How to Talk to a Drug Addict in Denial

If you care about someone who is addicted to drugs, then you’ve probably started thinking about what to say or how you can help. Talking to an addicted loved one can be incredibly challenging, especially because your friend or family member may refuse to believe substance abuse is a problem for them.

Here is how to talk to a drug addict in denial, and what to do if rehab is necessary.

What to Say to a Drug Addict

People who abuse drugs often feel deep shame and embarrassment about their behavior. Sometimes, the addiction is so severe that using isn’t about having fun at all — it’s just the only way to feel normal or relaxed. Your loved one probably feels afraid of what will happen when drugs aren’t an option. To your loved one, the urge to use overwhelms rational thought, yet getting sober is terrifying.

Even though you may feel angry or bitter, try to stay calm. Evidence suggests that individuals with addiction respond best to caring support rather than empty threats or ultimatums. You can try:

  • Choosing the right time to talk. Avoid moments when your loved one has been using. Opt for a quiet time when you’re alone instead. The period during a hangover or following an unfortunate event related to using may provide an opportunity.
  • Avoiding blame. Stick with statements that start with “I,” such as: “I was really worried when you drove home last night after drinking so much,” or “I feel really hurt and embarrassed that you acted that way in front of our friends.” Skip sentences that start with “You always…” or “You never…”
  • Being prepared for denials, anger and accusations. Addicted people are sensitive and are likely to feel defensive or ambushed — especially if your loved one believes you’re a partner in crime. Try to keep the focus on your loved one’s behavior, and point to specific examples that cause you concern.
  • Talking to someone. If you’re not the only person to notice the problem, talking together may help you decide what to do. You and your friend can approach your struggling loved one together when the time is right. You could also discuss planning an intervention.
  • Planning an intervention. The intervention is a powerful tool that may convince your loved one to get help. Never hold an intervention on the spur of the moment.


If attempts to talk to your loved one about quitting or getting help fail, hire an interventionist. The interventionist will help you organize and lead the meeting, and if it is successful, will escort your loved one into treatment afterward. During the intervention, a small group of people will gently confront your loved one about addiction, and ask him or her to consider help. They are not always successful right away, but the event might wind up being the catalyst that convinces your loved one to get sober once and for all.

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The Addiction Blog