When someone in the family is suffering from drug addiction, it affects everyone. You may feel angry, confused, and terrified. You may be baffled by the changes in your loved one, desperate to get them the help they need, and uncertain how to do so.
Yelling, crying, and begging the drug addict to stop taking drugs is usually not effective. Extreme reactions from family members may compound the shame and guilt the addict feels. How can you convince your brother, sister, wife, husband, parent, or child to get help without driving them further into the disease?
It is possible to convince someone to get help, but it requires preparation and strategy. Here are seven tips on how to confront someone who is struggling with addiction.
1. Do Your Homework
It’s essential to learn what you are dealing with before you face a family member about drug addiction. Addiction is a disease that affects people of all ages, genders, nationalities, and backgrounds. It is not a sin, or a weakness of character, or a moral failing.
Depending upon your loved one’s drug of choice, addiction may manifest in different ways. The addict can be lethargic and sleepy, or hyper and manic. They may run with a dangerous crowd or isolate themselves in their room.
The more you learn about the nature of the disease, the better equipped you will be when you confront the addict. By learning how drugs affect the mind, body, and soul, you will have compassion for your loved one and a scientific basis for demanding they get help.
2. Track Evidence of a Problem
Part of addiction is denial. When confronted, the addict will usually claim that they do not have a problem, that everything is OK, that they like to party sometimes but that they can stop whenever they want to.
Make a list of all of the times you can recall that drugs affected your family member’s life. Write down the missed birthdays, DUIs lost jobs, fights, and hospital stays.
An addict may have excuses for all of their actions. However, by giving precise and convincing evidence of the ways drugs are impacting your family, you begin to build a case that they need help.
3. Talk to Others Who Have Been There
The best advice for you when you are seeking help for someone you love will come from others who have been through the same thing. Talk to people you know whose family members have been addicted to drugs, and find out what they did to get through it.
If you don’t know anyone to ask or if you are scared or embarrassed, check out a Nar-Anon meeting for friends and families of drug addicts. You will hear many people describe their experiences going through what you are undergoing.
Not only will they give you tips on treatment centers and professionals, but they can also be a source of support for you. They can recommend what to do when your loved one refuses to get help, or runs away, or shows up wasted again on your doorstep.
By leaning on your support network, you can gather the strength you need to confront the person you care about.
4. Assemble the Family
Twelve-step programs advise against confronting an addict by yourself. If a person is high, they can be volatile and even dangerous.
Even if they are not aggressive, they can be manipulative. Addicts are excellent at getting their way and lying.
There is strength in numbers when you choose to confront someone about their drug use. If you can convince others in the family to sit down for a family intervention, you may find that there is power in your collective experience.
5. Be Kind
You may have strong emotions about your family member’s drug addiction, but there is a time and a place for working those out. You may eventually participate in family counseling at an inpatient facility or with a therapist.
However, if the goal is to get the person into treatment, now is not the time to vent your frustration and grievances. Getting angry often will drive the addict further away rather than towards recovery.
Keep in mind that the addict is sick, and treat them like you would someone with cancer or diabetes. Be sympathetic to their pain, but firm in your argument that they need professional assistance.
6. Have Your Next Steps Lined Up
The best case scenario is that, when confronted, your family member agrees to get treatment. If this happens, you want to make sure there is a bed available at a detox facility and that you have a rehab program lined up and ready for him or her.
Make the necessary phone calls ahead of time so you can grab the moment when it arises. Talk to your family’s insurance companies, and facilities about the kinds of treatments are available and covered by your plan.
There are many options available, but it is best to go through the red tape first to make sure you have everything lined up when it is most needed.
7. Keep Your Expectations Realistic
Sadly, every intervention is not always immediately successful. Sometimes it takes several tries to get someone into rehab.
Your loved one may lash out, run away, or react negatively to your attempts to help. That’s why you need your own support system available to help you through any disappointment.
Even if your loved one goes to rehab, recovery may be a long road. If you expect immediate permanent results, you may be let down. Keep the faith and let recovery take its time, and you and your family will be able to find your way back from the nightmare of addiction.
How to Confront Someone Who Has a Drug Problem: Be Prepared
Are you scared to confront someone who is addicted to drugs? Take comfort in the fact that there are many resources available to help you and your loved one. By speaking with professionals and other families who have been in the same boat, you can learn ways of coping with this disease. You are not alone.
For more information on treatment options for people with drug addiction, you can speak with a professional member of the DreamLife Recovery team, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- “Helping a Friend with an Addiction” – L Renee Watson MSN RN, Marianne Fraser MSN RN, Paul Ballas MD; University of Rochester Medical Center
- “If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 18 Oct. 2019, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/step-by-step-guides-to-finding-treatment-drug-use-disorders/if-your-adult-friend-or-loved-one-has-problem-drugs Accessed 25 Mar. 2021
- “Helping an Adult Family Member or Friend with a Drug or Alcohol Addiction” – Partnership to End Addiction; June 2014
- “How to Help an Addicted Friend or Relative” – Hartney, Elizabeth BSc, MSc, MA, Ph.D., Rev. by John H. Umhau, MD, MPH, CDE; VeryWellMind; 3 June, 2020
- “When a loved one has an addiction” – Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publishing; July 2012