Drug use, abuse and addiction are complex problems that can subtly but steadily destroy an individual’s health, relationships, and life. Unfortunately, the individual himself is not the only one who suffers the damaging effects of drug use, as his family members and friends can also be affected. The drug user himself is often completely unaware of the full extent of damaging effects that drug use has had on their life, and is certainly unaware of the damaging effects his drug use is having on others’ lives. His compulsion to use drugs is so overwhelming that he will often willingly do just about anything to further his drug use, no matter the cost. The Effect of Drug Use on Families When a loved one first begins their drug use it may be undetectable. They may still act mostly normally, upholding their household responsibilities and participating in normal family activities. As his drug use continues, his behavior and mannerisms will begin to shift, perhaps only slightly at first. He may have unusual mood swings and begin to drop some of his household responsibilities. He may begin to isolate himself from the family and give strange excuses for where he is going and why. He may declare that he loves you, and yet you find out that he is stealing from you. You may suspect that drugs are to blame, but he will vehemently deny that he has a drug problem, that it is your business, or that he needs help. There may come a point where you can no longer tolerate his behavior, and you yourself are experiencing many damaging effects as a result of his continued drug use. You may feel anxious, angry, confused and helpless, and wonder how the individual can ever recover if they themselves clearly have no interest in doing so. Some medical professionals indicate that rehabilitation treatment does not have to be voluntary in order to be effective, but this idea overlooks a critical point: the individual himself chose to use drug substances in order to deal with some problem in their life, and their full and lasting recovery therefore depends upon their willingness to take responsibility for addressing their drug problems and building a stronger, drug-free future. When they are suffering from drug dependence and addiction, obtaining and using drugs drives their every thought and action, and while there is no doubt that they will need help and support to overcome these problems, the bottom line is that they must desire to break their bond with drugs. This normally occurs when the individual recognizes that they have lost or will lose everything unless they quit drugs. Until this point, family members may very well push and cajole and spend thousands of dollars on treatment, only to have their loved one fall right back into drug use. What Families Can Do About a Drug User In The Home One of the most difficult parts of recovering from drug use is deciding to make a change, and the simple truth is that no one can do that but the individual himself. However, there are things that the family can do that may aid the individual in deciding to make a change, and in reaching out for help. Family members have to refuse to tolerate drug use, and they have to stop enabling the individual by loaning them money, taking on their responsibilities, excusing their behavior, paying their bills or anything else that allows them to continue their drug use. Further steps family members can take to handle a drug user in the home include: ● Never give the drug user money, or allow them to keep money. If the drug user has a job and earns money, this money needs to be entirely controlled by family members so that it cannot be spent on further drug use. ● Lock up all valuable items, whether they belong to the drug user or to his family members. He may be willing to steal and sell possessions to further his drug habit, but will be unable to do so if they are out of reach. ● Monitor the drug user’s activities and communications with others. Phone calls to and from the drug user may be related to obtaining and using more drugs, and so should be monitored. The drug user may say he’s going out to grab some milk when actually he intends to pick up drugs, so he should be accompanied to ensure this doesn’t happen. This may be uncomfortable for both the drug user and his family members to deal with, but that is essentially the point – if he becomes uncomfortable enough with his life the drug user may very well decide to make a change and get help with his drug use problems. His family members can be there waiting to support and encourage him on the road to recovery, and will be glad that they didn’t help him continue his drug use.