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Talking It Through: How to Discuss Addiction with Someone in Need of Treatment

Bethany Hatton is a retired librarian with 32 years of experience and created after her oldest grandson became addicted to opioids.  She is the author of the book The Prevent Addiction Clearinghouse and is sharing her view on addiction as guest blogger this month:


It isn’t easy talking to a loved one about their struggles with drugs or alcohol. But one awkward conversation may be all it takes to set your friend or family member on a path toward recovery. says, “Addiction is tricky and calculating, and it’s the only disease that can take more than one person down with it, if it is left unchallenged. Addiction dramatically alters the lives of not just the addicted person, but of everyone within his or her vicinity, namely family and friends.” When you are concerned that someone you love needs help, it is your duty to point out their behaviors and help them see that they are not alone.

Signs of addiction

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health explains that addiction is typified by cravings, loss of control, compulsion, and continued use of a substance despite negative consequences. Drugs and alcohol alter a person’s brain and can create disturbing behaviors that have a significant impact on their life. Some signs of addiction include:

Trouble thinking clearly

  • Blackouts
  • Prioritizing drugs or alcohol over financial obligations such as food and clothing
  • Inability to function without a substance
  • Relationship issues
  • Continuous failure to meet responsibilities
  • Avoidance of close friends and family
  • Depression

If you notice one or more of the signs and suspect drug addiction, don’t be afraid to speak to your loved one and ask if they have a problem. While they might first deny there is an issue, many drug addicts know deep down that their actions are wrong and will be more than willing to open up.

Intervention or individual discussion?

The choice to stage an intervention or speak privately with the addict is a personal one that should be made based on a number of factors. If the sufferer has a close network of friends and family, an intervention may be a great way to show a unified front of support and encouragement. The Mayo Clinic explains that this must be well thought out and planned; an intervention will likely not be successful if it’s thrown together at the last minute out of fear, anger, or desperation.

Persons involved with the intervention efforts should approach the addict with love and compassion, but also with perseverance. The goal of a staged intervention is to convince the addict to seek treatment. There should be specific consequences for failure to do so. Essentially, an intervention is an ultimatum where the addict is given the option – and encouragement – to take control of their own life or risk their relationships. When you are staging an intervention, you must keep in mind others who have been hurt by the addict’s actions. For example, if you are a husband directing an intervention for your wife, your children’s health and safety must take priority. If the mother refuses treatment, you may be forced to take legal action to limit or prevent her interactions with your children.

Types of treatment

There are many types of treatment for substance use disorders. These include counseling, group therapy, in- and out-patient treatment, and stress management. The first stage of treatment typically involves detoxification and the management of withdrawal symptoms, which is the hardest for an addict to complete alone.

Resources for families

Whether or not your loved one elects to seek and accept treatment, you, as well as his or her close friends and family members, may need your own support network to cope with the situation. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are both networks available throughout the US and Canada that help friends and family members of alcoholics and drug addicts respectively find their own way to heal and recover from the damage caused by their loved one’s addiction.

It’s hard, but it is possible for your loved one to recover. And, with your support and encouragement, he or she may be able to do just that and begin to live again free from the chemical tyranny that once ruled their every action.

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