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Help for Substance Abuse

Drug Free Workplace Week - October 26-30, 2009

How to Help a Family Member who is Abusing Alcohol or other Drugs

Drinking among U.S. workers can threaten public safety, impair job performance, and result in costly medical, social and other problems affecting employees and employers alike.  Productivity losses attributed to alcohol were estimated at over $119 billion (NIAAA).  Families are disrupted as well by the problem drinker.  How can you help someone in your family who has a problem with alcohol or other drugs?  You might think that the problem belongs only to the person who is drinking too much.  But, if a family member has a problem, the family has one too.  Often, the other members of the family-unintentionally develop patterns of behavior that make it easier for the problem drinker or drug user to continue their substance abuse.  This behavior is referred to as enabling.

Here are some examples of enabling:

  • Rescuing the abuser from the consequences of his or her alcohol or drug use, such as by “calling in sick,” covering up for a broken promise, or lending money.

  • Taking over the abuser’s responsibilities, making allowances, forgiving unforgivable behavior or to continue trying to be loving in the face of the abuse. 

These behaviors allow the abuser to keep using alcohol or other drugs in destructive ways.  Enabling allows the alcohol or other drug abuse to progress to a more serious stage and worsens the prognosis for a successful recovery.

What Family Members Can Do

Believe it or not, your best chance for helping your family member begins by changing yourself. 

Below are suggested guidelines to help:

  • Learn as much as you can about the drug addiction, treatment programs and the recovery process.  It is a treatable disease.

  • Get help for yourself from a professional.  Call your EAP.

  • Join a self-help group for families of abusers, such as Al-Anon, Narc-Anon.

  • Stop rescuing the abuser from the consequences of his or her actions.

  • While your member is in treatment, remain involved in the treatment process.

  • Take good care of yourself and expect a difficult period.  Becoming a drug-free family takes effort, time and patience.

  • Continue to focus on getting better yourself, no matter what.  Family members need to join together in an effort to create healthier lives for themselves, even if the abusing family member chooses not to get help.

If you or a family member is affected by substance abuse, help is available.  Contact the Employee Assistance Program at 800-308-4934.  You may take an anonymous, confidential alcohol self-test toll-free at 866-249-1580 or go online at  Enter Unregistered and look under Tools for Assessments to take a Screening.  Results are given immediately.  For additional information on helping a co-worker or family member who is abusing alcohol or other drugs, please visit the Employee Assistance Program web site and you may also review

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