Reach out, if you think you have a problem.
In the past, many individuals and families have kept silent about substance-related issues because of shame, guilt, or fear of exposure or recrimination. Breaking the silence and isolation around such issues is crucial, so that individuals and families confronting substance misuse and its consequences know that they are not alone and can openly seek treatment. As with other chronic illnesses, the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcomes are likely to be.
Be supportive (not judgmental) if a loved one has a problem.
Recognizing that substance use disorders are medical conditions and not moral failings can help remove negative attitudes and promote open and healthy discussion between individuals with substance use disorders and their loved ones, as well as with their health care professionals. Overcoming the powerful drive to continue substance use can be difficult, and making the lifestyle changes necessary for successful treatment—such as changing relationships, jobs, or living environments—can be daunting. Providing sensitivity and support can ease this transition.
This can be challenging for partners, parents, siblings, and other loved ones of people with substance use disorders; many of the behaviors associated with substance misuse can be damaging to relationships. Being compassionate and caring does not mean that you do not hold the person accountable for their actions. It means that you see the person’s behaviors in the light of a medical illness. Love and support can be offered while maintaining the boundaries that are important for your health and the health of everyone around you.
Show support toward people in recovery.
As a community, we typically show empathy when someone we know is ill, and we celebrate when people we know overcome an illness. Extending these kindnesses to people with substance use disorders and those in recovery can provide added encouragement to help them realize and maintain their recovery. It also will encourage others to seek out treatment when they need it.
Advocate for the changes needed in your community.
As discussed throughout this Report, many challenges need to be addressed to support a public health-based approach to substance misuse and related disorders. Everyone can play an important role in advocating for their needs, the needs of their loved ones, and the needs of their community. It is important that all voices are heard as we come together to address these challenges.
Parents, talk to your children about alcohol and drugs.
Parents have more influence over their children’s behavior, including substance use, than they often think. For instance, according to one study, young adults who reported that their parents monitored their behavior and showed concern about them were less likely to report misusing substances.20 Talking to your children about alcohol and drug use is not always easy, but it is crucial. Become informed, from reliable sources, about substances to which your children could be exposed, and about substance use disorders, and talk openly with your children about the risks. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Be a good listener
- Set clear expectations about alcohol and drug use, including real consequences for not following family rules
- Help your child deal with peer pressure
- Get to know your child’s friends and their parents
- Talk to your child early and often
- Support your school district’s efforts to implement evidence-based prevention interventions and treatment and recovery support
20. MetLife Foundation, & The Partnership at Drugfree.org. (2013). 2012 Partnership attitude tracking study: Teens and parents. Accessed on July 28, 2016.