A person can help someone with addiction recognize their problem or seek treatment. However, the process may not be straightforward and can cause emotional distress on both sides.

It can be challenging to watch a loved one experience addiction and the problems it causes. Some people with addiction refuse help or treatment, and others may be abusive to their partners or family.

This article looks at what experts say about how to help someone with an addiction. Additionally, it explains how to set boundaries and care for yourself if you are in a relationship with someone with an addiction.

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The American Psychiatric Association refers to addiction as severe substance use disorder (SUD) and describes it as a condition where someone uses a substance despite harmful consequences.

People with addiction use a substance such as alcohol or drugs to the point where it affects their ability to function in daily life. They may have disordered thinking and behaviors due to changes in the brain’s structure and function. Additionally, as someone with addiction becomes tolerant over time, they may need larger doses of alcohol or drugs to feel the same effect.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that addiction is like other diseases, such as heart disease. Both disrupt the typical, healthy functioning of an organ in the body, having severe harmful effects and can lead to death. However, as with heart disease, people can prevent and treat addiction.

Read more about addiction here.

Types of addiction

The American Psychiatric Association advises that people can develop an addiction to several different substances:

  • tobacco
  • alcohol
  • heroin
  • cannabis
  • cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants
  • opioids, such as codeine and oxycodone
  • cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants
  • inhalants, such as paint thinners and glue
  • medicines for anxiety, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics

In addition, people can develop a behavioral addiction.

Addiction Center lists some of the most common types of behavioral addictions:

A person may have a friend or family member with addiction and wonder how to help them.

Everyone’s situation is different, and the person with addiction may not have sought treatment or could be refusing treatment and help.

The following is advice from the American Addiction Centers and the University of Rochester Medical Center.

  • Remember that addiction is a disease and not a choice or a moral failing.
  • The first step is recognizing the problem, and someone may help a person realize they have an addiction by talking with them.
  • Be prepared for various reactions from sadness to anger, and consider how you will react.
  • Do not talk with them about helping while they are high or drunk.
  • Encourage the individual to seek help and assist them in finding resources or treatment.
  • Set an example to them of healthy living by giving up alcohol or using drugs recreationally
  • Be supportive but do not cover up for them.
  • Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and learn to manage their condition.
  • Accept that relapse is often part of the recovery process.
  • Experts advise that suddenly stopping alcohol or drugs can lead to withdrawal symptoms, so someone should seek medical advice for stopping.
  • Help someone find out if their health insurance covers treatment for addiction or if there are any community programs at less cost.

It may be helpful to encourage a family member or friend to attend a support group for their addiction.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism lists several groups to consider:

Sometimes, the person trying to help someone with addiction may have issues themselves or need support.

Individual situations may range from codependency to abuse or violence. The following are tips from addiction experts.

  • seek help from a support group for friends and family members such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon
  • if a couple both have addiction issues, it is possible to get treatment together
  • set boundaries and stick to them
  • if a person with addiction is harming someone and refusing help, a person may need to end or leave a relationship


Someone who has a relationship with a person with addiction may find themselves interacting with them in a manner known as codependency.

Addiction Center explains that codependency is a pattern of interactions where someone tries to help a person manage their struggles with addiction, but in doing so, they also enable the person to keep using.

According to Addiction Center, this might involve providing money to enable someone’s addictions, letting a person stay with them rather than attending rehab, or supplying them with drugs or alcohol.

Someone who thinks they may need support for codependency can find it in a program such as Co-dependents Anonymous.

Recovery times vary according to the individual circumstances, which may involve several treatment strategies such as medication, rehab or treatment programs, and support groups.

The American Psychiatric Association advises that remaining in treatment for an adequate time is critical to recovery.

Additionally, health professionals need to assess and modify an individual’s treatment plan to meet their changing needs.

It is possible to help someone with addiction recover by encouraging them to seek treatment and attend support groups or recovery programs.

A person can also help someone recognize or acknowledge addiction by talking with them.

Codependency may be an issue in a relationship that involves addiction, and someone can seek support for this issue.

People can use several online resources as a starting point to help their loved one or friend take the first steps toward healing.