A Guide to Helping an Opioid Addict: What Solution Is Right for Them?

Medically Reviewed

When someone you care about is fighting an addiction, you are down in the trenches with them. As the more present and aware person in the relationship, you likely notice changes that your loved one doesn’t and see the warning signs that addiction treatment is necessary.

It is rare for someone who lives in active addiction to agree that they even have a serious substance use disorder, much less that they need to stop using drugs and alcohol and enroll in a drug rehab program.

The good news is that you can play an important role in helping your loved one to recognize these facts and assist them in the process of finding the right addiction treatment services for their needs.

What Can I Do To Help My Loved One Get Closer To Recognizing The Need For Treatment?

In many cases, family members unwittingly play a role in the continuation of their loved one’s addiction. How is that possible?

Simply by doing things, large and small, that help to buffer them from the consequences of drug and alcohol use.

Though the idea that they might be aiding their loved one’s addiction is upsetting to most, it is often the support they provide that sends the message to their addicted family member that there are no real risks associated with drug addiction. For example, any of the following choices essentially shield your family member from managing the responsibilities of everyday life and makes drug use seem less dysfunctional:

  • Providing cash or monetary support of any kind
  • Allowing them to live with you rent-free
  • Calling their boss, parole officer, or another authority figure in their life to lie on their behalf when they do not fulfill their obligation due to continued drug use
  • Allowing them to get high or bring drugs into your house
  • Doing anything to “clean up” the mess when they make poor choices while under the influence

Rather than making it easier for them to continue drinking or getting high, you can be a positive support by:

  • Making it clear that you will no longer continue to pay their way while they are spending their money and time getting and staying high
  • Stepping out of the way when the consequences of drug use strike, such as letting them lose their job or stay in jail
  • Offering to go with them to a 12-step meeting, doctor’s appointment about drug treatment, or drug rehab facility tour
  • Emphasizing that you will no longer do things that make their life in drug addiction easier, but you will be there to support their transition into treatment

What Do I Do If My Loved One Refuses To Go To Treatment?

In the context of a casual conversation, it is rare that someone living with addiction will agree that treatment is necessary or follow through on getting help if they do acknowledge that treatment is needed. Often, it can take a more structured conversation in the form of an intervention — a meeting that includes your addicted loved one and other concerned family members, which solely focuses on helping your loved one enter a drug rehab program right away.

Planning The Intervention

  • Consider whom to include in the intervention. People who are close to your addicted loved one, emotionally stable, and do not have a drug addiction of their own will be most appropriate.
  • Plan where to hold the intervention. Choose a place that is comfortable for your loved one and one they would normally go to. Avoid public places.
  • Choose who will bring your loved one to the intervention. It is important to pick someone to bring your loved one to the intervention who will make the process natural and not alert them in advance to what is unfolding.
  • Decide who will run the intervention. You may be the perfect person to run the intervention itself if you are doing the planning, but if you are overwhelmed by emotion, including deep grief or sorrow, it may be a better choice to assign the task to someone who can be more reserved. In some cases, hiring an interventionist is the best choice.
  • Assign who will transport your loved one to treatment if they agree to go. In some cases, this may be the interventionist, but it also may be a friend or family member who can be trusted to take them directly to the treatment program with no stops in between.

Preparing For An Intervention

  • Find a drug rehab. One of the goals of an intervention is for your loved one to go directly from the family meeting to the front door of the treatment program. To facilitate this, it is necessary to find the best drug rehab for their needs, go through all the steps to get their spot secured and make sure there is a bed open on the day of the intervention.
  • Pack a bag for your loved one. If the drug rehab you choose is an inpatient drug rehab program, you will need to pack a bag for them in advance that includes only the recommended items and avoids any items that are banned.
  • Hold a meeting with all participants. It is important that all friends and family members who take part in the intervention understand what the purpose of the meeting is as well as their role in the process. Having a meeting in advance that does not include your addicted loved one allows everyone to get on the same page, ask questions, and support one another.
  • Decide what you will say. Everyone at the intervention will be able to take a turn and share their thoughts briefly with your addicted loved one. It is recommended to keep these mini-speeches to just a few minutes, focusing on what has changed due to addiction, what is hoped for the future, the need for immediate drug rehab, and then making it clear how things will change in terms of providing support if they choose not to attend treatment.

Staging An Intervention

  • Wait for your loved one to be sober. It is likely that your addicted family member will be high or drunk when they enter the intervention setting. It is necessary for everyone to wait until they are sober, cogent, and able to be present for the discussion.
  • Keep emotions in check. It is heart-wrenching, maddening, and overwhelming to see someone you love killing themselves with drugs and alcohol. However, during an intervention, it is necessary to put those feelings aside and focus on the goal of getting your loved one into treatment.
  • Help others stay focused on the goal. It may be difficult for others to manage their upset during the intervention process. You can assist by steering the conversation back on track, focusing on your loved one getting treatment now and nothing else.
  • Be clear about what you will change going forward. An intervention marks a turning point in your life and the life of your addicted loved one. You will no longer do any of the things that may have supported them in their ability to get and stay high. It is important to detail what that will mean to your loved one during the intervention.
  • Emphasize your love and support of your addicted family member. If your addicted family member is unhappy about the intervention and the attempt to get them into treatment, you may bear the brunt of their anger. Remember to stay focused on the goal and remind them that you will be there to support them all the way.

After The Intervention

  • Know that there is no such thing as a failed intervention. Even if your loved one refuses treatment on the day of the intervention, the seed has been planted. When you follow through on your promises to remove support, and your loved one begins to realize how difficult it is to stay active in addiction, they may be more likely to choose to get the help they need.
  • Follow through on your promises. It is essential that you do not waver when it comes to removing your financial support and other support from your addicted loved one. Your loved one needs to see what the true consequences of their addiction are so they can make an informed decision about the need for treatment.
  • Be prepared to help them enter treatment later. If you have funds or other provisions set aside to assist your loved one with entering treatment, make sure to keep those accessible in case they decide to enter treatment in the days or weeks following the intervention.
  • Seek treatment for yourself. You are going through your loved one’s addiction along with them. The trauma can be significant. Make sure you are taking care of yourself so that you can be a positive support for your loved one.

Should I Hire An Interventionist To Run The Intervention?

Many families decide to hire an interventionist to help them with the planning process, run the intervention itself, and in some cases, accompany their loved one to the treatment program. Having an interventionist on board can:

  • Formalize the tone of the intervention so that it feels weightier to your loved one.
  • Take the burden of the planning process off you when you are in crisis.
  • Decrease the chance that little things will get missed.
  • Keep participants on track during the intervention itself.
  • Increase the likelihood that your loved one will enter treatment after the intervention.
Tap to GET HELP NOW: (855) 935-0303