It can be difficult and frustrating talking to a family member with drug or alcohol addiction. Below are some strategies to help your loved-one enter substance abuse treatment.

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Step 1: Understand Addiction

Addiction is like a bad relationship that you can’t escape. You know the drug is bad for you, but you can’t get away from it, even when you try. If you talk to a person about quitting their drug use, you must realize it is like asking a person to leave a close (but destructive) friend.

Different Drugs can provide a number of different things to the addicted individual: an escape, pain relief, temporary improvement in anxiety or depression, improvement in sexual functioning, weight loss, or a number of other conditions that a person is trying to self-medicate. Obviously, drugs of abuse are not good long-term solution to any of these problems, but can be a factor in a person’s reluctance to stop using the drug.

Step 2: Understand Withdrawal

For many who are addicted to drugs, there are periods of intense withdrawal when the substance is stopped. Many drug users will continue their substance use to feel “well” (particularly opiate users), and no longer get “high” from the drug. Avoiding withdrawal from various drugs can be scary, or even medically dangerous, so professional advice should be sought.

Step 3: Talking to the Addicted Family Member

Once understanding the above, the addict can be approached with less judgement. Asking the individual about their drug use should be free of any criticism.

Instead of “How can you put a needle in your arm?!” try “Tell me about this drug and what you like about it” or “You seem to enjoy this drug, tell me more about it.”

This puts your loved-one at ease, and allows for more open communication. Explaining your personal feelings about the situation is less confrontational. For example, “It makes me sad when I see you going through this pain.” You will notice that this statement is showing consideration for how the addict is feeling.

You can then ask the person, “Have you ever thought about quitting this drug?” Most addicts have had periods of wanting to quit their drug use. There is a loss of control with addiction. While the addict enjoys the drug’s effects, there is a love-hate relationship with the drug.

Once a person admits to thoughts quitting, you may inquire about what they dislike about their drug use. For example, using opiates, such as Heroin or OxyContin is a frustrating thing; a person may wake up with pain, nausea, or diarrhea, in withdrawal from their drug of choice.

You can then ask the person if they are willing to accept help and get treatment. Research drug and alcohol treatment options BEFORE this conversation. It is helpful to know about which facilities accept their insurance, or are within their price range. Treatment centers vary greatly in price and amenities. It is helpful to know where the addict can get help right away, when there is a “window” of opportunity.


  • approach the person with a non-judge mental attitude
  • express concern for person
  • describe you feelings about the situation
  • have a treatment option available for the patient
  • consider an interventionist if the person is resistant


  • do intervention as the first step
  • preach
  • use the word “you”
  • take the addiction personally

When Should We have an Intervention?

If the person refuses help repeatedly, despite the encouragement of multiple family members, it may be time to consider an “Intervention.” This is not unlike the ones you may have seen on TV, but require much more work and preparation than you see on a 30-60 minute show.

Interventions are difficult to perform correctly, and can make the person defensive. Consider hiring an interventionist to help with the planning , if all else fails.