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Information for Family and Friends

Recognizing When a Loved One Has a Drug Problem

A mother and two children facing the shore at the beach

If you suspect that a friend or family member has a drug problem, here are a few things you can do:

Speak up. Talk to the person about your concerns, and offer your help and support, without being judgmental. The earlier SUD is treated, the better. Don't wait for your loved one to hit bottom. Be prepared for excuses and denial by listing specific examples of your loved one's behavior that has you worried.

Take care of yourself. Don't get so caught up in someone else's drug problem that you neglect your own needs. Make sure you have people you can talk to and lean on for support. Stay safe by not putting yourself in dangerous situations.

Avoid self-blame. You can support a person with an SUD and encourage treatment, but you can't force someone to change. You can't control your loved one's decisions. Let the person accept responsibility for his or her actions, an essential step along the way to recovery.


  • Attempt to punish, threaten, bribe, or preach.
  • Avoid making emotional appeals that may only increase the person's feelings of guilt and compulsion to misuse drugs.
  • Cover up or make excuses for them, or shield them from the negative consequences of their behavior.
  • Take over their responsibilities, leaving them with no sense of importance or dignity.
  • Hide or throw out drugs.
  • Argue with the person when they are high.
  • Take drugs with the drug abuser.
  • Feel guilty or responsible for another's behavior.

Adapted from: The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, SAMHSA Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving