Approaching a Loved One Who Needs Addiction Treatment

There’s an old maxim about drug and alcohol abuse which says that a substance abuser has to hit rock bottom before the process of healing can begin. Many experts in the field of addiction treatment, as well as former substance abusers, dispute that claim. Rather insisting that an individual who has a strong personal support system can make a real difference. It can be very difficult to convince someone to seek treatment for addiction. But it can be done before a loved one bottoms out. It just takes extra love and patience. It’s important to try to make a loved one understand that addiction is a chronic condition. That this is something they will battle for a long time. And that there’s no shame in seeking help for such a persistent and dangerous condition.


Many people resist the idea of treatment because of the stigma involved and the fear of being labeled an “addict,” or because they fear that going into a rehabilitation program represents a surrender of their personal autonomy and a loss of control over their life. Denial is another common obstacle to treatment, even when the signs of addiction are unmistakable, like suddenly abandoning important relationships, spending a lot of time seeking drugs and being under the influence, or having a difficult time keeping pace at work or school. Even under such circumstances, it can be difficult to make a positive determination.

Fortunately, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has provided a list of questions designed to identify if someone has a substance abuse problem. For example, the question “How do I know if my adult friend or loved one has a substance abuse problem?” is followed by a long list of responses aimed at helping people make that determination. The institute also makes it clear that you can investigate treatment centers and programs. And that’s even if a loved one isn’t willing to go. This is a hopeful thought as you may discover something that might cause them to change their minds.

Having the Conversation

Avoid being confrontational with someone you suspect has an addiction. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids advises broaching the subject when everyone concerned is fully sober. And when there’s little chance of being disturbed while you’re talking. It can be an extended conversation, and it isn’t an easy one to have, even with someone you know well and love dearly. Intervention should take a back seat to a non-judgmental, concerned approach and a tone that expresses you are concerned and have noticed signs that make you think treatment is called for. And remember. Every addiction is different. And each should be approached on an individual basis. Treatment methods should be based on whatever gives an addict the best chance of recovery.

Addiction Treatment Challenges

Convincing someone to undergo treatment is difficult enough. The fact that getting the right treatment adds considerably to the difficulty of the situation. 17 states prohibit the use of Medicaid funding from being used for methadone treatment. This is a common approach to the treatment of heroin addiction. Eighty percent of Americans suffering from opioid addiction are not getting the help they need. The cost involved is part of the problem. Not to mention the fact that many medical coverage plans won’t authorize drug treatment methodologies. It’s important to find out whether insurance will cover a treatment program before you commit to it.

There’s a wide range of drug rehab treatment programs available today, from traditional 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and alternatives like SMART Recovery to religious-based approaches and holistic methods that seek to make the mind-body-spirit connection.

Few conversations are more difficult and fraught with emotion than telling someone you care about that they have a substance abuse problem. Resistance in the form of denial and outright anger are very common responses. That’s why it’s so important to avoid a confrontational and overbearing presentation of your feelings.

Do You Need Help?

If you need help and support, know we are here to do just that. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and Robinson Township. We also offer Virtual Therapy Sessions. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients. Check out our services pages to learn how we can help you.

Today’s blog is a collaboration piece written by Bethany Hatton. Bethany, a retired librarian with 32 years of experience, created after her oldest grandson became addicted to opioids. Though she discovered there is no guaranteed way to prevent addiction; she was able to find many helpful resources that can keep the public up to date on the latest prevention, addiction, and recovery information.

* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.


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