Print this topic

HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Supporting someone with alcohol or drug addiction

Te tautoko i tētahi me te waranga, te whakamaioro rānei o te waipiro, te pūroi rānei

You may not be sure if your friend, spouse or whānau (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 Is their use likely to cause problems? page on The Level 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'll tolerate and what you will not.

If they do not 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 that 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: Treating alcohol or drug addiction

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2023.


Page reference: 520826

Review key: HIADG-47857