If someone in your life has substance abuse problems, you already know how hard it is. You’re more likely to want to give up on someone once their disorder affects you directly.

Still, giving up on a person with substance use disorder (SUD) only decreases the odds that they’ll get help.

Social support is a big part of recovering from addiction. Still, so many people with SUD burn bridges before they reach the point of treatment. Substance abuse causes negative behavior patterns like:

  • Hygiene neglect
  • Lying
  • Relationship neglect
  • Stealing
  • Spending budgeted money on drugs
  • Work performance problems

All of this can be too much for loved ones to take. It can be hard to maintain the relationship. Many people choose to leave because they don’t know the benefits of social support in recovery.

If you stay, it’s important to keep your boundaries while maintaining a relationship with the person. It’s not okay to let them fuel their addiction by lying or stealing.

Here’s Why You Can’t Give Up on People With SUD

Social networks matter in substance use disorders. The right or wrong social support can have a genuine effect on the way people recover from SUD. Research shows that social support in addiction can:

  • Discourage a person with SUD from hanging out with old connects or other people who use drugs
  • Decrease the odds of relapse
  • Increase the odds of participation in recovery groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA), or 12 Steps
  • Increase the odds of attending treatment without leaving prematurely
  • Support self-efficacy, or the ability to manage your behaviors and motivation; a skill that’s very important in recovery

A lack of social support can increase the odds of never getting treatment. Many people with SUD have abandonment issues or other trauma in their histories, and triggering those issues can make substance use worse.

Again, you shouldn’t “support” a loved one to the point of enabling their addiction. If your loved one is stealing from you or lying about their behavior, then you should set boundaries. But you can healthily do this without cutting off your loved one or enabling them.

Here’s How to Help Your Loved One With SUD

If your loved one is getting difficult to handle, you can take action to help them.

You can start with these 4 steps:

  1. Calling a helpline: Your first step should be to call a local addiction helpline. A helpline can educate you on the ins and outs of substance use. This gives you new empathy and understanding during tricky conversations with your loved one.
  2. Talking to a therapist who specializes in addiction and family services: Speaking to a professional gives you new tools and resources you can tap when handling your loved one’s addiction. A family therapist can even see you and your loved one together.
  3. Calling a local treatment center: Talk to the staff at your local treatment center. They’ll be able to fill you in on the best treatments for your loved one’s situation, including medication and therapy options. At this stage, you can also get cost and program length information.
  4. Contacting treatment resources: Your loved one is more likely to want to go to rehab if you help them figure out the cost aspect. Affording rehab can be a source of stress. Try calling 10,000 Beds or other nonprofits that offer rehab scholarships.

Once you’ve gathered all the information, the next step is to talk to your loved one about rehab.

Depending on how receptive your loved one is, you may be able to talk to them one-on-one. If you’re worried that they won’t listen to what you have to say, then an intervention may be the best course of action.

In a one-on-one conversation, you should:

  • Avoid getting angry, which can make your loved one feel like they’re being pushed away
  • Speak with respect; avoid using hurtful names, laying blame, or making accusations
  • Use “I feel” statements (e.g. “I feel hurt when you come home high” instead of “You hurt me when you come home high“)
  • Have a system for listening and responding, like passing a pillow to the person who’s speaking

Not every situation is right for a one-on-one convo. In some cases, an intervention is the better choice. That’s probably true if you:

  • Don’t have a close relationship with your loved one
  • Have trouble communicating your feelings calmly
  • Notice that confrontations cause your loved one to shut down

If that’s the case, then talk to a professional interventionist about your options. It’s best to run an intervention with the help of someone who specializes in addiction.

Can You Get Court-Ordered Rehab for a Loved One?

What happens if you go through an intervention talk, but your loved one still isn’t ready to go to rehab?

In some cases, court-ordered rehab is an option.

It’s important to remember that treatment works best when it’s on your own terms. If your loved one doesn’t want to get better, you can’t force them to change.

However, in some specific cases, court-ordered rehab can help.

Court-ordered rehab can include:

  • Inpatient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Long-term programs

Long-term, inpatient programs lasting at least 90 days are the most effective type.

There are legal consequences to violating court-ordered rehab conditions. If you possess drugs during court-ordered rehab, you could get into trouble. The legal consequence can make some people stay off drugs when nothing else worked.

What States Allow Court-Ordered Rehab?

States that allow court-ordered rehab include:

  • Florida under the Baker Act or the Marchman Act
  • Massachusetts under Section 65

In Florida, a judge can decide that a person is a threat to themselves or others and request a 72-hour hold under the Baker Act. A police officer’s request usually does this.

Under the Marchman Act in Florida, the same petition can be made for long-term treatment by:

  • A spouse
  • A relative
  • A guardian
  • A doctor
  • Any 3 people who know about the person’s substance abuse

If the person is at risk for self-harm or harm to others, involuntary treatment is possible.

Long-term addiction treatment is lifesaving, but only if your loved one actually goes. If your loved one receives a court order for rehab, then part of the process will be choosing an approved treatment center. Search through our directory for a list of treatment centers in your area.


  1. Social Support Influences on Substance Abuse Outcomes Among Sober Living House Residents with Low and Moderate Psychiatric Severity
  2. Investigating Social Support and Network Relationships in Substance Use Disorder Recovery
  3. The relationship of social support to treatment entry and engagement: The Community Assessment Inventory
  4. The Role of Self-Efficacy Beliefs and Social Support on Prediction of Addiction Relapse

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