Help someone you know. Sometimes all it takes is asking if they are OK

If you know someone who is struggling with substance abuse, you can help them whether you're a family member or not.

We have compiled a number of resources to provide some suggestions on how to help you as a loved one or carer of an addict.

It takes courage to help a family member, friend, colleague or someone you know to enter and support them throughout recovery. Confronting substance use can be confronting, scary and stressful. The following sections outline some information on what you can expect, how you can help and what do in certain situations.

Although it’s natural to feel disappointment or fear, it’s essential that you:

  • Remain calm
  • †Avoid yelling or losing your temper
  • †Two important factors are gaining the trust of the substance user and offering empathy and understanding
  • Non-confrontational question and answer methods – remove emotions
  • †Effective communication - reduces conflict
  • Be aware of body language
  • Motivate the person to make a change rather than command it.

If your loved one is willing to explore the issue, refer him or her to HABZ.

People caught in the addiction cycle are often secretive about their drug use.
The following are a few things to be mindful of when determining whether your loved one is still or returned to using drugs.

Use your nose and take a closer look

For most substances, the drug will often leave a scent on the users breath, hair or clothes. 

If they have recently taken drugs they will also exhibit other symptoms such as dilated pupils and bloodshot whites of the eyes. 

They may also seem more lethargic or over energised and have drug related paraphernalia located around their house or room.

Watch for mood changes

People using drugs can often experience extreme and often unexpected changes in their mood such as:

  • Being loud and obnoxious
  • Laughing hysterically at nothing
  • Sullenness and withdrawal
  • Sudden anxiety and irritability
  • Usual tiredness and isolation
  • Lack of empathy

Watch for deceit and secretiveness

Keep an eye out for secretive and deceitful behaviours such as:

  • Vagueness about where they are going or what they are doing
  • The need to be somewhere in a hurry 
  • Money or items go missing

Substance use is not an excuse for abuse, no one has the right to treat you poorly.

As a family member you will help the substance user in any way you can, but you should have no part in helping them hurt themselves or others.

Families must learn to balance the emotions of having a loved one they adore whose substance dependence has become problematic, with having a loved one they sometimes fear.

It is important to have a plan in place for when your loved one wants help.  HABZ has developed a Recovery Support Guide and Workbook to assist you in what to do in the early stages of recovery.

Here are some Helpful Links for you when seeking further support and if you would like to book a consultation to talk about your loved one’s situation you can do so here

When a crisis occurs, we often panic and are overwhelmed with emotion and we don't always know how to respond.  Here are some suggestions to keep in mind: 

  1. Remain calm
  2. Remove other family members /significant others from the room or house
  3. Do not enter into an argument whilst your loved one is under the influence or coming down
  4. Do not provide a high adrenaline response eg: yelling, crying, begging - this achieves nothing
  5. Do not enter your loved one's personal space - protect yourself
  6. Try and avoid eye contact (ice users can become quite agitated or paranoid if you are staring and yelling at them)
  7. If there is another substance user present do not raise their substance using
  8. Remove yourself and take your belongings
  9. If you or significant others are at risk - do hesitate to contact the Police on Triple 000
  10. There are many support services available nation-wide.  Click here for free Helpful Links.

~35,000 people go missing in Australia per year

Before calling in a missing person, check:

  • Social media for their last activity
  • Missing food, clothes, money, passport, mobile and/or camping equipment
  • With friends, family and associates to see if they have seen them.

You don’t have to wait 24 hours to report a missing person

If you have serious concerns for the safety and welfare of a person and their whereabouts are unknown, then you may immediately report them missing to your local police.

Get support, you're not alone

There are a number of helplines and services that offer information and support services that offer information and support details including:

  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • Missing Persons Unit: 1800 227 772

Promises = Lies

Substance users will often use the hope of seeking help or ending their reliance on substances to prevent people that care about them intervening.

What will happen if we say no?

Substance users will often threaten self-harm, deeper drug use and leaving forever to scare parents and carers into believing that the worst possible outcome will occur if they intervene.

Sympathy manipulation and guilt

Drug users often use sympathy as a means to eliminate confrontation and divert blame of their use away from them and onto a cause such as:

  • Traumatic events e.g. being fired
  • Depression ‘I want to die’
  • Loneliness ‘I have no friends’

It is also common for families to feel that their loved one's addiction 'is their fault' with carers and parents often blaming themselves, resulting in guilt that prevents a willingness to be tough or say no to the drug user.

Avoid cooking with alcohol and consider festive drink options

Avoid cooking with alcohol because even though the alcohol may burn off, the flavour is still there and that alone can be a trigger to someone in recovery. If you're holding a themed event or a get together around the holidays, be sure to offer plenty of non-alcoholic options both for people in recovery and designated drivers. You can even get creative and consider expanding your mocktail repertoire! 

Acknowledge the effects and plan ahead

It is important to plan ahead for a special event that a family member or any guest who is recovering from substance dependence may be attending. By considering a few key things you can help the substance user feel comfortable in an environment that they may perceive as daunting. 

Be aware of the effects that special events can have on people in recovery. They may be anxious about:

  • Judgemental relatives
  • Being around alcohol 
  • Seeing old friends still using

When there are money troubles or it's simply too much too soon

It is good to be aware that substance users and their families may be experiencing financial hardship as a result of the addiction cycle and recovery process. They may have lingering financial worries and are embarrassed that they can't buy a gift or bring something for the event host. The family and/or person in recovery may also just simply not be ready to engage in social situations and are still readjusting to normal patterns of behaviour and life. Don't force a person in recovery or their family to stay and don't be offended if they arrive late or leave early.