Addiction is one of the most destructive forces in the world. Before a person even realizes, it can get out of their control. Convincing someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol to go to treatment can be difficult, but it is possible.
The best course of action when dealing with addiction is always to get professional help from a reputable treatment facility. Many addicts will eventually willingly enter treatment because they come to accept that they have a problem. Most want to better their lives, or at least get theirs back on track. They understand that their addiction will ruin or even end their life.
But what if they don’t admit their struggle? Telling someone who is addicted that you think they should seek treatment is no easy thing. It’s also hard to process for you when they refuse.
If they truly need help, then the answer to how to support someone through the decision to go to treatment – whether they think they need to or not – starts with the same thing: a conversation.
What You Can Do When Someone Won’t Admit Their Problem
In extreme cases, things like court ordered rehab exist for getting people into a treatment center when their addiction has become dangerous. This is possible and arguably important.
Should you get someone into rehab against their will? This is a question many struggle with, but in the case of young people, it might truly be best to give them the best chance of living a normal life after addiction.
In less severe cases, the way to help someone get help is to make them realize they have a problem. It is estimated that, in 2017 alone, over 20 million people needed treatment for addiction; a small fraction – only 19% – actually received it. It’s likely that many of these people didn’t have the support network around them to help them access the professional intervention they need. The fact that you’re reading this article means that you are someone’s support system who can help them.
Keep pointing out how their negative behaviors are impacting themselves and others. But make it clear that this is because of the hold addiction has on them. Let them know it is entirely possible to break the cycle.
This situation is especially terrible when it’s your child who is abusing drugs. It’s tempting to try to ground them in their bedrooms and throw away their drugs; but if they are legally adults this is unlikely to work. Even if they are teenaged, talking to them like an adult and explaining the consequences of what they’re doing is more likely to get through to them.
Why is Telling Someone they Need to Enter Rehab So Hard?
The simple answer is that many don’t view their addiction as a problem. In their mind, the calmness or numbness or excitement they feel when they use drugs is what solves their problems. As long as they continue to satisfy their urge for their drug of choice, they believe that they are happy.
In a way, when you’re trying to convince someone they need rehab, you’re talking to the addiction, not the person you love. Addiction quite often coexists alongside mental illness – like depression or bipolar disorder – and drugs become a way for the person to quiet their thoughts. Many rehabs treat both mental illness and addiction, recognizing that they come in pairs. This is just another reason why it’s imperative to support someone through addiction issues rather than treat them with anger.
A common aspect of addiction is the person’s denial. Someone suffering from addiction will lie and cover up their addiction, or deny having one altogether. If you are sure that someone’s changing behavior is down to drug abuse, it’s time to step in to tell them that they have a problem and need help.
How to Get a Loved One into Rehab
If you are at a loss over where to start with getting someone into rehab, here’s some places to start. It may be a long process, and you might panic because in that time their situation gets worse; but it’s important to know that their decision to enter rehab is unlikely to happen overnight.
Staging an intervention is usually the first step of families or friends wanting to help someone get help. Interventions are common and, in many cases, quite effective. However, the concept is daunting, and it can be difficult to know how to mount one effectively. A proper intervention can take a lot of preparation and tends to be more successful with professional assistance. There are professional intervention specialists out there who can help you plan and guide the conversation before it takes place in a way that will minimize offense and mistakes. They are also more effective the more people you can get involved, so rally friends and relatives who are worried about the person.
When is the best time to talk to someone about rehab? The difficult part will be finding a moment they’re sober. Otherwise, they may not even comprehend what you’re saying. They could also become aggressive. Make sure other people are present and the person is sober.
What should you focus on during the conversation?
Here are some key points:
- Show your care and concern. Your loved one should know that the intervention is because you love them. Make sure they know you’re doing this because you care, and that they’re not alone.
- Help them make the connections. Many addicts do not realize how much their behavior and life has changed. Try to explain to them the tangible changes; maybe they previously enjoyed playing sports or seeing old friends, but now spend all their free time with drugs, alcohol or new friends with bad influences.
- Do your homework. Come to the conversation with facts about the drug itself, treatment options, and how these treatments work.
- Listen just as much as speaking. You want them to know they are being heard, too.
- Set your limits. When they still deny and refuse treatment, make sure they understand the consequences that come with that.
You should always be prepared in case your conversation doesn’t work. Have a backup plan in place, if you so choose. Sometimes an intervention is not enough.
Can You Make Someone Go to Rehab?
The other option, if the need is truly dire, is involuntary commitment or court ordered rehab. Some people believe that court ordered rehab is ineffective because they “have to want it”, but that isn’t necessarily true. Like any rehab patient, even one who entered involuntarily and completes a treatment program is more likely to break their addiction. Of course, it’s easier when your loved one wants to get better, but it doesn’t make it impossible if they don’t.
Court ordered rehab varies by state, and often depends on crime. It is important to do your research before pursuing this option, but know that it is available, and can be successful, too.
There is no easy path to how to get someone suffering from addiction into treatment. But, watching and experiencing a loved one’s addiction is awful. Helping them see that rehab is their best chance to live the amazing life ahead of them may feel impossible, but it can be done.
Don’t give up.
Court-ordered rehab information (2019). https://sbtreatment.com/resources/court-ordered/#How
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Trends & Statistics.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Today’s Heroin Epidemic.