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How to Help an Addict Who Doesn’t Want Help

Last Updated: August 15, 2019

It’s hard to watch a loved one suffer from addiction, especially when they deny there’s a problem or refuse to get help. Often, a well-intentioned friend or family member trying to force the situation can end up making it worse.

If you’re wondering how to help an addict that doesn’t want help, you’re in the right place. The following advice will give you the information you need to give that gentle nudge that just might make a difference.

Educate Yourself About Addiction

Before you approach your loved one, take the time to educate yourself about addiction, detox, withdrawal, and various treatment options. The more you know, the better you’re able to approach the situation calmly and with confidence. Understanding what the person is going through, at least on an academic level, will help you speak knowledgeably when the time comes to discuss the problem.

Offer Your Support

When you’re ready to sit down and speak with your loved one, avoid sounding condescending or judgmental. Instead, let them know that you’re aware of the problem and offer your support.  Outline their options for treatment and encourage them to seek help.How to help an addict who doesn't want help

Follow Through on Consequences

Many friends or family members threaten to enforce serious consequences for addicted loved ones who refuse treatment. However, these are often seen as idle threats. If you’re going to make a real impact, you must actually follow through.

Whether it’s as simple as grounding or taking away the car, or something more drastic like forcing a loved one to move out of the house, if you say it, you must be willing to do it.

Stop Enabling the Addiction

It’s also important to understand the difference between helping and enabling. If you’re financially supporting a loved one who’s struggling with addiction or lying to help them hide the problem, then you’re enabling.1

When you recognize this behavior and stop it, the benefits are twofold. First, your loved one will begin to see the consequences of their actions. Second, by refusing to continue your enabling behaviors you’ll make it harder for your loved one to keep feeding their addiction.

Consider an Intervention

The advice that someone struggling with addiction has to “hit rock bottom” before they can get better is not only untrue, it’s also dangerous. For some people with addiction issues, “rock bottom” can equal death.

If you’re not able to convince your loved one to seek help on your own, consider consulting with a professional intervention counselor before things get worse. If the person with the problem is your child or spouse, you may also have the option of seeking legal intervention.

Seek Help for Yourself

The recovery process can be just as hard on you as it is on your loved one. Whether you convince them to seek treatment or not, it’s important for you to take care of your own mental health.

Consider seeking one-on-one counseling or attending a support group like Narc-Anon or Al-Anon. This will help you face your feelings and give you the tools you need to navigate through this difficult time.

Research Sources

  1. Sack, David. (2015). How To Help The Addict Who Doesn’t Want Help.
  2. Tyler, Mara. (2016). Approaching and Helping an Addict.
  3. University of Rochester Medical Center. Helping a Friend with an Addiction.
Last Updated on August 15, 2019
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About the reviewer
Priscilla Henson, MD
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Dr. Priscilla Henson is a Resident Physician specializing in Emergency Medicine at a community hospital in central California. She also serves as a member of the Pain Management Quality Improvement Committee through the same hospital. Part of the committee’s mandate is to work toward non-narcotic pain management alternatives.

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