How to Ask for help With Addiction

If you're thinking about asking for help with drug or alcohol addiction, congratulations! You can take a big step to get your life back on track after a chronic illness.

Addiction is a long-term brain disorder. Experts also refer to it as a serious "substance abuse disorder" and it is a problem millions of Americans have. It can cause serious health problems, harm relationships and even death.

Treatment can help you recover from addiction, though. You can start the journey of recovery even if your addiction isn't serious enough to warrant treatment. These are some people to talk with so that you get the help you need.

What can you do to prepare for asking a loved one for help?

You could have a family member who is close to you, such as a parent or sibling, that will be your greatest supporter in the process of recovery. You should be aware that they may react differently to your disclosures about a substance abuse disorder or drug addiction. You can expect them to react negatively and express anger, shame or confusion.

This could make it seem frightening. It doesn't necessarily mean that your loved one has a negative reaction to you. They might just be worried about your drug or alcohol misuse itself, and how it's taking a toll on your health or life.

You could let them know that you're asking them for help because your goal is to safely stop using drugs or alcohol. You could also let them know that top experts say addiction is a medical condition -- not a sign of weakness or a flaw that people overcome with willpower alone.

Your family members might also be not surprised if you disclose your addiction. They may have seen possible signs of your challenges already, since addiction can cause symptoms like:

You might find that your loved ones don't always react in the same way as you expected. They may still be there to support you through this difficult time.

You don't have to ask your family for support if that doesn't make you feel confident. There are many people who can help you.

Do You Have the Right to Ask for Medical Assistance?

Yes. Talking about addiction and treatment with your doctor is a good idea. If not, ask them to refer you for a physician who is open to talking to it.

You could also get help from an addiction specialist. An addiction specialist is a psychiatrist or board-certified doctor that specializes in treating people who are addicted. You can find out if there's one in your area by checking the American Society of Addiction Medicine's physician directory. You can also search the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry's physician locator.

You could ask your doctor or an addiction specialist questions like:

If you are unsure, see a doctor.

For drug and alcohol related emergencies, dial 911 immediately

For help, who else can you ask?

Talking to a friend or relative is a good option if you prefer not to speak to a parent or a doctor. A trusted professor or counselor can be a friend, if necessary, or spiritual or faith leaders if it's still school.

You could also consider going to a local meeting of an organization like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous.

Calling a support line is another option. You can call the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-4357 for confidential and free advice. Although it doesn't provide counseling, the line can connect you to a specialist who will refer you to treatment centers and support groups in your area.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 for help if you are thinking about ending your own life. You can access confidential support at any time, free of charge, and it's available 24 hours a day.