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The desire to protect and look after the well-being of your loved ones is natural, but is it possible to care too much?

In the case of addictive behaviors, the answer could be yes.

An enabler is a family member or friend who allows their loved one to continue harmful behaviors, such as a drug addiction. In many cases, enabling a drug addiction is not intentional. Rather, it is a misguided attempt to keep a loved one from further suffering.

Contact Addiction Medicine Services at 412-692-CARE (2273) for help.

As difficult as it may seem, the more you help, the worse their addiction may become.

The UPMC Department of Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine Services provide a number of resources for family members who have loved ones suffering from substance abuse.

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Signs You Are Enabling Someone’s Drug Addiction

It’s not easy to admit that you could be enabling a loved one’s drug addiction.

As a friend or family member, your instinct is to offer support. When it comes to drug abuse, shielding someone from the consequences of their actions allows them to continue using and could harm their health.

If you identify with any of the following behaviors, you may be enabling a loved one’s drug addiction.

Making empty threats: Setting boundaries with your loved one, but never following through when the using behavior continues.

Lying to others: Covering up the addiction by making excuses to others for any inappropriate behavior related to drug use.

Avoiding confrontation: Recognizing that your loved one has a drug addiction, but ignoring or avoiding it.

Managing responsibilities: This can include paying rent, covering electric bills, or giving them money for necessities or recreation.

Observing no improvement. If you believe you have been helping but see your loved one is not improving, you are enabling their drug use by providing temporary solutions.

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Steps to Stop Enabling a Drug Addiction

First, recognize your behaviors and begin to take responsibility for how you have enabled their addiction. Next, begin to allow your loved one to experience the consequences of drug use.

Plan ahead: Set firm boundaries and plan for unpredictable reactions to your new rules.

Follow through: If you claim that you will no longer pay for utilities or make excuses to an employer, you need to follow through, no matter how difficult it may be.

Don’t give in. Be assertive and do not cave to manipulation.

Use positive encouragement. Keep the focus on how you will be a part of their life without drugs. Encourage behavior that shows a willingness to recover.

It’s difficult to watch someone you love suffer the consequences of drug abuse, but dealing with your enabling behavior may give them a chance toward true recovery.

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About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.