How to Help an Addict Who Doesn’t Want Help

Knowing that someone you care about has a problem is incredibly difficult. Things only become harder when you realize that this person doesn’t want help. Out of respect for your loved one’s free will, you start to question whether you’re wrong, and this indecision can provide them with an opportunity to spiral even deeper into their issue. When it comes to drug abuse, you need to trust your instincts: The types of drugs that cause serious addictive problems are invariably very dangerous, and if you leave a person alone when you know they have a problem with drugs, you might regret your decision later.

When someone you love has an issue with drug addiction but doesn’t want to take the steps they need to start out on the road to recovery, forcing them to get clean against their will isn’t the right idea. There are, however, subtler means of persuasion at your disposal, and there are people standing by to help you get through to the person you love.

Overcome Denial

Before you even think about helping a person who is struggling with addiction, you’ll need to address your own struggles first. When you see someone close to you spiraling toward self-destruction as a result of their drug habit, it can sometimes be hard to admit to yourself what you know to be true. You might prefer to believe your loved one’s strong assertions that they’re fine and that what they’re doing is normal. In addition, the prospect of helping someone overcome addiction can be highly daunting, and it might seem like a better idea to not rock the boat and allow things to progress as they are.

However, it’s never the right idea to simply sit back, relax and hope that the person you love gets better. You need to recognize that they have a problem, and you need to admit to yourself that things will only get worse if you don’t take action. It’s time to stop listening to the perspective of someone who you know has been compromised by their addiction and look at the situation clearly.

Learn More About Addiction

After you’ve accepted that your loved one needs help, you’ll need to prepare to help them by learning everything you can about drug addiction. There are many authoritative resources online that you can use in your search; for instance, the National Institute on Drug Abuse provides a wealth of drug addiction information, and there are plenty of private organizations that also provide free online educational materials about addiction.

If you want, you can take your quest beyond the keyboard and talk to actual addiction specialists in person. One place to start is your local health department; most health departments employ addiction counselors and other professionals who can help you prepare a plan to help your loved one overcome his or her substance use problem. From there, you may also want to visit a few drug rehabilitation clinics in your area. Talk to the staff, tour the facility and learn more about the processes that drug abuse counselors use to help people overcome their substance issues.

Try a Medical Approach

You might want to help your friend or family member begin the recovery process by getting in touch with a medical professional. Addicts are sometimes nervous about seeing doctors or encountering any type of authority figures, and they may have put off routine checkups for a while because of this concern. However, every licensed physician is bound by doctor-patient confidentiality, which means that they cannot disclose the fact that a person is addicted unless they consent.

While a doctor is bound to keep their patient’s substance abuse issue private, this oath doesn’t stop them from providing excellent advice that may help addicted individuals approach their problems in an entirely new way. Many people with substance abuse issues are tired of hearing advice from the people in their social circle, but when someone else arrives on the scene with helpful suggestions, they might be more likely to take the correct course of action. In addition, if a person with a substance abuse issue starts a routine of going to see a doctor every month, this medical professional can keep an eye on how the addiction is progressing.

Ideally, calling in a doctor will incentivize an addict to get help before it’s too late, but if your loved one becomes hospitalized due to their drug use, it can also be helpful to have a doctor on the scene who knows the substance user’s medical history and history of addiction. Before this point, a doctor can objectively educate an individual about the effects that drugs have and the dangers that they pose to their health.

Get Control of the Funding

Defunding a drug addiction is a tricky issue. If you’re an enabler, you’ll need to stop providing fuel to the flame of addiction, but if you suddenly pull out funding altogether, you might create a worse problem. When they don’t have anywhere else to turn, addicted individuals could start going down irreversibly negative paths to fuel their habits.

If you decide to stop giving money to a substance user, you’ll need to watch them carefully to see what they do. If they disappear for days at a time or start looking for other sources of funding, you’ll need to intervene. On the other hand, if they take your bold action as an incentive to get clean, you’ll have taken one step toward getting the person you love the help that they need but so fervently avoid.

Provide Emotional Support and Encouragement

If your loved one is showing resistance to your attempts to help, you might need to provide some form of emotional support to get them to trust you enough to let you in. People who develop substance abuse issues often feel downtrodden, and they may have experienced forms of abuse in their childhood or adult life. Providing them with encouragement and showing them that they have somewhere to go if they need help might be the perfect way to broach the subject of getting clean in the long term.

Here are a few examples of ways that you can provide support to an addicted individual in your life:


If an addicted individual has nowhere to go, anywhere is better than on the street. Even if your relationship is strained, by providing your loved one with a place to stay, you can make sure that they don’t get into any worse trouble than they’re already in, and you can rest easy knowing that they’re warm and safe for the night, but only with strict boundaries.


While giving food money to an addicted individual may not be a great idea, there’s nothing wrong with making sure that they’re well-fed. Whether you stop by their apartment with a box of groceries once a week or invite them over for Sunday dinner, making sure that your loved one has a full belly is one way that you can prevent them from making bad decisions.


Sometimes, all a substance user needs is to talk it out with someone they trust. Studies have shown that emotional imbalances give rise to substance abuse, and if an individual has been bottling something up for a long time, letting it all out can be a great first step on the road to recovery. Don’t force them to talk about something they’re uncomfortable about, but a little bit of gentle persuasion to open up can provide a world of help.

Vocational assistance

Many people turn to drugs because they feel like their lives lack meaning. If you help an addicted individual find a sustainable source of purpose, they will be less likely to relapse once they get clean. Whether you help your friend, family member or significant other find a job or assist them in enrolling in a local college, giving an individual a new path in life can secure their well-being far into the future.

Evaluate Their Addiction Experience

To provide the proper type of assistance to someone who is addicted to drugs, you’ll need to understand where they’re coming from. If a person is close to you, you probably know a good deal about their personal history, but you might not know anything about their history with addictive substances. Learn more about a person’s relationship with drugs to figure out the best way to help them overcome their problem.

Ask when they started using drugs

It’s often the case that understanding when someone started using drugs can be helpful in tailoring a plan to keep them clean for good. Many people who end up addicted started using drugs at a young age, and if you ask an addicted individual about their early drug experiences, they may start to open up about the emotional reasons behind their substance abuse. For instance, maybe a hard breakup was what caused them to originally turn to drugs, or maybe they first used drugs with someone they admired and respected who isn’t around anymore. It’s also important to learn how long a person has used drugs because the longer a person uses addictive drugs, the harder it is to kick the habit.

Ask which drugs they have used

Getting an idea of the types of drugs that a person has used will help you tailor a plan to assist them. Asking questions about the drugs that they have used can also be a foot in the door to asking about their current drug habits; you can start to form a picture of where they are when they use drugs, who they use them with and how often they get high.

Ask them about their drug of choice

While not every addict has a drug of choice, most can name one drug that they prefer above all others. It’s most likely that they are abusing their drug of choice, and when you know which drugs that affect them most, you’ll have a better idea of how to proceed.

Ask them if they have ever sought help before

Seeking substance abuse treatment is different if a person has done it before. While treatment facilities can be overwhelming when individuals enter them for the first time, if they’ve been there before, they know the drill and can adapt to the inpatient environment more easily. However, if an addicted individual has been in treatment before, they may also feel guilt for a perceived failure to stay clean. Ask about which types of treatment they’ve sought out before, and get the details on the specific facilities that they’ve visited.

Don’t Wait for Rock Bottom

There’s a prevalent idea that if an addicted individual hits “rock bottom,” they’ll straighten up and fly right. This notion was first promulgated as part of 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and it isn’t entirely wrong. When an addict confronts the depths of humiliation and deprivation that they will endure getting their drug of choice, they are sometimes granted moments of clarity in which they gain the moral willpower to overcome their addiction.

However, waiting for rock bottom to sort things out isn’t a viable strategy. While an addicted individual might only mildly harm themselves in a rock-bottom experience, they could also experience a fatal overdose. You’ll need to take action before the person you love hits this point.

Stage an Intervention

As a last-ditch effort, you can stage an intervention. This tactic can be traumatizing for an addicted individual because it puts them on the spot and strongly urges them to seek treatment. However, if you’re seriously worried about your loved one’s safety, you should know that interventions are often quite effective.

Indiana Center for Recovery is here to help. We’re available 24/7 to aid you or your loved one through the recovery process. Don’t wait for Rock Bottom, call us today to speak to a caring and compassionate addiction treatment specialist.