Standing By Your Loved One’s Side: A Guide to Support Someone Battling Substance Use Disorder

Supporting someone you care about who is struggling with a substance use disorder can be daunting. However, armed with the right information and resources, you can provide crucial assistance in their journey toward recovery.

  • Understanding Substance Use Disorder: Substance use disorders are not simply about willpower. They are complex health conditions that interfere with a person’s ability to control or cease their substance use. Being aware of this can help prevent blame and aid in building empathy.
  • Communication: Openly discussing your concerns about their substance use is important, but equally important is how you convey your feelings. Strive to be non-judgmental, listen actively, and express your love and concern rather than anger or disappointment.
  • Encourage Treatment: Treatment options can vary based on the individual’s needs and may include detoxification, medications, therapy, support groups, or residential programs. Highlight the value of professional help, but remember that the decision must ultimately come from them.
  • Get Support for Yourself: Watching a loved one suffer can be stressful. Engage in self-care activities, seek therapy, or join support groups for families dealing with substance use disorders. This will not only help you, but also equip you to provide better support for your loved one.
  • Set Boundaries: Define what you are willing and not willing to tolerate. Be consistent with your limits and remember that enabling behaviors can potentially prolong the disorder.
  • Plan for Emergencies: Substance use disorder can lead to life-threatening situations. Know the signs of overdose and have a plan in place should such an emergency occur. Be sure to have naloxone (name-brand Narcan) on hand.
  • Patience: Recovery is a long journey, often with setbacks. Your patience and consistent support can provide a solid foundation for your loved one’s path to recovery.

Every situation is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Stay flexible, informed, and compassionate, and remember that professional help is available when needed.


National Institute on Drug Abuse