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How to Handle a Sibling's Addiction

Watching a loved one go through the perils of addiction is devastating, especially when it’s your immediate family. In many cases, siblings share a unique bond that can make going through hard times a bit easier together. So, when one sibling begins battling with substance use disorder, it can be devastating for the other if they can’t help and they may feel like a helpless bystander. If you sense that you’re losing your connection with a brother or sister due to addiction, there are effective ways to support and help them to get treatment.

Sibling Roles

It’s not uncommon for family members to fall into specific roles when another member is dealing with addiction. Being aware of these detrimental roles is a powerful way to keep the family unit in check and to discourage any enabling. If your sibling confides in you while they are misusing substances, avoid using that information to shame them or “out” them to others, which could seriously break trust and make them turn away further. Determine whether your family can come together to help your sibling as a team, excluding those you feel are playing toxic roles to the process before you embark on the next phase, which is usually staging an intervention or encouraging your sibling to seek treatment.

Getting Help

Taking on the task of helping your sibling get the help they need for their addiction can be a massive undertaking, but you don’t have to do it alone. Whether or not you have the support of other family members, reach out to a treatment center or local interventionists to discuss the possibility of approaching your sibling about seeking treatment. More often than not, these conversations have probably already been had many times before, but coming to them with a plan for treatment where all of the legwork and thinking is done for them, can make it much easier for them to agree. Being addicted to a substance can be exhausting, leaving people with little energy or capacity to research treatment options for themselves. By doing this research ahead of time for them, they are more likely to be willing to engage in treatment.


Using compassion and sympathy to get your sibling to start treatment is a major first step, but the work has only begun. If you’re able to get them into treatment, they will be working hard for the next several months and years to better themselves and reach their goals for recovery. Keeping a transparent and open line of communication and attending family substance counseling can help educate you and the rest of your sibling’s support system about the treatment and recovery process, including relapse prevention. Staying involved with their efforts to heal will make them feel supported and that they are not alone in the fight.

Staying strong while someone you love works through their substance use disorder can be a harrowing but life-changing experience. Remember that you don’t have to take everything on yourself. There a number of local family resources you can turn to for information, as well as support groups online. Approaching things from an informed and prepared angle can significantly increase the chances of helping your sibling get the treatment they need. Contact us now for more information!


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