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Addiction: How to Speak to Others and/or Get Help

Updated: Apr 5

Addiction is a disease that affects the brain. It occurs when you use a drug or alcohol in a way that causes changes to your brain, which leads to cravings for more of the same substance. When you have an addiction, it's not just about wanting something--it's about needing it. And this take over your life: You may feel like there are no other options except using drugs or alcohol again and again, even though they cause problems in all areas of your life (your relationships with others, schoolwork or work performance).

Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors that can increase the likelihood that your child will develop an addiction. These include:

  • Genetics. Studies show that people with a family history of addiction are more likely to become addicted themselves, so it's important to be aware of this risk factor and take steps to prevent it from happening in your family

  • Environment. Peer pressure, access to drugs and alcohol, mental health issues (such as depression), trauma--all these things can influence whether or not someone becomes addicted

Warning Signs

  • Change in behavior. If your child starts to change their behavior, it could be a sign that they are struggling with addiction. For example, if they are always tired or not interested in hanging out with friends anymore, this could be a warning sign that something isn't right.

  • Withdrawal from activities and hobbies. If your child suddenly stops doing things they used to enjoy doing (such as sports or music), then this could also be a sign of an underlying problem with drug use or alcohol abuse.

  • Lying and secrecy: Another way that children try to hide their substance abuse is by lying about what they're doing when they go out with friends at night--or even lying about where they've been during day! This kind of dishonesty can lead parents down all kinds of blind alleys as they try desperately to figure out what's going on behind closed doors at home while simultaneously trying not raise any red flags that might make matters worse for themselves later down the line if/when everything comes out into open view later down line once again

Prevention Strategies

  • Early education. The earlier you can start talking to your children about drugs and alcohol, the better. This can be as simple as explaining why they shouldn't use them or what could happen if they do.

  • Open communication. It's important for parents and teens to have an open dialogue about drugs and alcohol so that everyone knows what's going on in each other's lives, including any potential problems with substance abuse issues.

  • Setting boundaries/monitoring behavior closely/supporting positive alternatives/resources available for (such as counseling). Parents should set clear rules about drug use at home and make sure those rules are enforced consistently throughout childhood so that kids know what's expected of them when they leave home--or even before leaving home if possible!

How to Talk to Your Family

  • Be prepared. You can't expect to have a productive conversation if you're not prepared, so make sure you've done your research and know what you want to say.

  • Start the conversation in a positive way, by saying somethingI love spending time with our family" or "We have so much fun together." This will help put everyone at ease and make them feel comfortable talking about their feelings later.

  • Listen and validate what they say--even if it's hard for you to hear! Your loved one may be angry, sad or scared about their addiction problem; remember that this is normal for someone who cares deeply about someone else's health (especially when they're worried about losing them). It also helps if they know that there are resources available if they need help getting treatment services started right away (for example:

How to Talk to Your Child

Talking to your child about addiction is a conversation that should be started before they become teenagers. It's important to start early because young people are more likely to engage in risky behavior if they don't know how harmful it can be, or if they think their parents don't care about them. If you think your child may be at risk for developing an addiction, here are some tips for talking with them:

  • Be prepared. Start by thinking about what you want from this conversation and what outcome would make sense for both of you. For example, if your goal is simply to get your child's perspective on drugs and alcohol use so that they understand why these substances aren't good choices for anyone--including themselves--then let them know this up front! Then listen carefully while they talk back; try not interrupting too much or defending yourself until the end of the discussion when everyone has had a chance express themselves fully (and maybe even ask some questions).

  • Set clear expectations around safety at home or school where drugs might be present; make sure there are consequences if those expectations aren't met (e.,g., grounding). Provide resources such as websites where teens can learn more about substance abuse prevention programs locally so they have somewhere else besides peers who may pressure them into trying something dangerous."

How to Talk to Your Spouse

  • Be prepared.

  • Start the conversation by asking your spouse what they think about the topic, and listen carefully to their response.

  • Validate the feelings of your spouse by acknowledging that they are valid and important to them. Do not dismiss or minimize their feelings; instead, validate them by things like "I can see why this is so important to you" or "It makes sense that this would bother you."

  • Set clear expectations for yourself as well for others in your family who may be affected by addiction (for example: "We will not keep alcohol in our house"). It's also helpful for each member of your family to have a plan for what they will do if someone becomes intoxicated (for example: "If Dad gets drunk again tonight, we'll call Grandma").

How to Talk to Your Friends

  • Be prepared.

  • Start the conversation by asking your friend how they're doing and what's going on in their life. This shows them that you care about them, and it also allows you to gauge whether or not now is a good time to talk about your concerns.

  • Listen, validate and empathize with their feelings (e.g., "I can see why it might be hard for you"). This helps build trust so they'll feel comfortable talking openly with you in the future.

  • Set clear expectations (e.g., "I want us both to feel comfortable sharing our thoughts without judgment"). This will help prevent misunderstandings from arising later on down the road when one person says something that makes another person feel judged or criticized by them ("Oh no! Now she thinks I'm an alcoholic!").

How to Get Help

If you or someone in your family is struggling with addiction, it's important to seek professional help. There are many resources available in the community.

  • Contact your doctor or other health referral to an addiction specialist.

  • Look for support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These programs can be helpful in providing support and information about recovery options, but they aren't meant as substitutes for medical treatment by trained professionals.

  • Check out local community centers and libraries that may have brochures on local services available who substance abuse problems or other issues related to mental health problems such as depression or anxiety disorders


The best way to prevent addiction is by recognizing the signs and symptoms of addiction, and getting help for your loved one as soon as possible. If you think someone in your family might have an addiction, look out for these signs:

  • Spending more time alone than usual

  • Not eye contact when talking with others (shyness)

  • Feeling guilty about things they've done or said that make them feel bad about themselves

Local Resources

Addiction Recovery Center of the Black Hills

1520 Haines Avenue, Suite 6 Rapid City, SD 57701

Phone: (605) 716-7841 or Crisis Line: (605) 519-1987


Belle Fourche Counseling, LLC

515 National St. Suite 103, Belle Fourche

Phone: (605) 722-8090


Black Hills Counseling Services

1238 Main St., Sturgis

Phone: (605) 720-8090


Black Hills Psychology

115 N. 7th St., Spearfish

Phone: (605) 645-0100


South Dakota Quitline

Phone: (866) 737-8487



Meeting Location: 623 Dahl Road, Spearfish

Phone: (800) 551-2531


Other Local Resources

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