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What to Do When Your Loved One is in a Substance Use Crisis

Jan 28, 2024 | FamiliesStrong Self-Care Info, News, Resources and Reports

Prepare how to respond appropriately during a substance use crisis with these helpful tips.

Family members of people using substances undoubtedly face many difficult situations in their lives. During a crisis, it’s critical that you know how to respond appropriately, so that you can avoid potential damage to you or your whole family’s health and wellbeing.

What Are Your Options

A crisis involving an individual using substances can be daunting for loved ones, especially if they’re experiencing this challenge for the first time. The first things to consider are what type of action is needed and who you can call for help.

Emergency Medical Assistance

You may need to call for immediate medical help if you feel your loved one is unwell or has done something that could have a short-term or long-term impact on their health.

Narcan (Naloxone)

If your loved one uses opioids—such as heroin, fentanyl or prescription medications like benzodiazepine (Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, etc), oxycodone or hydrocodone—keeping Narcan on hand can be a literal lifesaver. Narcan is a prescription nasal spray that is designed to reverse opioid overdose. Signs of opioid overdose include breathing problems, severe sleepiness, or unresponsiveness. Learn more about when and how to administer Narcan at After you administer Narcan, call 911 for Emergency Medical Assistance.

Though Narcan is a prescription medication, all CVS, Kroger, Fruth, and Rite Aid pharmacies in West Virginia are able to provide Narcan without a prescription. Visit for more information on how to obtain Narcan for free or at a reduced price.

Recovery Center

Recovery Centers are well equipped to deal with any type of substance-related crisis and should be able to advise you about the next steps you can take to help your family member or friend.

Mental Health Assistance

Mental health challenges can exacerbate substance use issues, and people in recovery risk relapsing following mental health challenges. The sooner they receive mental health assistance, the more likely they will get back on track.

Friends and Family

It can often be difficult to know what to do when you are making decisions on your own. Relying on those that care for you may be a necessary step that you need to take to get through a crisis situation with your loved one who uses substances.


In some situations, your first option may be to call the police—especially when someone is at risk of harming themselves or someone else around them.

How to Avert Crisis Before It Happens

Though we can’t always stop a person with a substance use issue from self-harm, there are a few things you can do to help lessen the impact on you, them, and your whole family :


If you notice that someone in your family is struggling, a compassionate ear is probably the first thing they need. Just sitting with them for an hour or so could make a huge difference. Allowing them time to express themselves (without judgment) may be the best way to help them manage the crisis.

Provide Options

Remind your loved one that they don’t have to go through everything alone. There are many support groups and organizations that can offer them assistance during this trying time. Share resources like, a website which lists local organizations for services such as financial assistance, food pantries, medical care, and other free or reduced-cost help in your community.

Take Time for Yourself

Loving someone with a substance use problem can take its toll after a while. You may find that you need support, too. The first thing to know is that feeling overwhelmed is normal in this situation. Take a moment to catch your breath and re-center yourself so you can think clearly before reacting. Take a look at our “Self-Care 101” articles for ways to help you so you can help them. Remember: when you need more support, Families Strong WV is here for you.

Join Us at Families Strong

Families Strong is for those who have loved ones who use substances. We offer a range of resources and support to guide you through this time. For more support visit our Join A Group page to find an upcoming group near you. If you have questions about our program, get in touch with our team today at (681) 378-2086 or email [email protected].


Families Strong is a free, 8-week support group for the families and friends of individuals who are using substances. It is designed to help reduce the negative effects of substance use issues on families. The program is developed and guided by Mosaic Group, nationally recognized experts in behavioral health. To learn more about the program and how your organization or state agency can partner with Mosaic Group to implement it, contact us at [email protected].

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