Getting a friend with a drug problem into rehab can be tough. It’s important to approach them from a place of love and understanding, stressing that you want to see them get better.
If they are hesitant, an evaluation from a doctor may help to persuade them. You can also stage an intervention, encouraging them to enter treatment directly following the meeting.
If they refuse and are in immediate harm, some laws might help you get them into rehab.
If you know your friend is addicted to drugs, they need your support. Addiction isn’t a choice; it’s a chronic disease that needs treatment. Like other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, addiction is signified by relapse.
You want to help your friend, and out of that desire, you may have covered for them or cleaned up their messes. Maybe you called in to work for them when they were too hungover to go. Maybe you lied to their family to cover up for their drug abuse.
While these actions come from an honest desire to help, they ultimately hurt your friend. These behaviors enable them to keep abusing drugs, often without facing the full consequences of their addiction.
The first step to helping your friend is to stop enabling them. Don’t make excuses for their behavior. They need to feel the full results of their actions.
It can be tough to see them mess up. Talk to a therapist yourself to get support as you draw a line in the sand regarding what you will do to help your friend.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, talking to your friend about their substance abuse is an important first step.
Emphasize to your friend that you are not coming from a place of judgment. You care for them and want to see them do well in life. It’s because you love them that you are having this conversation.
In some cases, they may be well aware of the problem, and this conversation is the motivation they need to seek help. In most cases, however, addiction comes with some degree of denial. They may not see that there is a problem with their drug abuse, and they may feel like they can manage the situation.
Encourage them to talk to a doctor about their substance abuse. Getting a professional opinion may help them to see that there is a problem. The person’s primary care physician can be appropriate for this.
If your friend agrees to get help at this point, that’s great. Help them research and find an appropriate treatment center. Offer them support throughout their treatment.
It’s common for people not to respond well when they are first approached about an addiction issue. Often, it takes multiple attempts by loved ones before a person agrees to get help.
According to a study from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 22 million Americans struggle with a drug or alcohol problem. Of this group, 95 percent are unaware of their problem.
If your friend denies they have a problem and refuses to get help, there are additional steps you can take.
Educate yourself about the illness to get more insight into your friend’s problem. Drug abuse may be used as a coping mechanism to deal with depression and anxiety. This could be an underlying cause that’s driving the problem.
Addiction is not about willpower; it’s a disease. Learn the fundamentals behind the disorder so that you can discuss it from a place of knowledge with your friend.
An intervention can be an effective way to get your friend to see the need for treatment. You’ll gather a group of friends, family members, and other people who are involved in your friend’s life.
In many cases, each member of the intervention team will write a letter to the person, detailing how their addiction has affected them. These letters are read aloud during the intervention. The tone of the entire event is one of love and support. There should be no blaming the individual in the statements read by team members.
Before the intervention, you’ll research treatment options that your friend can immediately enter following the event. Make sure each option has space available so that there is no delay in getting help.
Ready to get Help?
Talk to a treatment expert
A professional interventionist can help you to stage the whole event, taking the reins on planning it and ensuring it runs smoothly. You can find a well-qualified interventionist from the Association of Intervention Specialists.
Before an intervention, you’ll devise consequences that will happen if your friend doesn’t agree to enter treatment. Maybe you’ll stop covering for them when they are drunk or high. Maybe you’ll stop loaning them money. Maybe you’ll stop cleaning up their messes.
Whatever consequences you set, it’s important to stick to them. It has to be clear that this is how things will be until they get help.
If your friend agrees to enter treatment, offer your support and encouragement throughout the entire process. Visit them, as allowed, and be available if they need to talk. Your support is critical to their ability to thrive in recovery.
If your friend is in immediate danger or a danger to others, you may be able to get them admitted to rehab involuntarily. According to an article from USA Today, in an emergency, you can admit a person into detox involuntarily. This comes with many caveats, however.
Involuntary admittance laws vary from state to state. There are currently 37 states, along with Washington, D.C., that allow for some form of involuntary commitment for addiction issues.
While some allow family and/or friends to get a court order to admit a person into a detox program, this is not rehab. Detox only gets the person through withdrawal. It is not a long-term solution. Detox doesn’t address the underlying issues that led to addiction, so it’s likely the person will just return to substance abuse following detox.
Even using this short-term measure is no easy task. You will have to provide some kind of proof that the individual’s addiction is severe enough that a judge would feel they are in immediate danger or others are in danger because of their state.
This is often achieved by showing the court arrest records or hospital records.
Even then, the person has a right to a lawyer, and they can fight the issue in court with a petition.
If involuntary admittance is successful, the forced time in detox varies. Sometimes, it’s as short as five days, while some states can hold the person for up to two weeks.
A court-ordered admittance is used to prevent immediate harm. It can be used as a launching point to encourage the person to get further addiction treatment.
The likelihood is that your friend won’t accept help on your first attempt. In many cases, multiple interventions are needed before a person agrees to enter treatment.
This does not mean each attempt is a failure. Instead, each intervention is a step on the person’s overall journey to accepting help.
Set your boundaries and take care of yourself. You can’t force your friend to get treatment. You can just make it known that help is available whenever they are ready to accept it.
(January 2016) What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem With Drugs. National Institute of Drug Abuse. Retrieved April 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-your-adult-friend-or-loved-one-has-problem-drugs
(December 2018) How to Stop Enabling an Alcoholic or Addict. Verywell Mind. Retrieved April 2019 from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-stop-enabling-an-alcoholic-63083
(November 2018) The Role of Denial in Addiction. Psychology Today. Retrieved April 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201811/the-role-denial-in-addiction
(2019) ASAM Home Page. American Society of Addiction Medicine. Retrieved April 2019 from https://www.asam.org/
(March 2016) Is Addiction a Brain Disease? Harvard Medical School. Retrieved April 2019 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-addiction-a-brain-disease-201603119260