or Criminal behaviour

Physical Changes

  • Appearing intoxicated more often
  • Problems with memory or cognition
  • Unusual tiredness or Bloodshot eyes
  • Rapid weight fluctuations
  • Poor hygiene and grooming

3 Emotional & Behavioural Barriers to Addiction Treatment and Recovery

As much as you want to help your loved one, it is common for those who suffer from addiction to exhibit negative behaviours and attitudes when confronted about their using. Many people will react in the following ways:


Part of the reason that addiction is so difficult to manage and treat is that the person affected refuses to accept that they have a problem. It can be frustrating and confusing for those around the person affected to continue watching them behave in destructive ways and remain in denial when confronted.


When confronted, the person affected will deny they have a problem, and will commonly react in anger, initially or if pushed on the issue. People with an addiction will generally be feeling defensive and can turn aggressive if the issue of their using is raised. Even the “nicest” approach may be met with anger.


The person affected may start to avoid you, or avoid speaking about their problems, if they begin to feel “attacked”.  An addict will often use it as a coping method to avoid problems and may continue this avoidance behaviour, starting to shut themselves away from you and other loved ones that confront them.

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