How To Approach Someone About Their Substance Abuse

Millions of people struggle with substance abuse. It can have a terrible impact on every aspect of your life but can be controlled. If you know someone with an addiction and want to help, the best way is to learn about substance abuse and how to approach that person.

Substance abuse is the medical phrase used to explain a pattern of employing a substance (drug) that triggers major problems or distress. “Substance abuse, as a recognized medical brain disorder, refers to the abuse of illegal substances, such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. Or it may be the abuse of legal substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, or prescription medicines. Alcohol is the most common legal drug of abuse.”

Facts About Substance Abuse

Addiction, also known as substance abuse disorder, is a common mental health illness affecting millions. Statistics of its impact on life in the U.S. are sobering:

  • Nearly 21 million Americans suffer from one or more addictions, but only 10% of them get treatment.
  • Deaths from drug overdose are three times higher than they were in 1990.
  • Substance abuse costs the U.S. economy more than $600 billion annually.
  • About 20% of people with an anxiety disorder or depression also experience a substance use disorder.
  • More than 90% of those experiencing substance abuse started drinking alcohol or using drugs before turning 18.
  • Americans between 18 and 25 years old are most prone to use addictive drugs.
  • About 30 Americans die daily due to an alcohol-related car crash, and six die every day from alcohol poisoning.
  • About 2.1 million Americans suffer from an opioid use disorder.

Know The Symptoms 

Some of the symptoms of substance abuse may include:

  • Convinced that you must use the drug regularly — once or more every day
  • Strong urges for the substance that blocks out other thoughts
  • Needing greater quantities of the substance for the same effect
  • Ensuring you have a constant supply of the desired substance
  • Spending more money on the substance than you can afford
  • Failure to meet personal and professional work obligations because of substance abuse

How To Approach Someone About Their Substance Abuse

Traversing sensitive topics with someone in your life who may be struggling with substance abuse can be difficult. How do you offer love and care, avoid miscommunications, and ensure your own boundaries at the same moment? Not everyone living with substance abuse has the same challenges or needs, but several communication tactics can help you demonstrate support and compassion.

  • Don’t forget the power of kindness.
  • Like a diplomat negotiating a peace treaty, choose your words carefully.
  • Ask your friend, loved one, or acquaintance if they’re seeing a medical professional or therapist and whether they’re investigated different treatment options, including ketamine therapy.
  • You can’t approach someone about their substance abuse if you don’t know what you’re talking about, so educate yourself by researching substance abuse and coping skills.
  • If you’re talking to someone about substance abuse, one of the best things you can do is always to listen and focus on what the other person is saying. The conversation is about them, their problems, and their needs. The last thing they need to hear you say is, “I know where you’re coming from” or “This shouldn’t be that big of a deal.” In other words, be prepared to listen more than hear yourself talk.
  • The main idea of your message – that you care about the other person and want to help – should be consistent during any conversation, but you also need to set boundaries gently. Letting the other person know what you can and can’t do is an excellent place to start but should always be delivered with a heavy dose of compassion and empathy.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing substance use requires a comprehensive examination, often from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or an accredited alcohol and drug abuse specialist. Blood, urine, or lab tests may evaluate drug use, “but they’re not a diagnostic test for addiction.” For diagnosis of substance use, most mental healthcare specialists refer to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Many factors will determine what kind of treatment is most appropriate, but different kinds of psychotherapy are a popular choice, as well as certain kinds of medicine and ketamine therapy. However, the final decision is yours and should never be made unless you’re confident it’ll result in positive outcomes.

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