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Do They Need to go to Rehab?

How does a close friend or family member know that it is time to refer someone to rehab?  This is a terribly difficult question to answer.  Even thinking that a friend might have a substance abuse problem can be a hard thing to think about.

Here are some red flags that it might be time to refer someone to rehab.

  • Does your friend seem to be taking a lot of unnecessary risks?  Many people who need to be referred to rehab don’t notice when their behavior is risky.  They may drink too much and then drive anyway.  Their drinking keeps them from thinking that they might cause an accident.  Or perhaps their substance abuse keeps them from thinking straight.  In their minds, they are perfectly capable of driving and they don’t seem to understand that they are taking a risk.
  • If the person has experienced blackouts this is another red flag.  It is a signal their body cannot tolerate the amount of alcohol they are drinking if they are not able to remember parts or all of their previous evening.  Especially if this is happening frequently, this person needs to be referred to rehab.
  • Sometimes people indulge in substance abuse because they are trying to cover up negative emotions.  Try to notice the next time your friend overuses drugs – do you notice him being under an extra amount of stress?  Perhaps he has just had a major disappointment.  If your family member uses alcohol or other substances to routinely handle his emotions, it might be time to suggest rehab.
  • Emotions definitely have a huge role to play in alcohol and substance abuse.  Does your friend get upset when he finds out he can’t drink for a few hours?  If an event like a wedding is a “dry” event, does she avoid the event because she is too afraid of not being able to drink?
  • A red flag that is easy to recognize is disruption.  If your friend or family member is experiencing disruptions in their lives because of their substance abuse, it is time to refer them to rehab.  Perhaps they have been caught drinking on the job.  Maybe their spouse is threatening divorce. Perhaps a random drug test caused them to lose a job.

Once the decision has been made to refer someone to rehab, be careful how the suggestion is made.  It is important that they don’t feel threatened.  Try to approach your friend in a way that lets them know you are trying to be helpful and not trying to judge them.

It can be helpful to let them know that substance abuse rarely just goes away on its own.  It almost always needs some outside help. Let them know there is no shame in rehab.  Remind them that many famous people go through rehab.

It’s very important not to express your own anger about the situation. Try to keep all negativity out of the talks.  Focus on the facts and be specific.