How to Talk to an Addict: Four Things to Help them Recover

Posted by Nicola Marter on December 19, 2016

Learning that someone you care about, whether a family member or a friend, is addicted to drugs can be devastating. You may wonder if you could have said or done something differently to prevent the addiction, or if you had been paying more attention to the signs, if you could have stopped the addiction before it started. And perhaps most of all, you are struggling to find the right things to say - words that will help and not harm.

If you do not have experience in this area, knowing what to say to a drug addict is a challenge. If you suspect that someone you love is hooked on drugs, your first step is to get help from a qualified person or organization, but you can talk to the person and help them get into a place where they may be more willing to get help. Here are a few things you can say to get the process started:

"I love you." Shame is a common emotion among addicts, and many fear that they will not have the love and support of their friends and family anymore. Telling your loved one that you care, and that you still love them lets them know that they have someone in their corner.

"I think you need help." Denial is another common theme among addicts - while they may know that they have a problem, because no one else has said anything about it, they can pretend that it's not actually that bad. By telling the addict that they have a problem, and need help, you are acknowledging the existence of the issue and letting the addict know that it has not gone unnoticed.

"I'm not going to enable you anymore." Enabling addicts can take many forms, from making excuses for behavior to actually making it easy for them to acquire drugs. Telling the addict that you will no longer tolerate their drug use sets limits and is an important first step in the recovery and healing process.

"Your drug use affects me." One of the major purposes of an intervention is to give families and friends a change to tell a drug addict how his or her drug use affects them personally. When you are talking with an addict, it's important to tell them how their drug abuse affects you personally. Tell them how their drug abuse makes you feel and how it's influenced your life, providing specific examples. Many drug addicts believe that they are only hurting themselves, but seeing that their behavior negatively affects others can be a powerful motivator.

The number one thing to remember when talking with a drug addict is to remain calm, supportive and rational. Do not make threats that you do not intend to follow through on, or try to manipulate the addict into making changes. Effectively communicating your feelings and showing your support can make all the difference in the addict's recovery.