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How to Approach Someone In Denial About Addiction

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Trying to help someone with a drug problem can prove to be very challenging. It’s important to understand what to say to someone who may not realize or be ready to admit they have a substance abuse problem. Often, as a family member or loved one, you may be wondering what to say to an addict in denial.

Most people battling with addiction will use various defense mechanisms to prolong their habits and avoid admitting a problem exists. Here are some guidelines to follow for approaching someone in denial about addiction:

  • Remember that your verbal remarks will have little effect on their decision to get help.

  • Addicts are much more inclined to seek help if they arrive at the decision on their own.

  • Be aware that an addict will most likely lash out, assign blame or become angry when approached. It is important not to reciprocate.

  • Try to stick with open-ended questions that will get them talking, rather than using closed-ended questions that only require a yes or no answer.

  • Ask questions and avoid statements.

  • Be prepared for resistance.

  • Rather than drill them with questions, indicate you already know there is a problem and that debates, excuses or details are much less important than getting help and taking action.

  • Understand that in order for someone to make changes to their behaviors, they must first accept responsibility for them.

  • Offer encouragement instead of shaming.

  • Show that you are concerned and be empathetic.

  • Be prepared to set boundaries and stop enabling them.

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