More and more, people are recognizing what experts have been saying for years: drug dependency is an illness. That’s because it has become clear that treating it as an illness, rather than an indication of bad character or a simple failure of will, has the best outcomes in terms of helping addicts break away from addiction and lead healthy and productive lives. When addiction is treated as the sickness it is, a cure becomes possible.
Not all drug use is drug addiction. In fact, some common drugs, such as marijuana, do not lead to physical addiction, though a person can develop a habit. There are some signs you can look for that indicate if someone has a problem. Addiction is more than just an interest in the addictive substance; addicts refocus their lives around the object of addiction. Addicts tend to disregard responsibilities, relationships (including but not limited to intimate ones) and safety if those things stand between them and the high. Less subtle signs are mood swings, sudden changes in behavior, withdrawal from family members, losing interest in things like hobbies or even personal grooming, and changes in sleeping patterns.
If you think a loved one may have a substance abuse problem, there are things you can do to help. While treatment is most effective when it’s totally voluntary, there are success stories that start with the patient being pressured or even forced into a rehabilitation program. An intervention requires some planning beforehand—determining the extent of the problem, figuring out who will participate directly—but directly confronting an addict with the negative consequences of their behavior can prove to be precisely what is required to induce them to get help they need.
When someone is in recovery, it’s important to be supportive, particularly if you had (explicitly or otherwise) made maintaining the relationship contingent on their kicking their habit. That means, first and foremost, listening to what they say they need. You don’t have to listen uncritically, particularly to someone who has a history of being manipulative, but do listen. At any rate, be aware that there is no quick fix, and recovery is a process. In the long run, things can work out.