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How to Help an Addict or Alcoholic Spouse

Having a spouse in the throes of drug or alcohol addiction can be a very difficult thing to witness. The difference in personality and behavior between the sober and intoxicated person may prove to be unsettling for the whole family unit.
“Having a spouse in the throes of drug or alcohol addiction can be a very difficult thing to witness.”
Learning how to help an addicted spouse may be a difficult process, but it can be very rewarding when the person who was lost to addiction is recovered. Signs to look out for with alcohol or drug abuse include:

  • Spouse being secretive
  • Smell of alcohol on the person’s breath or the person just doesn’t look right
  • Spouse very often being too sick to work
  • Mood swings
  • Being unable to function as a result of having consumed alcohol
  • Excessively long hours at the office and returning looking or acting strange
  • Difficulty making and/or keeping friendships
  • Spending a lot of money on the substance, more than they can afford
  • Money disappearing
  • Trying to stop consuming without success
  • Doing things out of character to obtain the substance, such as stealing
  • Problems at work

Did You Know?

The main problem drugs at the global level continue to be opiates, more specifically heroin, followed by cocaine. Opiates continue to be the most abused drug for most of Europe and Asia, accounting for 62 percent of all demand for treatment in 2003. Drug-related treatment demand in South America continues to be mainly linked to cocaine abuse, which makes up 59 percent of all demands for treatment. The bulk of all treatment demand in Africa is linked to cannabis, at 64 percent.

Additional Signs of Addiction

The above signs are very common for addiction or alcoholism. However, if you want to know how to help an addicted spouse, there are other things to look out for, such as:

  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • A neglected appearance
  • Change in behavior
  • Poor memory
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased coordination
  • Slurred, rapid or slow speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Euphoria
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss or gain without logical reason
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Delusions
  • Panic
  • Needle marks
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

When dealing with a drug-addicted spouse, coming from a space of compassion and understanding is important. If you want to know how to help an addicted spouse, it is advised not to blame the addict, as addiction is a disease that needs to be treated by physicians with a solid addiction treatment plan.

Potential Substances of Abuse

Many substances can cause addiction, and some common ones include:

  • Narcotic painkillers (heroin, morphine, oxycodone, codeine)
  • Marijuana and hashish
  • Barbiturates and benzodiazepines (central nervous system depressants like Valium, Xanax or Ativan)
  • Methamphetamine and other stimulants such as cocaine, Ritalin and amphetamines
  • Club drugs such as MDMA, GHB, Rohypnol and ketamine
  • Hallucinogens such as PCP, LSD or hallucinogenic mushrooms
  • Inhalants such as glue or paint thinners

Drugs and alcohol on the table showing substance abuse Many programs are available to help a spouse on drugs. Identifying which program is most suited for your spouse is one of the first steps on the road to recovery. Many centers today consider a spouse’s involvement in dealing with a drug-addicted spouse essential to that person’s recovery.

Dealing with an Addicted Spouse

Not going it alone is key, and being surrounded with helpful, understanding and supporting friends can give anyone in the process of dealing with a drug-addicted spouse that extra strength needed when times are difficult. Making sure there are activities outside the home, a support network for both of you and a place to go if your spouse becomes violent is key to a healthy recovery.

Informative Stats on Alcoholism

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been a factor.

Dealing with a drug-addicted or alcoholic spouse is a reality that many Americans face today. Over half of men and women in the US report that one or more close relatives has a drinking problem, and in 2009, 30.2 million people (12 percent of people ages 12 or older) reported driving under the influence at least once in the past year. In 2010, 22.6 million persons in the United States used illicit drugs including marijuana, psychotherapeutics, cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants and heroin.

Did You Know?

In 2009, almost 1 million visits to the ER involved an illicit drug, either alone or in combination with other types of drugs. It is estimated that:

  • Cocaine was involved in 422,896 ER visits.
  • Marijuana was involved in 376,467 ER visits.
  • Heroin was involved in 213,118 ER visits.
  • Stimulants, including amphetamines and methamphetamine, were involved in 93,562 ER visits.
  • Other illicit drugs, like PCP, Ecstasy, and GHB, were involved much less frequently than any of the drug types mentioned above.


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