How To Approach A Loved One With Addiction

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on December 29, 2021

Confronting a loved one about substance abuse can be tough. Consider your options for talking to them alone or in a group, based on what you’ve tried before or what you believe might be most helpful in reaching them.

How To Stage An Intervention For A Loved One Struggling With Addiction

Confronting a loved one about their drug use or drinking habits can be difficult. You don’t want to push them away. At the same time, you know that failing to address it may cause it to grow worse.

More than 20 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have a substance use disorder. Each year, thousands seek treatment through a rehab center or substance use counselor.

Overcoming addiction is possible. Here, you’ll find information on how to approach a loved one about addiction and help guide them towards a happier and healthier future in recovery.

Learn more about how to help a loved one with addiction

Talk To Them Alone

Addiction is complex. For many, it can also be a source of embarrassment and shame. Finding time to talk to someone one-on-one in a private setting is the best way to start a dialogue.

Talking to someone with other people around, either in a group setting or another public setting, may cause a person to feel cornered. This is the opposite of what you want.

You want your loved one to feel safe, able to open up to you, and to speak freely, without having to worry about onlookers, judgment from other people, or other external pressures.

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Plan A Group Intervention

If trying to talk to them alone has proven unsuccessful, or is otherwise unfeasible, it might be time to consider planning a group intervention with other family members or close loved ones.

Benefits of this can include:

  • having power in numbers
  • being able to show your loved one they have many people who care
  • being able to get strength from others
  • having multiple people to brainstorm an effective approach

Staging an intervention shouldn’t be about making a person feel guilty, ashamed, or threatened.

The goal is for them to willingly seek help. With this in mind, the best way to stage an intervention is to keep compassion and your desire to see them well at the heart of it.

At the same time, it’s important to be honest about your concerns, feelings, and the impact your loved one’s addiction has had on your own life and relationship with them.

Getting The Help Of An Interventionist

When it comes to planning an intervention, there are two options: planning it solely with the other participants, or seeking the external help of a professional interventionist.

A professional interventionist will have expertise in staging successful interventions for people with addiction, utilizing research-proven strategies for what tends to work and what doesn’t.

Seeking the help of a professional may be particularly beneficial in cases where you’re confronting someone with a chronic addiction, severe addiction, or someone with other complex needs.

Tips For Confronting Someone About Addiction

Now that you know your options, the next question is: How do you confront them?

When it comes to confronting someone about drug or alcohol abuse, there are several important considerations to keep in mind, and several pitfalls that it’s best to try and avoid if possible.

First, don’t force the conversation. Ask them if it’s a good time to talk. If not, find a time when it is. And be honest. Don’t try to play it off as a conversation about something entirely different.

Tips for confronting someone about addiction:

  • find a quiet place to talk
  • be mindful of the sensitivity of the issue
  • begin with sharing your concerns
  • be thoughtful in the language you use
  • share the changes you’ve noticed as a result of their substance use
  • use “I” statements (e.g. “I feel this way when you drink,” vs “You do this when you drink”)
  • listen more than you speak
  • acknowledge their feelings
  • demonstrate that you’re coming from a place of love
  • offer to help them find treatment

What to avoid when confronting someone:

  • forcing someone to talk
  • talking to them when they’re upset
  • talking to them when they’re busy
  • talking to them when they’re intoxicated
  • insulting them
  • talking over them
  • failing to prepare what you plan to say beforehand
  • drinking or using drugs prior to the confrontation

Each person has different needs when it comes to how they need to be approached. As a loved one, you’re in the best position to know what they need from you in order to be receptive.

If you’re having a difficult time coming up with a plan, however, consider asking for advice from a friend, family member, doctor, or someone else you know who has struggled with addiction.

Approaching A Loved One With Addiction FAQs

Find answers to frequently asked questions about approaching a loved one about their drug or alcohol abuse.

❓ How Can I Help A Family Member Overcome Addiction?

✔️ Overcoming addiction isn’t something that occurs overnight. Recovery is a long-term commitment, and there are multiple ways family members can help support their loved one.

For instance, helping them find treatment, reassuring them that they’re doing the right thing, and encouraging them to continue treatment when things get tough.

❓ How Do I Get Help For A Family Member Who’s Addicted?

✔️ Getting help for a family member with a substance use disorder often begins by visiting your family doctor.

From here, your doctor can assess their substance use habits, physical health, and identify their treatment needs.

Other options might include reaching out to another physician or healthcare professional who’s specialized in treating addiction for further guidance.

❓ How Do I Get Help For A Teen Who’s Using Drugs?

✔️ To get help for a teen who’s abusing drugs or alcohol, it may be helpful to consult a professional, such as a family doctor or a drug counselor with experience treating teens.

If you do talk to your teen, try to remain calm, collected, and prepare for them to deny the problem or get upset. Be loving, but firm. And understand that you have a long road ahead.

Find Drug And Alcohol Treatment Today

Approaching a loved one about drug or alcohol addiction can be most effective when you’ve done some research into available treatment options. For that, we may be able to help.

For information about addiction treatment options, or how to find a rehab center near you, call our helpline today to speak to a treatment specialist.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on December 29, 2021
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