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How to Help Someone with Opioid Addiction

A young man being spoken to by his counsellor

Learning how to help someone with opioid addiction can feel like an uphill battle. 

Being addicted to opioids is difficult, expensive, and a financial burden. But with the proper knowledge, support, and care, your loved one can make a full recovery. 

Understand Your Loved One’s Opioid Use 

Doctors commonly prescribe opioids for pain after surgery or to help people manage chronic pain. While people can purchase opioids illegally, often opioid addictions result from a prescription provided for a legitimate pain concern.

Many try to self-medicate using various substances such as opioids to help them cope with negative experiences or feelings. 

A history of trauma may have a massive impact on your loved one, and they feel like the only way they can cope is through drugs, alcohol, or other substances. 

Identify Common Signs of Opioid Use

Looking out for the most common signs of opioid use will let you know if your loved one needs support in their recovery from their addiction. 

Signs of opioid use include:

  • Inability to Control Use. Taking drugs becomes a habit that they may even struggle to remember doing.
  • Sleep Disturbances. Changes in sleep habits such as staying up late, insomnia, or oversleeping 
  • Peer Changes. Isolation or a sudden shift in friends, either avoiding others entirely or spending time with others that are likely taking opioids or other drugs.
  • Stealing. Taking money from friends or family discreetly to help pay for their addiction. Asking for money, then not spending it on what they requested it for. Regardless of what they say the money is going toward, overall, it is helping them fund their addiction. 
  • Poor Hygiene. The decline in personal hygiene includes forgetting to bathe, not brushing teeth, or failing to do laundry. These changes are because they’re spending their time and energy obtaining or taking drugs, which have become the focus of their life. 

Understand the Effects of Opioid Use on Loved Ones

When someone you love shows signs of opioid addiction, it’s completely natural to want to help. But caring for those with an addiction may feel like you’re climbing up a mountain with roller skates on. You roll backward with very little progress.

Before you can help someone else, you have to help yourself. Much like the metaphor taken from flight safety videos, you need to put your oxygen mask on before you can help others.

Effects of opioid use on loved ones include: 

  • Constant Worrying. You may stay up late at night worrying about where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. You feel like you need to be available 24/7, just in case something happens. This worry may start to feel crippling and consume your daily life. 
  • Lying or Making Excuses. To support someone with opioid addiction, you may try to excuse their behaviors. It’s perfectly natural to have the urge to want to help your loved one avoid the repercussions of their actions. However, learning how to set healthy boundaries is critical for their recovery and yours. 
  • Altering Your Life. If your loved one has an opioid addiction, you may start to remove others in your life. To avoid judgment and confrontation by others, you change your life to help someone else. Unfortunately, withdrawing yourself from your loved ones does not help anyone with opioid addiction. 

You have to help yourself before you can help your loved one. Join a support group, talk with family or friends, or find someone to support you.

Young girl struggling with opioid addiction in a counselling session

Talk to Your Loved One About Opioid Use

If your loved one is misusing opioids, talking to them is the place to begin. They may be combative or refuse to listen, so you will want to manage your expectations before that first conversation. But there is hope that they may hear you.

When talking to your loved one about opioid use:

  • Don’t Wait. Don’t wait for them to hit rock bottom or suffer severe legal or medical consequences. Instead, offer specific examples of their drug-related changes or behavior. 
  • Be Honest. Tell them how much you care and that you worry about their well-being.
  • Listen. Even if you disagree with what they’re trying to say, listen without arguing or contradicting them. Listening will help your loved one feel heard and allow them to see you as someone who cares.
  • Offer Information. Talk to them about how they can address their opioid problem. Suggest helplines, talking to a doctor or a counselor, or speaking with us at Integrative Life Center.
  • Prepare for Denial. Your loved one may experience anger or tell you that they have it under control. They may be experiencing shame and deny even taking drugs. Don’t argue. Just try having the conversation again another time. 
  • Avoid Lecturing. Also, avoid threatening, punishments, or bribery. These emotional appeals only add to their feelings of shame and guilt, encouraging them to use again. They also make them less likely to be open with you in the future.
  • Expect More Conversations. This talk may be the first of many discussions with them. There’s no quick fix, and getting them to acknowledge the problem is often the first step to a full recovery. Be patient.

Consider Approaches to Recovery

When trying to help someone with opioid addiction, there are two main approaches for encouraging them to enter recovery. 

The two approaches to getting a loved one in recovery are:

  1. Tough Love. Cutting someone who has opioid addiction off from financial support, loving contact, and a support network may feel like the only option. However, letting them fall to rock bottom without a safety net may be the only way for them to confront their addiction.
  2. Gentle Love. You can offer a more nurturing and supportive approach to help get them the care they need. By maintaining your boundaries but reminding them that you care, they may enter recovery of their own volition.

Regardless of which approach you take, don’t enable your loved one. Create and maintain boundaries and follow through on consequences. Don’t allow drug use or other users in your home. Don’t cover for your loved one when they are in trouble. Require them to support themselves financially and refuse to pay off any debts or legal expenses they may have. Insist that they treat you with the respect you deserve. 

If you’re able to convince your loved one to go to therapy, have realistic expectations. It may take several attempts for your loved one to make a full recovery. In addition, they may relapse, so try to stay patient and supportive. Each relapse is an opportunity for them to learn from their mistakes and move forward. 

Get Help for Someone with Opioid Addiction from ILC

At Integrative Life Center, we know that opioid use can’t have a one-size-fits-all treatment plan. That’s why we offer our Opioid Abuse Treatment Program that is an integrative, personalized approach to helping your loved one heal from addiction. Through a combination of traditional and alternative therapies, our holistic treatments allow your loved one to address their addiction and the underlying mental health issues causing it.


Start the path to your loved one’s recovery today by contacting us for help.

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