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HealthInfo Canterbury

Supporting someone with alcohol or drug addiction or abuse

You may not be sure if your friend, spouse or family member is addicted to alcohol or drugs. The Alcoholics Anonymous questionnaire Are they an alcoholic? may help you work out if they're addicted to alcohol. The Do they have a problem? page on Drug Help may help you work out if they're addicted to drugs.

If you suspect they have a problem, you may need to raise the issue with them. This is important for their wellbeing, and to protect your relationship with them.

If the person with alcohol or drug addiction accepts they have a problem, it's important to give them as much support as you can while they try to break free from the addiction. At times this may need a lot of patience and forgiveness. At other times it may mean putting up very firm boundaries so they know what you will tolerate and what you won't.

If they don't accept they have a problem, be careful how you raise it with them. See these tips for talking about it (this advice is about talking to someone about alcohol but is also useful for talking to someone about drugs).

Tell them you've seen behaviour that worries you. Tell them you're worried that they might be addicted. It can be useful to have a list of warning signs or behaviours that you've seen. Be upfront about what you've seen. It can be more difficult for them to deny things if you have some solid examples.

How you can help

Being a support person for someone with alcohol or drug addiction or abuse can be very difficult. The alcohol or drug problem usually has a negative effect on everyone, particularly a partner and dependent children.

As a support person you're split between caring for the needs of the person with the addiction, and looking after yourself. You'll be more able to offer support if you seek support for yourself.

Alcoholics or drug takers may become abusive towards their partners, parents or children. They may also neglect or abuse vulnerable people in their care. If this happens, you need to take steps to ensure your or the children’s safety.

There are support services who can help people affected by domestic violence. See Children of parents with a mental illness or addiction for organisations that can help when children are affected by a parent with addiction.

Support organisations

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Treatment & medications for alcohol or drug addiction or abuse

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2020.


Page reference: 520826

Review key: HIADG-47857