What you can do

addicts & their families

  • a_samhsa-treatment-locator-widget-180x150Insist on high quality, long term care.
  • Piece together the elements of good care as best you can.
    • If the addict won’t accept treatment, consider an intervention.
    • If possible, consider inpatient or residential treatment to start. The purpose is to stabilize the patient and begin laying a foundation for long term recovery. (Keep in mind that this is only a beginning. What comes after is the critical question.)
    • Make sure long term aftercare or outpatient treatment follows. Don’t trust assume treatment staff will line this up. You may need to play an active role in planning this.
    • Look for ways to build inlong term recovery support. Options for this include the following:
      • Sober housing.
      • A recovery support and monitoring service. (This report lists 4 of these services on pages 20 and 21.)
      • Boost your odds by creating a family recovery team. Debra Jay’s new book, It Takes a Family, is a step-by-step year-long blueprint.
      • In the event the addict is facing criminal charges of some sort, explore the possibility of getting their case transferred to a drug court.
    • Look for a primary care physician that is knowledgeable about addiction and recovery. They can help monitor and avoid prescribing any meds that might be dangerous for a person in recovery.
  • Take care of yourself. Your personal recovery (from having an addicted loved one) is an important predictor of your loved one’s recovery.

first responders

You have the power to help stop the revolving door.

The most important thing for you to understand is that addicts expect contempt from professional helpers. If you want to help them, you’ll have to find ways to let them know that you respect them and that you are sincerely concerned about their well-being.

  • Know that they are afraid and confused, even if they act cocky and certain of what they need.
  • Expect them to insist they are OK even though they are not–in the same way someone with a head injury might.
  • Learn about brief interventions. There isn’t much research on brief interventions for opioid addiction, but research on alcohol problems has found that conversations as brief as 5 minutes can lead to treatment seeking.
  • Develop relationships with treatment agencies and try to facilitate active linkages to services.

harm reduction providers

  • Frame addiction as a progressive and life-threatening bur treatable illness.
  • Understand that addicts hate their lives and that addictive drug-use isn’t a lifestyle or a coping mechanism.
  • Understand that the biggest barrier to seeking recovery is often a lack of hope. Focus on developing a hope-engendering relationship and link them with other hope-engendering relationships.
  • Develop linkages to treatment programs, so you can work together on cases and expedite admission when a window of opportunity opens.
  • Consider using recovering peer specialists for recovery-oriented outreach with this population.

treatment providers

  • Find ways to develop relationships with addicts who are still actively using.
  • Develop ways to keep clients engaged with services and for extended periods of time.
  • Link clients with primary care practices that will support and monitor their recovery.
  • Develop strategies to provide long term monitoring, support and early re-intervention.
  • Develop relationships with harm reduction programs and work together on cases.
  • Convey to clients that you are unconditionally committed to their recovery and that you’ll never be mad at them if they relapse. You want to be the first place they call if they relapse.


Some communities are working on solutions that go beyond distributing naloxone.

  • Communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania are working on improving access to treatment and using recovering peers for outreach to overdose survivors.
  • A recovery advocate in Scotland reports the following about overdose outreach efforts: “In Edinburgh we reinvigorated an entire harm reduction team in its energy and aspiration by providing trained peer supporters to work alongside professionals. We had anticipated a positive response from clients of the service, but were pretty surprised by how staff responded. They were very enthusiastic. They never get to see recovery. Trying to stress the importance of their role, but re-visioning it to see it as part of a much bigger process is important I think.”