How to Talk to an Addict about Rehab?

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Here is how you could talk to an addict about going to rehab

The best approach to talking with a loved one about drug or alcohol abuse is one-on-one. Find a good time and quite place to talk to them. Tell them that you are concerned and offer any help that they may need. Always talk calmly and never threaten them that they have to go to rehab. 


Remember, addictions are an upheaval. They destroy friendships, careers, marriages and eventually intimidate your well-being.

According to the Addiction Centre, about 21 million people suffer at least one addiction, yet only one percent manage to get the treatment they deserve. (1) 

It can be pretty challenging to navigate such a conversation, but the most important thing to remember is to offer your unconditional support and love for them. It's quite a challenge for someone who has been under drug abuse for a long time to decide that they want to change.  

They may not feel like they deserve to be happy and maybe afraid of the withdrawal symptoms they will experience. It is important to let them know that you want to be there for them and not judge them for their past decisions.  

So, at times you'll have to be the "narcotics anonymous officer" by giving in and providing them with the resources and support they need.

Send them off with the mantra "treated me like a human being" and a referral to a rehabilitation facility. 

Remember, drug use addiction is a disease, and it is not something that the addict chooses to have. And the addiction can strike anyone at any time.  

So, how well to talk to an addict or a loved one about rehab and substance use? 

Let’s keep reading to find out! 

Starting the conversation on drug or alcohol abuse 

When your loved one has a drug and alcohol addiction, you can often feel helpless and unsure of what to do. 

But if you think about it, you can learn some simple actions to take that may help them agree to seek the help they need. 

Therefore, what is the first step to talking to someone about drug addiction?  

The first step is to create a safe space for them to discuss their substance use addiction. This can be done through indirect statements, understanding their pain, and empathy.  

Once they are ready to have an open talk, they might have had some reflection on their bitterness and resentment towards others that might have led them to drugs. From there, you must be able to validate their feelings.  

This includes understanding their frustration with others who might have enabled their behaviour.

Manipulation by others might be an early sign of addiction. Finally, offer the addict the chance to make amends for their behaviour. 

Understanding the person on drug abuse 

Talking with a loved one about substance use and addiction is never easy. You know that person is in pain, but you cannot avoid the feeling of guilt in the back of your head.

Before you decide to approach them, you might want to think about approaching them in a gentle, caring manner.  

If the person is an adult, you might want to toss out a sandwich-type question like, "Have you ever thought about getting clean?" if the person is a teen, say, "I'm sorry you're hurting. You know some places can help you." 

It might help get the ball rolling by saying you've been there and know what they're going through. Remind your friend that drug addiction isn't forever and that there is a way out. 

Tips of handling someone with drug addiction 

When someone has substance use disorders, it can be very frustrating for their loved ones to try to help them. It's important to remember that a drug addict needs a lot of care and support, and love to become drug free. 

It can be difficult for family members to stay positive or persevere in their efforts, but it is often the most effective way to keep the person on the path of recovery from drugs. 

Therefore, you need to: 

Educate yourself about drugs and addiction 

You might easily miss the signs and symptoms of substance use disorder in your loved one simply because you lack the knowledge.

However, taking your time to learn about drug abuse and addiction, and understand how it impacts one is a significant step for you and the person in question.  

Learn short and long-term effects because that's how you'll identify that your loved one is in need.

And with the knowledge, you'll sound like a professional and will most likely give you their ear, making it easy to tag and maintain them in rehab.  

Remember, substance use disorder like addiction, if not addressed, causes emotional pain, affects your mental health, and progressively harm you physically.

You may even land in legal problems. So, even if it’s the last-ditch effort, go for it.  

Get the best from learning and give your family member the best chance at life, and seek professional help, it's the key. 

Present them your support 

As you involve in drug abuse, you may not know how much your family members love you. So please give your loved one a listening ear, understand their thinking and frustrations.

Please do not stop to wait for them to total despair. Assure them that you're ready to be there for the loved one's recovery from substance use disorders.  

Cheering them to Seek for Help 

As much as drug use addiction is a grave matter, you still can manage stress and be treated like any other disease but, of course, better when it hasn't progressed.

But be prepared to receive denial excuses like why they won't pursue that addiction treatment.  

Nonetheless, please don't stop at that, be tenacious at and let them know how vital it is to enrol for treatment for their own wellbeing.

However, always be careful that you aren't making them feel embarrassed in the process. 

Talk about consequences 

It's important to let them know that they are loved and cared about. Explain it's not their fault, but a drug problem is a powerful disease.  

It's important to make them aware of the consequences of staying addicted to drugs, such as prison, death, and homelessness. 

Lastly, they need to know that rehab is an opportunity to get their life back on track and that they can find themselves again in recovery.  

Let them know you care. 

Talking to an addict about their drinking problem and rehab before they enter is imperative to encouraging sobriety.

A conversation will not only provide them with the opportunity to be prepared for what they will face, but it may also be the catalyst that will encourage them to practice self-care today so they can focus on their recovery once they begin treatment.  

The initial goal of the conversation is to help your loved one understand the benefits of rehab treatment.

They need to know that rehab is not punishment for something they've done but an opportunity for them to learn how to live their life sober with the guidance of professionals who know how they're feeling.

And at the same time when talking with your loved one about rehab, be mindful. 

Support their recovery 

Interestingly, a perplexing choice that many of those abusing drugs face is whether or not to go for addiction treatment. This is not an easy decision for anyone, but there are some major questions individuals need to ask themselves.  

One of the most important questions a drug user should ask themselves is how serious their addiction is and how much they need the treatment. Let them know that treatment is worth considering curbing further health issues. 

When the individual agrees to seek treatment, don’t stop supporting them, be involved in their progress. Support their involvement in meetings and participate in the family support groups they join.

Generally, take care of their emotional wellbeing and offer support they're looking for. 

Setting healthy boundaries and limits 

If you're talking to drug users under active addiction, it's important to set clear boundaries and expectations. 

First of all, you'll need to be honest about how you feel about them addicted to drugs. If you feel like they don't care about you or your feelings, it's important to say so.  

Set boundaries about how often you'll need to call them during the day, how often they'll need to call you, and what type of conversation you'll have when they do call.  

If they don't keep to these boundaries, withdraw from the person. The addict may feel very strongly for you and find it difficult to break your trust in them. 

Mind yourself 

Do not forget to watch out for yourself especially your own health, don't feel like it's selfish ambition.

As much as it's important to be there for others, it's so incredible not to forget yourself. Meet your needs first; eat well, sleep well and exercise. 

If you find yourself affected by your loved one situation, it’s no crime to go for therapy. Don’t suffer in silence! 

Handling the substance abuse addiction 

There are many ways to talk to an addict about rehab. Some people aren't ready for rehab, and others do not want to go.

It's important to understand that an addict is dealing with an illness. Addiction is mental, physical, and emotional.  

Drugs and alcohol work on the brain to change the way it functions. Changing the brain functions can damage its parts, resulting in impairment in memory, attention, learning, and decision-making abilities that can last long after sobriety.  

If you want to talk to an addict about rehab, know that you don't need to be an addict yourself to help someone with an addiction.

What is helpful is knowing how addiction works, misconceptions about addiction, and the pros and cons of joining a rehab. 

How to get a willing addict to rehab?

Sometimes our loved ones or friends admit to us having a substance abuse problem. Though it might seem a light step for non-addicts, it's a vast one for addicts seeking to recover.

And since this is a great step, handle the situation calmly and converse in a non-judgmental manner with them.  You have to realise that seeking professional rehab experts to provide medical advice is paramount because we may not offer the full help they need at times. 

Remember, addiction is a lingering illness that needs expert intervention. So, feel free to seek help from professional doctors, counsellors, or a drug rehab facility. 

Also, you can go ahead and research the rehab opportunities. Give them company when there are calls or visits to make. Take them to the arranged doctors and therapist appointments. 

Check the Abbeycare alcohol treatment facility and rehab.

Anyone struggling with addiction, seeking help is strange and scary. And therefore, giving them reassurance and care makes it more likely that they'll follow through with the treatment. 

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How to get an unwilling addict to rehab? 

Sometimes it can feel very difficult to intervene when a person you know is struggling with a mental illness and refuse to accept help. You may have toiled convincing them to no avail.  

Here's where interventions from court-ordered rehabs are probable. Although it may seem tricky and tough, deep down, you know it's the only way to help your loved one who isn't thinking straight.

And this is the only way to commence their recovery process, an essential part of their imminent joy. 

Or they may not have come to you for help, and so the situation is very intricate. They may be hiding the condition or evading talking about it.  

In this case, confront them about addiction but know that it attracts self-justifying behaviour. So here are tips for starting a discussion with a family member on substance abuse. 

Time and place.  

Select the best place and time for both yourself and them. Always keep in mind privacy and physical comfort. Maybe an outdoor secret place may be perfect. 

Calmness 

Be calm as possible and act normal but with a lot of care. Always show that you understand it's a difficult situation. Remember to remain honest about how you feel about the condition and how it affects you.

But do not exaggerate and make it all about you. Neither play the guilty game. Addiction is an illness, and coming out is a process, do not forget that. 

Listening 

Allow the victim to talk when they’re willing to. Even if they open up just a little, it’s enough for the day.

Alcohol or drug use influence may have destroyed their processing and communication abilities and may not process all you say. So be patient. 

Speaking to a mental health professional 

When it becomes a challenge to talk about it with the victim, let them talk to someone. You can find an expert to help you arrange for a better intervention. 

When the intervention works and the person can discuss and is positive, tell them of the treatment options available.

Agree to research rehab facilities and make them aware that rehab is available for anyone, and they offer trustworthy health information to a drug use problem.  

Tips for the family members 

As the family member of someone with substance use disorder, as mentioned, it's hard to know how to deal with the addiction.

It's important to approach the addict with calm, assertive conversation. It's important to know when the best time to talk to them about rehab and substance use is.  

Sometimes the addict doesn't want to admit they have a problem, making recovery difficult. There are many ways to approach the subject, but it's important to find the best way for the conversation to be productive. 

Some people use a gentle approach with a loved one. They suggest an addiction specialist for a consultation or a diagnostic screening with a counsellor or substance abuse professional,  

Also, it can be helpful to both the person who needs assistance and the close friend one is trying to set them on the right path to talk about what kind of treatment is going to be most helpful.

If a loved one is going to be in an inpatient facility, let them admit to it first. 

Things to consider when choosing a recovery centre 

Addicts need to consider all the options that are available to them. If you are looking for a recovery centre, whether residential rehab or outpatient rehab, there are a few things to consider.  

A stay in a rehab centre is very important for success in recovery. But it’s important to evaluate the suitability of the facility.

The facility should utilize evidence-based practices for substance abuse treatment, provide safety and privacy, and offer access to resources to promote long-term recovery.  

Another thing to consider is what type of program positively encourage the individual. There are both residential rehab treatment centres, where people live on-site, and outpatient clinics.  

Therefore, consider whether the facility has a staff or is residential. If someone prefers to live on-site while they do the program, there are enough recommended treatment facilities for that. 

But, a staff-based facility may provide more direct contact with counsellors, whereas a residential facility may allow the addict to focus more on themselves.  

One more factor to consider is your budget. It’s important to investigate what insurance might cover or not cover. If your budget is limited, there are still some good options for you.  

Some really good outpatient clinics are on an insurance company's list of approved providers, which can be very helpful for somebody on a tight budget or has money problems.

So, if you are on a tight budget, that doesn't mean you can't get help for your loved one. you can as well ask other mental health services administration for advice. 

Read our detailed guide on finding the right rehab in the UK.

Best support to addicts while detoxing in a rehab 

An addict who is ready to quit may need a little help to get through the detox in a rehab. Many addicts have been through the detox process, so they must know how difficult it can be for someone with limited willpower.  

To help a loved one with limited willpower, a doctor may offer prescription medications that will help to reduce cravings. If there is a period of addiction that lasts for a year or more, an addict may have a lot of damage to the brain.  

The brain may have been developing new pathways, which can cause cravings and make quitting difficult. An addict may need more than willpower to get through quitting for good.

A doctor may prescribe opioid addiction medications like Suboxone, which is an opioid prescribed for addiction.  

Conclusion 

Addiction is a disease that is life threatening, tough to overcome. Unless you decide to take the leap and ask for help, it's unlikely any addict will have a change of heart. How can you help? The best thing you can do is support them.  

If they know they have a friend or other family members who understands them and isn't going to leave them, they will have a greater chance of achieving sobriety.  

Also, a great way to help a loved one's addiction is to remind them that they don't need to do this on their own. If you're able, offer to go to the rehabilitation centre with them or find a support group.

In addition, you can offer to help find a treatment centre or a support group. They will need all the help to curb further negative consequences. 

So, find out what they're addicted to drugs and then find a treatment centre that deals with that type of addiction. Please educate yourself about drugs and the treatment centre and find out what they offer.

Leave any judgment of them at the door and understand that they can't do it as one person. 

Reinforce the idea that you love them and want them to get positive changes. Be persistent and patient, as some addicts will resist your help.

Don't be afraid to show emotion and provide support as they may think you're not on their side. 

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: February 3, 2022

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.