understanding addiction

Understanding Addiction: How to Talk to People with Substance Use Disorder

Did you know that almost a million people have died from overdosing on drugs since the year 2000? Drug use is a hard thing for a person to deal with because it negatively affects a person’s life in several ways. Not only does it ruin a person’s physical and mental health, but it also destroys a person’s relationships with friends and family members.

But even though substance abuse is such a terrible thing, addicts often can’t get themselves to stop. This is one of the many reasons why understanding addiction is so important. The more you understand this problem, the more you can start talking about addiction and helping the person you care about to overcome their addiction.

Keep reading and learn more about how to talk to people suffering from substance use disorder.

Be Kind and Don’t Judge

Suppose that you have a friend who reveals that they have been suffering from drug abuse for a long time. Many people would immediately judge this person and think differently of them because of this disorder. Some might even try to shame the person for having this disorder.

Out of all the approaches to substance use disorder (SUD) and talking about it, this is not the ideal choice. Instead of being judgmental, you should be more sympathetic to the individual’s struggles. It was likely already a challenge for the person to come out and reveal that they are suffering from this disorder in the first place.

Instead of judging or shaming a person with a substance use disorder, try to be more sympathetic and understanding. If you immediately shut the person down, they will likely not come back to you for help if they need it in the future. This kind of cold behavior may even make a person’s addiction get worse.

The first step is to free yourself of any stigma you may have surrounding those who abuse drugs. Many believe that drug users are uneducated, dirty, poor, and so on, but these are all stereotypes and are often not true in many cases of drug addiction. Some drug addicts have full-time jobs or spend their time studying in college.

Be Careful with Your Words

Whatever the case, you should approach a person with a drug or alcohol problem not as a stigma but as a person who is suffering from a serious problem. Keep in mind that you don’t have to forgive the person’s behavior, and you should not condone their behavior. However, you can forgive the person in question and accept the person.

Choosing your words carefully when having conversations about addiction is also important. When talking about addiction, many people unintentionally use words that may be insulting or belittling. For example, you should avoid words like “junkie” or “clean.”

Certain words reinforce the stigmas that drug and alcohol users are inherently dirty or “bad.” You should also let the person know that you are there to help. That way, the substance user will feel like they have a pillar of support.

This is important because many people who use drugs and alcohol feel that they are alone, unloved, or unsupported by the people in their lives. By having a sense of support, the substance user may feel stronger and have more of a will to stop their addiction.

Talk Less and Listen More

Once you start understanding people with SUD more, you might be tempted to give these people all sorts of advice. However, in some cases, talking and giving advice is not the answer. Instead, the substance user may only be looking for someone to talk to and listen to them without judgment.

If you start giving a person all sorts of advice on how they can kick their addiction, the person may feel like they aren’t being heard. Your advice may also not be as helpful as you think. For example, many people tell drug users, “Why don’t you just stop?”

While this may seem like a straightforward way to stop the issue of substance abuse, it is, unfortunately, not so simple. This sort of question also shows that you do not really understand the nuances of drug or alcohol addiction. If a person could simply stop abusing substances at the drop of a hat, they probably would do so.

Instead, stopping one’s addiction is a much more complicated process due to the strong cravings that most addictive drugs cause. Giving unwarranted or uneducated advice to those suffering from addiction can often backfire and might even make the problem worse.

The substance user might find that they are not being listened to or that they are being belittled or lectured, and they may become more isolated as a result.

Instead of doing all of the talking, try being silent for a while and let the person with the substance use disorder do the talking. That way, you can hear their problems and what’s on their mind. This will allow you to understand where they are coming from as well as the depth of their problems.

The Art of Being a Good Listener

Being a good listener will also make the drug user feel heard and more comfortable in your presence. They may continue to come to you for advice if they trust you. Once you build a more understanding relationship with the substance user, you may then talk about what’s on your own mind.

But again, be sure that you don’t overload the person with advice. This can be very off-putting. If you do have some helpful pieces of advice, try not to unload them all at once. Instead, start with one and see how the person reacts to it.

For example, you could bring up the importance of professional help and rehab centers. These are some of the best choices for treating addiction and teaching people how to avoid relapse in the future. If this advice resonates with the substance user, you will both be on the right track.

Be Patient and Believe in the Person With SUD

Keep in mind that you cannot make a person with SUD change their ways overnight. Stopping an addiction and then recovering from it is a long and hard process. Some people may relapse several times before they can finally leave their addiction behind them.

For that reason, you shouldn’t rush a person with SUD to make a full recovery. Trying to rush the person may actually make the person more reluctant to recover.

Instead, it is best to be patient. Every person recovers from addictions in different ways. For some, they may do best by stopping the substance all at once.

Others, on the other hand, may need to slowly wean themselves off of the substance. Some may return to it once they start to experience withdrawal symptoms, while others will be able to stick out the symptoms and make a full recovery. Because everyone is different in terms of drug and alcohol recovery, it is important to support the person every step of the way.

The Power of Belief

Those who have abused a substance for many years may have a harder time recovering compared to those who have only been using it for a few weeks or months. Whatever the case, there is always hope for recovery even with the hardest SUD cases. It is always important to believe in the person with SUD.

People with substance use problems often don’t have anyone who believes in them or that they can recover. This can make the substance user feel especially hopeless and can make the substance use problem even worse.

But if a person has support and someone who believes in them, they will have a much sturdier foundation and will have more motivation to work towards recovery.

Once you accept a person with SUD and stand by their side as they find their own road to recovery, that person’s recovery goals will be more achievable than ever before.

What You Need to Know About Understanding Addiction

Understanding addiction can be difficult at first, especially if you are accustomed to stigmas surrounding drug and alcohol users. However, tossing aside these stigmas and accepting a person with SUD are both very important when it comes to getting through to a person like this.

If you are accepting, understanding, and willing to listen, you will make for a very good pillar of support for anyone in your life suffering from SUD.

To learn more, contact us here.

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