Save your family


When a family member abuses alcohol or drugs, the whole family suffers. Helping someone to get out of this dreadful situation requires a group effort. It takes courage, strength, and perseverance through the entire process – from recognizing the problem to offering help and directing the next steps to recovery. 


It’s important to know what you are doing and avoid mistakes that may only exacerbate the problem. Here are the answers to the 7 most common questions asked by people who want to help a family member struggling with substance abuse. 

How to make sure my suspicions are true? 

Before seeking a rehab for men ( or women, you want to be 100 percent sure that your parent, sister, brother, or other relative has problems with alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription drug medication.

If the person avoids talking to you about this issue, it’s a strong indicator that your suspicions are not groundless. So, take the following actions:

  • Find out the signs and symptoms of substance abuse. 
  • Observe the person’s behavior for some time.  
  • If you notice some worrying signs, share your suspicions with other family members. If they agree with you, elaborate on your further actions.
  • Contact a substance use professional and get a consultation on the matter. 

Why early identification and action is important?

Alcoholics and drug takers often have an illusion the situation is under control. In reality, addiction is taking control of their lives. 

The consequences for a user may include:

  • health problems
  • dropping out of school
  • loss of job
  • ruined friendships and family bonds
  • decreased self-respect and self-esteem
  • violent and risky behaviors that may lead to traumas
  • criminal behavior
  • overdose and death.

Partners of addicts may experience stress, anger, despair, anxiety, and isolation. And their children often have school behavior problems and poor academic performance. It’s better to get help before addiction begins to take its toll on the family. Moreover, a recovery process will be faster and easier.

How to discuss the subject with the person struggling with addiction? 

An intervention talk may provoke unexpected results. An individual may throw a fit, leave the house, drop out of school, or try to hide the problem better.

To avoid mistakes, consult an intervention specialist. You’ll receive recommendations that will work in your case. There are some common tips:

  • Don’t start intervention when the person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 
  • Choose caring people to participate in the meeting. 
  • Start the talk by telling the person that you care for him/her. 
  • Create a dialogue rather than a lecture. 
  • List the behaviors you’ve noticed and ask to explain them. 
  • Avoid blameful or judging remarks. Let the person understand that he/she has someone to refer to for help and support.  
  • Don’t expect an instant change and readiness to go in a men-only rehabilitation center. You might need several conversations to break denial.

How to help someone recognize that he/she has a problem?

You may regularly give lectures, make threats, give second chances, and accept promises to undergo men’s rehabilitation, but still see no progress. Experts recommend approaching a dependent individual in a collaborative way by saying: “I know you’ve been having a tough time managing your problem. Is there any way I can help you solve it?” 

Some people agree to make some activities together, like review brochures and videos on addiction results and treatment, meet a professional, or go to a self-help group (AA, NA, SMART Recovery, etc.).

The reaction on your offer of help will depend on the character of an addict. Some people start acting aggressively. You must be prepared for such an outcome. Firstly, don’t start the talk if either of you is under influence. Secondly, protect yourself from possible violence. Involve a third person or call the police, if necessary.

How to help someone who may need medical treatment?

If your efforts are unsuccessful, consider a formal intervention. Some people are afraid of going to an addiction treatment center because they simply don’t know what to expect. 

To dispel all doubts and worries, tell the person about the services they will receive. Emphasize the importance of inpatient detoxification and say that quitting cold turkey may be very dangerous. 

Explain that therapy will make the person more skillful in resolving conflicts and challenging situations. Proper diet, exercises, and additional activities (sports games, massages, art therapy, or another activity offered by a certain center) will improve overall health.

Mention that he/she may not need a long residential treatment. Encourage the person to speak with a health-care professional first. The screening will show what type of treatment is required. 

How to help in choosing the right rehab? 

The formal treatment has many forms. And there’s no one-size-fits-all program. Recently, the gender-specific approach has become popular. 

There are gender differences between female and male addiction. They manifest in the reasons for drinking and taking drugs, rates of dependence, choice of substance, and physical and mental response to substance abuse. Thus, special programs are designed to treat men and women separately. To find such a treatment program, visit SAMHSA’s Locator.

Men-only rehab programs are found to be more effective than those with a mixed-gender environment. Members of the same sex feel more comfortable with each other. They feel more open and involved in therapy sessions.

Also, patients feel less distracted as they don’t deal with gender issues. They have higher chances to find a good friend in a male environment. All these factors contribute to success in recovery.

What to do in a drug/alcohol emergency?

In a dangerous situation provoked by abuse, call for help a.s.a.p. Don’t waste precious time for making this decision as it can reduce a person’s chances of recovery or even cause death. 

If you are concerned about any of the following symptoms, call 911 from a landline or (415) 472-0911 from a cell phone.

  • Unconsciousness or semiconsciousness after taking drugs or drinking alcohol;
  • Slow respiration – 8 or fewer breaths per minute;
  • A pulse rate lower than 40 beats per minute;
  • A seizure;
  • Repeated episodes of vomiting;
  • Vomiting while a person is not awake;
  • A person expresses suicidal intentions;
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms, such as extreme confusion, trembling or hallucinations. 

Your efforts combined with medical help afterward will help your close person to start a clean and sober life. There is always hope!