How to Help an Alcoholic or Addict

There are a number of ways how to help an alcoholic or addict. When you are considering how to help an addict, consider that there are mental aspects to addiction and dependency, as well as the physical addiction. Help for alcoholics and addicts can be found through hospitals, clinics, interventions, and therapies, as well as through groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Benefit of Hospital Interventions

Hospitals offer easy-to-reach assistance for people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Many hospitals will allow seriously addicted individuals to be admitted through the emergency room if they are displaying acute symptoms related to their substance abuse. If someone is being admitted from a doctor’s office, the general admissions department can help a person check in.

A hospital is generally equipped with both inpatient and outpatient facilities. Hospitals are able to handle serious complications due to alcohol or drug use, as well as the withdrawal symptoms a patient may go through. In an emergency situation, a hospital should always be the facility that is attended. If you expect a situation is an emergency, immediately call 911 for assistance.

It is important to get proper treatment when addicted or dependent on drugs or alcohol. The right treatment can prevent serious symptoms, relieve discomfort, and prevent future withdrawals. If a patient has mild or moderate symptoms, an outpatient facility can be used and will know how to help an alcoholic or addict; however, serious symptoms need to be treated at an inpatient center. Severe withdrawal, for instance, usually requires pharmacological intervention to prevent serious side effects. The different types of drugs and alcohols can result in the need for varying treatments, so a hospital is well-equipped to treat any patient’s needs. Those with coexisting disorders are also able to be treated within a hospital environment. Some serious withdrawal symptoms that require treatment in a hospital include:

  • Withdrawal seizures.
  • Tremors.
  • Hallucinations.

“…going to a hospital is one way to start gathering the help that is needed.” With hospital intervention, a detoxification schedule can be maintained for alcoholics or those dealing with an addiction problem. When looking at how to help an alcoholic, withdrawal occurs within the first 48 hours, so it is important to seek the proper medical help as soon as possible. Serious withdrawal can sometimes cause side effects that need medical treatment, a slower detoxification method, or other medical advice, so going to a hospital is one way to start gathering the help that is needed.

Outpatient treatment at a hospital allows the patient to attend rehab during the day and return home at night. This may be the best way how to help an alcoholic that has to maintain a normal schedule in their day-to-day life. These treatments can include medications, therapies, and other treatment methods. The treatment usually takes place for a few hours, allowing the patient to maintain a job, family life, and a social life.

As always, if it is an emergency, call your emergency services as soon as possible.

Other Treatment Settings

There are several treatment settings that can handle drug and alcohol detox for patients. Rehabilitation clinics normally have inpatient procedures, outpatient procedures, or both. These clinics may focus on a certain type of drug or specialize in alcohol use, so it is important to call and find out before going. Many private doctors’ offices will give a referral to a patient who needs inpatient or outpatient therapy, so if you would like information on the best clinic for your needs, speak with your healthcare provider.

Inpatient facilities provide around-the-clock care for addicted patients throughout their stay, which can range from a few weeks to a few months. During this time, the patient has 24-hour access to nurses and doctors, as well as the support of peers. Inpatient clinics normally have a psychotherapist on staff, as well as nurses and medical doctors. During treatment, patients may have medications, group therapy treatment, family therapy, and other styles of drug or alcohol education. When looking at the ways how to help an alcoholic, it’s important to take all of the different methods into consideration. Some may work better for some people than others, but a combination approach is usually best.

Outpatient facilities do not keep patients overnight, so they are often best for mild-to-moderate addiction and dependency issues. If you are looking for how to help an alcoholic who has a less-severe addiction, this may be a viable solution. Outpatient facilities may not have the medications or facilities necessary to help someone with a more serious addiction, so the facility is likely to refer the patient to an inpatient service if it is not a condition the clinic can handle. Outpatient services are often used when a patient needs to have continued therapy or maintenance completed. This helps doctors keep up-to-date on the patient’s progress and can help the patient stay off drugs or alcohol.

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Detox Center

Finding the right detox center can be a tricky task if you are looking to help someone, whether it is yourself or a loved one, to get clean from drugs or alcohol.Read More

Combined rehabilitation and detox clinics are also available. These clinics often have two stages, the stage of detoxification, where patients get clean from drugs or alcohol, and then the stage of rehabilitation, where the patients interact with others, complete therapies, participate in educational courses, and work on social and life skills. Combined clinics are beneficial because the patient can stay in one place during the entire treatment. Patients live with each other, sometimes with roommates with similar conditions. This can help support emotional bonding, as well as giving the support a person needs to get through detoxification.

Before your loved one enters any of these treatment settings, be sure to have the following information ready to help the admission process go more smoothly:

  • Type of addiction (e.g., to alcohol or heroin).
  • Length of addiction.
  • Severity of addiction (e.g., to the best of you knowledge, how much does the person use and how often).
  • Presence of any mental health disorders (e.g., PTSD, depression, bipolar).
  • Their insurance information.
  • Other financial resources for treatment costs.
  • Medical doctor or psychiatrist’s contact information.
  • Therapist’s contact information.

How Interventions Help Addicts

When looking into how to help an alcoholic or drug addict, interventions are often considered when a person’s friends or family members recognize a problem that the patient has yet to see or seek help for. This is often the first step toward treatment for those who have serious drug or alcohol abuse issues.

Importance of Treatment Plan

When planning an addiction intervention for a loved one, it is important to have a treatment plan in place that the individual can immediately begin. Once you have convinced them to get the help that they need, no time should be wasted in the start of rehabilitation at a reputable facility. If you have tried to help a loved one in the past but have been unsuccessful, do not lose heart.Read More

You will find support with an interventionist and other mental health or medical professionals during this time, as they guide you through the process. Plans for an intervention begin with contacting an trained and experienced interventionist, researching treatment center ready for loved one, and talking to all the family members and friends who may be part of the intervention.

An intervention involves the loved ones telling the addicted person how the drugs or alcohol are affecting them. When using an intervention to help a person addicted to alcohol, it is common for members to prepare letters to read to them. These usually share their concern about what will happen if they don’t get help for their addiction. The interventionist will help your family find an appropriate treatment center, show you how to secure them a space, and even arrange for transportation from the intervention to the rehab center if needed.

Psychotherapy After Detox and Rehab

“Psychotherapy is key part of the rehabilitation process.” Psychotherapy is key part of the rehabilitation process and is a form of behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize negative behaviors in their lives. Once these behaviors are identified, the therapist can help the patient change cues that trigger the negative behaviors and can help create more positive behaviors in their place. The most commonly used form of therapy is typically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Therapy may be used in combination with medications and  continued after a formal rehabilitation program has been completed. Talk therapy, family therapy, and group therapy are all known to be beneficial to those trying to stay sober. If you want to know how to help an alcoholic, it is important to become involved in these therapy sessions.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous is a group that meets and works with those who have an alcohol use disorder. The group is specifically designed with the question of how to help an alcoholic in mind.This group is aimed at both men and women, although some groups allow only one gender or another to allow the participants a safe place when issues exist with the other gender. The goal of AA is to allow participants to have peer support, to talk about their problems and issues, and to keep the members sober. There are no fees or dues for this group, so it is available to anyone who can come to a meeting. There are no associations with major religions, institutions, or organizations, so the members can feel comfortable no matter what their backgrounds are. They do follow the 12 steps as means to help members overcome alcoholism and stay sober.

Supporting Vs. Enabling

Regardless of the treatment setting you find for your addicted loved one, it is important to also understand the healthiest way to way to approach encouraging them to get help. It is not uncommon for family members of those addicted to drugs and alcohol to feel a range of emotions—from fear to guilt to compassion—and to act based on those emotions. Often this results in enabling behaviors, which actually helps keep the drug or alcohol abusers in their addiction longer by not allowing them to experience the natural consequences of their choices.

Many parents want to protect their children from certain outcomes related to their substance abuse, such as being expelled from school or arrested for a DUI. While this is understandable, it is not always what is ultimately best for their child in the long run since they are not fully feeling the impact of their addiction on their lives.

Supporting an addicted loved one is different in that you do not shield them from the natural consequences of their choices but ensure that they know you love them unconditionally and will do whatever you can to help them get the help they need. It also involves setting strong, healthy boundaries around the behaviors you will and will not accept from them related to their addiction. For example, you may say they cannot drive your children until they attend an addiction treatment program. Or you may tell them you will no longer give them cash while they are still active in their addiction.

While supporting your loved one in getting the help they need is good and important, it is also essential to take care of your own wellbeing during this challenging time. Tend to your physical and emotional health consistently, and make sure you have people who can support you as well.

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Types of Treatment Programs.
  2. Jesse, S., Brathen, G., Ferrara, M., Keindl, M., Ben-Menachem, E., Tanasescu, R., Brodtkorb, E., Hillbom, M., Leone, M.A., & Ludolph, A.C. (2016). Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Mechanisms, Manifestations, and Management. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 135(1). 
  3. McHugh, R.K., Hearon, B.A., & Otto, M.W. (2011). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use DisordersThe Psychiatric Clinics of North America, (33)3, 511–525.
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