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When does addiction become a problem?
If someone has a drug or alcohol problem it essentially changes their behavior. What they’re doing is, the person who is an addict or an alcoholic is seeking that drug or that alcohol and it will make them do things that they normally wouldn’t do. So, for folks such as loved ones, friends or family, that are observing this individual, they’re going to see this person behave differently.
What should I do if I'm concerned a loved one may have an addiction?
If there’s someone in your family or someone that you know that you are worried might have an addiction or is addicted to alcohol or some other drug, the first thing to do is to realize that this person may not feel any control over that and the other thing is that they may not be aware of this. Oftentimes, folks who are addicted to alcohol or drugs are not fully aware of how much this is impacting their life or the lives of others around them.
How do you approach someone about a drug or alcohol problem?
It is not usually helpful to take a very stern, judgmental approach — the old, glorified technique of having an intervention, where someone is crowded around 20 or so people and berated into admitting a problem that they may not be aware of really doesn’t always work. The best way to approach this is to, in a nonjudgmental fashion, point out that you’ve noticed changes in this person: “Is there a problem that’s going on in your life?” or “Is there something that you are worried about?” or cause “I’ve noticed,” for instance, “I’ve noticed that you show up to work late or that you don’t want to watch sports on TV anymore like you used to.” So you’re trying to point out to this person that you’ve noticed a difference. Not everyone will be able to see that same difference in his or her life.
What else can I do to help?
And then once you’ve gotten to that point the next step should be encouraging that person to seek help. If someone seeks help on their own accord, they are far more successful at sobriety and relapse prevention than if they’re forced to it and this has been born out in research study after research study.
When are interventions necessary?
Sometimes people do need to be forced into it if their health is so compromised or the health of others are compromised that we really can’t wait for them to get to that point.
Is there anything else I should know about addiction in order to help a loved one?
I generally recommend that folks talk to their family doctor to begin with. The family doctor knows, usually, this person’s background, both medically and hopefully socially and is able to, in a nonjudgmental way, sit that person down and make the same assertion, that maybe they’ll say the same thing that the family members or friends have but because this doctor is more of an authority in that person’s eyes, that will help motivate that person to seeking treatment.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's mental health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego psychiatrist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about mental health, visit Mental Health Disorders in Adult Health or read the Mental Health News archive.