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Helping a Friend Who Is a Drug Addict

Helping an addicted friend takes courage. You may fear that speaking the truth will make your friend angry, but ignoring the problem is not really being a friend at all. Often the best course of action for someone battling addiction is to enroll in a transitional residency program at a sober living home.

A sober living home provides the daily structure, support, and accountability an addict needs to recover. It helps not just by getting the person off drugs, but also by providing them with first-hand experience of how wonderful a sober life can be. 

Warning Signs

Most addicts will not admit they have a problem, so the first step in helping an addict is to watch for behavioral clues like the following:

  • Change in daily routine, with excuses made for being late or absent
  • Texts or frequent communications from new or unfamiliar friends
  • Speech faster or slower than usual
  • Mood swings 

If you suspect drug use, look at the skin for places where your friend may have injected themselves. These sites resemble small bruises on the arm, leg, or between the toes. You also may see dark lines of needle marks along the forearms, or discolored areas called “soot tattoos.”

Sometimes small lumps of scar tissue can develop below the skin, and skin infections are common. The person may wear long sleeves or pants even on hot days in an attempt to hide these marks. Other physical signs to look for include bloodshot eyes, with pupils either dilated or constricted, sudden loss of weight, and occasionally a strange body odor.

If your friend is abusing alcohol you may smell it on their breath or notice that they frequently disguise their breath with mints or gum. 

Things to Do and Say

If you are serious about helping an addicted relative or friend, be intentional about your choice of words. Making off-hand suggestions or hinting that maybe they need help is not going to do any good. You must communicate clearly and directly that you understand the problem and want to help them through this difficult time. Don’t try to shame or belittle them. Remind them of specific instances when you noticed a change in their behavior and explain how it made you feel.

Treat the addiction like you would any other medical problem, by letting them know there are professionals who can help. Express your confidence that they will get better and demonstrate your willingness to help them enroll in treatment.

Treatment at Real Recovery involves medications, like Suboxone or Vivitrol, which ease the withdrawal process and help prevent relapse. Residents are taught to establish a healthy routine as part of learning how to cope and enjoy life while sober. They learn skills of basic living and, when they are ready, are coached and supported as they return to life outside of treatment. Don’t watch your friend or relative suffer any longer. Contact Real Recovery to discuss how we can help.