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Helping someone with drug and alcohol problems

Tips to help someone with their drug and alcohol use, including how to look after yourself.

Tips for supporting someone with drug and alcohol problems

It can feel difficult to support someone who is struggling with recreational drug or alcohol use. It might make you feel worried, frustrated or lonely. But there are things you can do to help.

This might include encouraging them to seek help for the first time. Our page on support for drugs, alcohol and mental health has information on different support options.

If you are supporting someone seeking help for the first time, you could:

  • Reassure them that it is OK to seek help.
  • Help them find out what services are available locally. Turning Point's website has a tool to help you find local services for drug and alcohol use (the tool refers to it as 'substance misuse').
  • Go to appointments with them, if they would like you to. This may especially help for their first visit.

If they already receive treatment or support, you could help them stick to their treatment plan, go to appointments and meet their targets.

As well as helping them find treatment and support, these are some ways to help someone feel supported:

  • Find ways to spend more time together. You could try joining in with any activities that they enjoy.
  • Listen to them if they want to talk about their experiences or how they feel.
  • Try to explain how their alcohol or drug use is affecting you.

If you are a parent concerned about your child's drug use, the charity Adfam has information for parents supporting children who use recreational drugs.

Can I section someone for drug or alcohol use?

Doctors cannot section someone just because they are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

But if someone who takes drugs or alcohol also has mental health problems, doctors may be able to section them. This is usually only for a mental health emergency, for example if their safety is at risk.

If you are someone's nearest relative, you may be able to ask for them to have a mental health assessment.

Our pages on sectioning have more information.

Sometimes it’s the people looking after others who need care and understanding themselves.

Looking after yourself

Supporting someone else can have a big impact on your own life. By looking after yourself, you might also find it easier to offer support to others.

These are some things you can do to help yourself:

  • Talk to someone you trust. It can help to discuss how you feel with someone you trust, such as a friend, family member or counsellor. See our page on how to find a therapist for tips on finding a counsellor to talk to.
  • Join a support group. This might be something you attend in person or online. Or you might be able to call a helpline, to speak to someone over the phone. See our information on organisations who can help you support someone else for details of organisations which offer this service.
  • Try self-care. This could be finding new ways to relax, be creative or spending time in nature. Or it could be taking care of your physical health, or finding ways to improve your sleep. Our page on mental wellbeing has lots of tips for taking care of yourself.
  • If you care for someone with a dual diagnosis of mental health and drug or alcohol problems, you should be able to have a carer's assessment. This may help you get more practical support with your caring responsibilities.

This information was published in June 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

References and bibliography available on request.

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