Supporting Loved Ones Who Are Coping with Substance Use

Drug and alcohol use touches the lives of millions of Americans, but people are often at a loss about where to turn to get support for themselves or loved ones who are coping with substance use. Most substance abuse programs are voluntary, which means that the individual in need of treatment must be willing to seek out and accept treatment. This begs the question, where do you start if the person in need of services is not yet able to engage in this process?

  1. Seek support for yourself: Support groups like Al-Anon and Learn to Cope are great ways to connect with others who also have loved ones struggling with substance abuse. These groups can be sources of emotional support, as well as a place to share creative solutions to complex concerns and gain knowledge of resources from others with first-hand experience. Such groups can also provide helpful information in regards to: harm reduction for loved ones who are actively engaging in substance use, setting healthy boundaries, avoiding enabling behaviors and understanding the phases of relapse and recovery. You may also wish to seek out an individual therapist to help guide you through this very challenging time. Sudbury residents can call The Interface Referral Helpline, a service that helps individuals to find a therapist while taking into account their therapeutic needs, geographic location, time availability and insurance coverage. The number for Interface is 1-888-244-8643.
  2. Understand options and plan ahead: Often times, when a person is struggling with substance abuse, there are brief windows of opportunity when he/she is willing to voluntarily accept substance abuse services. There is a vast array of substance abuse services, and if you wait to explore service options until your loved one is ready to accept help, you may miss that window of opportunity. Loved ones can help by researching and understanding levels of care and treatment options available to the individual, and even understanding what the individual’s insurance will cover.
  3. Section 35: When someone’s drug or alcohol abuse is so severe that they are at risk of serious harm, a section 35 permits the courts to involuntarily commit the individual to inpatient treatment. This is a complex process and is not appropriate for everyone. You can learn more about it by visiting: and searching for “Section 35-FAQ” for detailed information.

The Massachusetts Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline is a good place to start. The helpline can provide information on the different levels of care and programs across the state. They can make referrals to programs, including support groups for those impacted by their loved ones’ substance abuse. You can access the helpline by calling 800-327-5050 or going to The “For Family and Friends” tab on the website also has links to help you better understand substance abuse, treatment options and how to talk to a family member or friend about your concerns.