how to deal with a drug addict sisterSubstance addiction is a prevalent problem among adults and children around the world. It not only affects the victim but also takes a toll on their families. In such cases, siblings who are close to the victim can be a strong support to help them quit the addiction. Most of the time addiction is related to the state of mind as it is a compulsive brain disorder. Since mental illness affects women more than men, they demand special care.

If your sibling is an addict and you want to know how to deal with a drug addict sister, then these tips can be helpful.

Read the Symptoms of Addiction

Obviously, addiction is something that can be easily hidden from parents or friends because little weirdness of the loved one is always acceptable. It may not be so easy to stash the symptoms from a close sibling. Here are the signs that you need to read in your sister’s appearance and behavior. 

  • Frequent intoxication: If you notice her appearing intoxicated quite often like bloodshot eyes, tipsy walking, etc. then never ignore her.
  •  Poor memory: Your sister has certainly not reached the age of Alzheimer’s. Hence, if she fails to recollect recent incidents, follow her actions closely.
  • Increase in fatigue: Substance abuse most often increases body exhaustion. Thus, a sudden increase in fatigue can be a  prominent symptom.
  • Bad sense of hygiene: Women are naturally more hygiene conscious than men. So, if your sister avoids grooming and minimal hygiene routine, that’s a sign of addiction.
  • Sudden change in weight: Drug abuse impacts body weight over a period. Hence, your sister’s sudden weight gain or loss is not normal.
  • Sneaky behavior: Drug addicts often fear being exposed, so they develop a secretive behavior. For instance, behavioral changes like stealing, hiding, lying more often, are alarming signs.
  • Problems in studies or work: Addicted people often suffer from poor concentration which affects their day-to-day activities like studies or office jobs.
  • Mood swings: Mood swing is a common symptom of mental illness. It is also associated with addiction. If your sister shows symptoms of anger, depression, or low patience level, understand she needs help.
  • Becoming unsociable: This is a common symptom among drug addicts. Changing friends or avoiding social events are signs of addiction.

Struggle of Being a Sibling to an Addict

It is difficult to live as a sibling wondering how to deal with a drug addict sister. Sometimes, you may hate her for her consistent lying, irresponsible attitude, arrogance and her refusal to treatment. All that feeling is normal for you, but at the end of the day, you have to realize that she is your real sibling. She may need your help as the person who has always been close to her in times of ebb and flow. 

Understand her compulsive nature which is playing such dirty tricks with her mind. It may be easy to completely cut-off your sister from your life but that’s not what a loving sibling should do. Try to care for her without enabling her. Help her when she is struggling through her treatment. Society may shame you as a brother or sister of an addict, but what if your sibling defeats addiction to conquer life again. No matter how difficult it is, your every effort counts.

Helping vs. Enabling Your Sister

When you realize that your sister is a victim of substance abuse, you normally tend to care more for her. However, this normal instinct is actually enabling her. Remember that addiction is different from other diseases and should be handled accordingly. Here are a few ways to help her without enabling her.

Be Compassionate

Deal her with compassion but not childcare. Understand that her anger, denial, and aggression are not deliberate but instinctive. Make every effort to not let her feel alone or cut-off from family.

Don’t Judge Her

An addict willingly disconnects from social life because he or she is afraid of being judged. As a result, a sense of guilt and shame constantly disrupts their mind. As a sibling, you should understand your sister’s mental health rather than criticizing her for her addiction. This might motivate her to change for good.

Build a Healthy Environment

Maintain a healthy environment around her to encourage healthy habits. Addiction often takes away normal habits like bathing, eating right, sleeping well, etc. Creating a normal environment around her will gradually improve her mental health. 

Be Positive

Coping up with an addicted sibling is quite challenging. The only thought that passes your mind is how to deal with a drug addict sister. All of that is normal but your mental wellbeing is important too. While helping your sister overcome addiction, you can practice self-love. This acts as a therapy to stay positive and strong during these trying times.

Impact On the Family of the Addict

It is not the victim of drug abuse who suffers alone, the family also goes through a tough time. Just like a sibling is confused about how to deal with a drug addict sister with compassion, the parents are also confused about how to handle her unexpected behavioral changes. However, in such cases of addiction, it is the family who can play a crucial role to help her overcome it.

This process is known as “intervention”. It has to be done the right way without enabling her, keeping all guilt and shame locked-up. Have a heart-to-heart conversation with her to understand the situation that dragged her to addiction. Further, try to confront her to bring out her inner desire to change back to normal.

When and How to Stage an Intervention

how to deal with a drug addict sister

Intervention is the opening move towards recovery from addiction. The process is generally done by close friends and family with the help of a therapist. It is a way to confront the addict to accept his or her addiction and convince them to change to normal.

If your family decides to go for intervention to help your sister recover, ensure it is done with empathy and not accusation. It should focus on positive signs of recovery and life after that. Consequently, this will motivate your sister to undergo treatment. It is always advisable to stage an intervention under the guidance of a professional interventionist.

The process involves several steps like forming a team of professionals, friends and family, deciding time and venue, setting a list of impactful statements, and then offering help. Hence, this process needs to be rehearsed several times to avoid making an adverse impact.

Once she agrees to undergo treatment, parents can contact medical experts for advice. There are different forms of treatment to quit addiction depending on the health condition of the addict.

Treatments to Overcome Drug Addiction

Every treatment of drug abuse has three basic goals. First, to stop getting addicted, second, to live without drugs and third to get back to normal activities in life. Treatment is the only way to revive the happiness and warmth of every relationship in your sister’s life. Treatments are of different types for drug addicts, it can be medication or behavioral therapy or both. The method of treatment entirely depends on the physical and mental health of the addict. Here are the commonly practiced treatments for addiction. 

  • Residential treatment: In this method, 24 hours therapy is provided at home. The duration may extend from six to 12 months in case of long term treatment. For short-term treatment, it can be from three to six weeks depending on the progress of the patient. 
  • Intensive outpatient treatment: This program is designed as an alternative to inpatient and residential treatment. This treatment helps to cope up with substance abuse, relapse management and psychosocial disorders.
  • Telehealth options: This method of addiction treatment is devised to help patients over telecommunication services without the need to travel long distances. Regular advice is given over telecommunication devices through texting, video calls, phone calls, web-based tools, etc.
  • Family therapy: While most treatments focus on physical and behavioral aspects, family therapy focuses on re-building strained family relationships. This helps an addict heal emotionally and return to normal life faster.

Practicing Self-Care During Recovery

Addiction replaces all the priorities in life and this is why self-care is important during and after recovery. It recharges the person both physically and mentally to face life once again. Here are a few ways to practice self-care while healing from an addiction.


Recovery from addiction is not simple. It has several stages of physical and mental challenges. This is where mindfulness can be helpful to control sensations. Also, this is a conscious effort to stay focussed on the treatment and embrace life again.

Reconnect with Family and Close Friends

During this time a person needs compassion and support to quit addiction. Family and friends can be the best company to motivate the person in his or her decision. Try to help your sister reconnect with her loved ones like before, it will help her to heal faster.

Balance Responsibilities

Often people undergoing treatment to overcome addiction engage themselves in a lot of responsibilities like work, daily house chores etc. It is a common idea that this diverts the mind but it actually restrains the mind from healing. As the body needs time to heal the substance abuse, similarly the mind needs it too. As a caring sibling ensure your sister spends more quality time with herself doing things that make her happy. For instance, cherishing a long lost hobby.

Choose to Be with Like-Minded People

It is obvious that your sister will have a friends group that encouraged her addiction. Now that she has decided to heal, she may no longer be a favorite to them. You need to guide your sister to choose the right kind of people who will motivate her to live life better this time.

Get Help at New Directions for Women Today

Once your sister is on the road to recovery it may take a while before life feels “normal” again. She may need helping remember how life has improved in recovery.  This is the perfect time to invest some time into strengthening your friendship and encouraging her to thrive. Once she finds her rythme, it will be one of the most transformative experiences for you and for her that you can both enjoy for years to come.

Contact us today to learn more about our treatment services at New Directions for Women. We are here to help.