There are many factors contributing to the reasons why problematic substance users do not get help for their drug or alcohol use. I thought this blog might be useful for anyone living with a loved one’s substance use to gain a bit of understanding around this look out for signs to take any action.


Are they ready?


Firstly, somebody needs to be at a certain stage of the cycle of change to even consider help. We would be looking for signs that a loved one is thinking about change, has said they will give up off their own back or seems uncomfortable about their use. These are the times to initiate conversations about getting help. On this note, please don’t waste your energy having these discussions when your loved one is heavily under the influence. It is a waste of your energy.


Have they hit rock bottom?

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, people do not need to hit ‘rock bottom’ in order to change. As a family member or friend, the Vesta Programme covers many strategies that you can use to adjust the environment that your loved one lives in and to change your responses to them when they use or drink. This will ultimately influence their decisions around their drug or alcohol use.


The types of barriers


Now we have covered those key points, let’s move onto the barriers:


  1. Psychological– these barriers are linked to how your loved one perceives their own substance use. For example, they may simply not see their substance use as being a problem. They may say they don’t need any help and they are in control. They might simply like using or they might just choose to ignore the issue entirely.
  2. Social– Shame, embarrassment, fear of people finding out or what others think about them are a huge barrier to family members AND substance users getting help. There is so much secrecy and stigma attached to getting help for substance use, but this should not be the case. Everyone has problems. Asking for help is a strength and allows people to move on with their lives.
  3. Practical– They might not have even wanted to look for ways they can get help. Maybe there are childcare issues. Working hours are a massive factor for professionals (as well as work finding out). Clinging onto negative stories about treatment in the media or from other people who have attempted recovery influences this also. Having no time or money can also be a preventative factor, despite the fact that substance users spend a fortune on obtaining their substance in the first place.
  4. Assumptions– or jumping to conclusions! These types of barriers can include anything from assuming they aren’t as bad as anyone else, thinking they will be told what to do or that there is only one type of help such as rehab or an equivalent. A big issue here is fear. Fear of what happens in treatment or what the consequences could be for them.
  5. Experiences– if a loved one has had experience of a particular service or professional in the past, this can cloud judgement around what help would be like in the future ANYWHERE. They may be petrified of what they will feel like if they stop using their substance and they may simply be a private person who doesn’t want to associate with other substance users.

All of these types of barriers are relevant in supporting someone into treatment. They are also relevant concerns for anyone who needs to access treatment so we have to work with the, and not dismiss them. One of the aims of the Vesta Programme is for a loved one to enter treatment as a result of working with a concerned family member. I can show you how to do this.


How do we address these barriers?


  1. Look out for times when a loved one appears to be thinking about change or speaking about it to start having conversations about getting help. I’ll write about ‘hooks’ next week so that you can identify the times when your loved one has become dissatisfied with their use and have relevant discussions about it.
  2. Gather as much information as possible about the help and support you can access locally and online. Ring up or message services, ask how they work so you can gently challenge any negative thoughts when the barriers come up in conversation and offer a range of options.
  3. Familiarise yourself with the barriers that you anticipate or know your loved one has to treatment. If they don’t talk about it at all, you can probably guess what their barriers would be so that you have something to work with from the five barrier types above. You can then get as much information about these potential barriers and address any practical issue as well when sourcing the right help for your loved one. This means you can prepare responses to their objections in advance.


There you go, a brief introduction to barriers and some points to deal with them. I just need to say that these conversations may not always be successful straight away, but it is important to act fast when you can see your loved one thinking about change. Preparing yourself now would be a wonderful way of getting one step ahead and preparing for family recovery.


I can help


My service, The Vesta Approach, supports families affected by a loved one’s substance use. You can access confidential support from me wherever you are in the world. I will help you to get your loved one into treatment and lead a better life. I offer face to face sessions in the Manchester (UK) area. You can also get help via Skype  and an online group therapeutic programme.

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Take Care.

See you next week,