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What you need to know about addictions

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Does the person you are caring for have an addiction?

How do you support someone who is addicted to alcohol, drugs or gambling? The tips presented here will help you cope with daily life and help you recognize a possible co-dependency.

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What do I need to know about addictions?

A person can become addicted to a substance (alcohol, other drugs, medication) or to gambling.

Addiction develops gradually and takes different forms, depending on what is being used and the person’s physical, psychological and social factors. The degree of addiction can vary from one person to another, from one situation to another. We can therefore speak of addiction, but also of addictions in the plural. When the consumption of psychotropic products leads to a loss of control, we speak of addiction.

In these situations, caregivers may neglect themselves, develop codependency, become isolated, or experience emotions such as worry and guilt.

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Case studies



A mother’s son is using alcohol. He has completely given up his activities. He has difficulty reducing his drinking or setting limits when he drinks.

The mother is struggling with the stigma of her son’s drinking. As a result, she does everything she can to cover up her son’s drinking. This situation is further compounded by the fact that they live in the same house; there are frequent conflicts between them.


A young woman is using cocaine. She has to use more and more to get the same effect. She spends a lot of time and energy trying to find cocaine. She continues to use despite developing physical or psychological problems that may be caused or aggravated by her cocaine use.

Her father makes excuses for his daughter’s absence when she is unable to show up for work because of her cocaine use. She works in the family business. Her mother brings her a meal every day; she does everything she can to minimize the effects of drugs on her daughter’s health.


A man in his forties is constantly thinking about gambling. He is gambling larger and larger sums of money and has difficulty setting limits on his gambling. The thought of gambling less or quitting altogether makes him irritable.

His sister realizes that her brother is lying to the whole family to hide his gambling addiction. The brother has been asking her for money. She learns about the consequences of gambling and keeps her brother informed of the issue. She feels guilty for not giving him money, but she knows she has to protect herself and focus on herself.

Treatment and evolution

You can encourage the person you are caring for to consult a healthcare professional. Reassure them that you will be there to offer support.

By contacting the local CISSS or CIUSSS, you will be able to speak with a healthcare professional, confidentially and free of charge. This professional will be able to assess the needs of the person you are caring for as well as your own needs and direct you to the appropriate support resource.

The services offered range from screening consultations to specialized services, including treatment evaluation, accompaniment, support for family and friends, and assistance for parents. For example, take a look at the services offered by the CIUSSS de la Mauricie-et-du-Centre-du-Québec.

Co-dependency of the caregiver

For every person with an addiction, it is estimated that about 10 loved ones are affected. As a caregiver, understanding the addiction(s) experienced by the person you are helping is a useful step that you have already taken by reading this page and learning about resources and referrals. Bravo!

Now it is time to realize that, as the caregiver of someone with an addiction, it is possible that you may be in a situation of codependency.

We are codependent when the help we want to give the other person affects our own functioning and quality of life, when we are a partner in the addiction that the person is experiencing and when we tend to cover up their problems and do things for them.

This behaviour, which starts with a benevolent and generous intention, can have the effect of contributing to keeping the person being cared for in their addiction, thus preventing them from experiencing the consequences of their addiction and from making decisions to change.

Are you in this situation? Here are some suggestions to help you identify codependency and become aware of the helping or non-helping nature of your relationship:

☐ I protect the person I am caring for by covering up some of their actions and it wears me down.

☐ I realize that helping the person I care for affects my functioning and quality of life.

☐ I take on increasing responsibility for the person I am caring for. I am tense all the time.

☐ I become more and more isolated. I feel empty.

☐ The person relies on me a lot. This does not help them to initiate any changes in their lifestyle.

If you recognize yourself in the above, there is help and support available for you! Contact the resources adapted to your situation.

Questions and possible solutions

How can I motivate the person I am caring for to change?

Try to learn to protect yourself and take a step back by thinking of yourself first. Then, without confronting them, discuss with them the consequences that affect you: what would they want to change, what would you like them to change, and what would be the positive consequences for them and for you if they reduced or stopped using? What could you change? Then, work together to plan the next steps and changes, while at the same time mourning the ideal sober person and thinking about help and support resources.

What resources are available for the person I am caring for, and are there resources available for me too?

The Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux has compiled a directory of addiction resources. Among them, Drugs: Help and Referral, and the addiction rehabilitation centres are essential. To search via a map, consult Trouve ton centre. Support programs, telephone counseling and self-help groups are specifically designed for friends and family. For example, Al-Anon/Alateen Family Groups are for family members, friends and loved ones of alcohol-dependent people.

What are the options available to me to protect myself?

1) You value your relationship with the person you are caring for: give yourself a break, set boundaries, let them take responsibility for their actions. Seek help free of charge for yourself; addiction rehabilitation centres also exist for caregivers.

2) you want to end your relationship: Gradually inform the person you are caring for as you think about it. This will help you deal with guilt, anger, shock and grief over the relationship.

I have a lot of other questions!

The Association québécoise des centres d’intervention en dépendance (Quebec Association of Addiction Centres) provides a list of frequently asked questions about seeking support for addiction and substance use. You may also find it helpful to listen to the testimonials on the Grains d’espoir (Grains of Hope) podcast, which provides answers to your questions.

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Need to talk?

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call  Caregiver info :  1 855 852-7784