Supporting others with Addiction

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Our top tips!

  • Make sure you look after yourself
    Watching someone close to you struggle with an addiction can be extremely difficult. But you must not suffer in silence. There will always be people who want to help you. Speak with a family member, friend, or another adult who you trust about your experience.
  • Don’t let them isolate themselves
    If someone is suffering from an addiction, it can be natural for them to isolate themselves from others. The best thing you can do is to make sure that they know that you care about them and that they can talk to you. They may not want to speak about their struggles at first, or at all. But knowing that someone is there for them may make them feel more comfortable about reaching out or getting help.
  • Don’t know how to support someone? you can find out
    It can be very difficult to know how best to support someone who is struggling with an addiction. However, you can always speak to our mentors, who will listen to you and provide you with advice and support.

What is an addiction?

If you’re addicted to a particular substance or activity, it means that not engaging with it will cause withdrawal symptoms. These can be unpleasant, so it’s often easier to give in to what you are craving, resulting in a continuous cycle.

It is thought that one in three people are addicted to something, whether that be nicotine, alcohol, gambling, shopping, the internet or work. It is likely that someone you know is suffering from an addiction without you being aware of it. This person may even be you.

As an addiction continues, you may find that you need to do the activity more and more to achieve the same feeling that you did when you first started. This means that addictions can quickly get out of control. An addiction can damage your work life and relationships, as well as lead to psychological and physical effects in the case of substance misuse.

Many studies suggest that addiction is partly genetic, but environmental factors can increase your chances of struggling with addiction. For example, being around other people with addictions can make you more likely to develop an addiction. Difficulties such as unemployment, poverty, stress or pressure from work can trigger an addiction. People with anxiety or depression (whether diagnosed or not) are often at an increased risk of developing an addiction.

I think one of my parents has an addiction... what can I do?

If  you have a parent who is suffering from an addiction, it can have a negative impact on your wellbeing. You may experience low self-esteem, anxiety, depression or poor performance in school. You may also be more likely to develop an addiction yourself. 
A parent is supposed to provide care for you and act as a role model. But if a parent is suffering from an addiction, these roles may be reversed. If your parent has an addiction, you may find yourself:

  • Cancelling activities with friends to help your parent or do chores
  • Listening to your parent while they recount stories about experiences while on a ‘high’
  • Using drugs or drinking with your parent to create emotional bond
  • Taking responsibility or feeling guilty for your parent’s addiction.
  • It’s important to remember that a parent’s addiction is never your fault. If you feel that you need to support a parent but are not sure how best to do so, you should speak to someone you trust or one of our mentors, who can talk to you about your experience and help you. They can also advise you on options for getting your parent the help they need.

I think I might need some help... what do I do?

If you have been reading this page and are worrying that you might know someone suffering with addiction, it is really important that you start thinking about reaching out to somebody. There are so many options that you can think about, and all of them will be able to help you some way. Do not suffer in silence, reach out to someone now to start getting the help that you need.

Get support!
If you think you are struggling, reach out to somebody and get the support you need.
Speak to us

You don’t need to suffer in silence. If someone you know is struggling with addiction and you would like to talk to someone, you can always contact our friendly mentors.

Speak to somebody you trust

It’s really important that somebody close to you, who you can trust, knows about how you are feeling so that they can be there for you when you need them. Supporting someone who is suffering from an addiction is difficult, and speaking to someone about your feelings and experience can really help.

Speak to professional services

There are many charities and organisations that provide support for people affected by addiction. If someone you know appears to be struggling a lot, seeking professional help may be a necessary step. If you believe they are in immediate danger, you should not hesitate to call 999. 

Where can I get support if someone I know has an addiction?

If your parent is suffering from an addiction, they may have intimidated or manipulated you into not talking to anyone about it. This can be especially true if they are abusing substances such as alcohol or drugs. As a result, seeking help may feel impossible.
However, speaking out about their struggles is important. You do not have to suffer alone and there are plenty of ways for you to get support. The following charities and organisations may be useful if you have a family member or friend who is suffering from an addiction:

  • Adfam provides information to family and friends affected by substance abuse. They also have an online forum where you can share your experiences with others going through a similar situation.
  • Al-Anon provides support to anyone who is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking. Alateen is part of Al-Anon, for 12-17 year olds who have been affected by someone else’s alcohol addiction.
  • You can also always speak to a mentor at Teenage Helpline if you need support or would just like someone to talk to.

I’m not quite ready to speak out... what can I do until then?

Collect emergency numbers for in you’re in a crisis. Keep these numbers in a safe place. These could include emergency services, helplines, neighbours, friends, family members or teachers.

Find an adult to confide in if you feel ready. Find someone who understands you and will listen. This could be a family member, teacher or a neighbour.

Stay close to your friends. During an uncertain time, you may feel you want to isolate yourself, but this is the worst thing you can do. Find at least one person you trust and keep in touch with them. It’s helpful to be honest with them and explain the situation, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing this then you don’t have to until you’re ready.

Remember it’s not your fault. You are not the cause of this problem and you have no control over what your parent does. It’s not your job as a child to care for your parent in this way and you can’t cure them. You’re allowed to take time away from the situation and you’re allowed to seek help.