According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdoses are rising at an alarming rate, having taken 63,632 American lives in 2016 alone. And a survey conducted by the (SAMHSA) reports that 21.5 million U.S. teens and adults faced some sort of substance disorder in the year 2014 alone. Moreover, many people who have one addiction are also addicted to other substances. Learn how to get a loved one into drug or alcohol rehab.

Why are these rates so high when these deaths would appear to be preventable? Addiction is a complex problem, which is slightly different for every person. In many cases, people try to quit a substance on their own and can’t do it, or they’ve seen friends go through the same cycle, relapsing and then struggling again.

Many people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol won’t admit to a problem — they may claim that they’re “choosing” to put dangerous substances into their body and that “they can stop anytime.

No matter what the substance in question is, addiction is a challenging topic to broach since it’s often accompanied by feelings of fear and shame. If you’re struggling to talk to a loved one about their addiction, read on for some suggestions on how to approach this difficult topic.

Get them to Understand that They Have an Addiction  

When people say that they are fully capable of quitting, they probably are doing so either out of a sense of shame, or a true belief that they don’t have an addiction SAMHSA reports that in 2013, some 95% of people who did need addiction treatment didn’t believe they needed it at the outset.

People may be in denial that they have an addiction, or may admit to an addiction but not want help quitting. Thus, it’s important to educate them on exactly what addiction is, and encourage them to acknowledge that almost everyone needs support to overcome an addiction.

Encourage Them to Self-Evaluate   

You can’t make someone help themselves until they want to — and often, the more you push, the more likely they will be to resist. On the other hand, if they come to a place where they’re making a decision for themselves, they’ll feel much more empowered about the whole process.

To do this, you (or another trusted friend or loved one) must be able to talk with them about their addiction as a disease in a realistic way. For instance, by asking them questions that force them to reflect on the state of their own lives in relation to the addiction could help them to understand exactly how it’s affecting their lives.

Asking them careful questions rather than being pushy or demanding is really the only way to get them to understand why they must take steps to help themselves. Making gentle suggestions of small steps or ways of assisting them (for instance, just speaking to an addictions counselor) can also help.

Don’t Wait   

Drug and alcohol addiction is a slippery slope – for some, it takes years to become dependent, and for others, it might take months. Whatever the case, it’s imperative that you speak with your friend at the first sign of trouble.

Even though it may feel difficult, it’s important that you speak to the addicted person as soon as possible in order to prevent them from getting to a point where it’s even more difficult (or impossible) to return from, such as bankruptcy, homelessness, losing their loved ones, or worse.    

NA / AA Aren’t the Only Options

Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are two of the most well-known support options for people coping with addiction and for many they work well. However, for someone who has already been through this type of 12-step program and has not had success, they need to know that there are other options out there.

These types of support groups can be wonderful for some, they do not offer deep exploration of the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the addiction and thus aren’t able to treat people beyond offering emotional support. In most cases, a thorough medical assessment and professional guidance are needed.

Some people fare better in outpatient programs, some may need longer-term inpatient care, and some may need one-on-one help. The truth is that there are many different treatment options out there and it’s important to keep exploring options that address all facets of addiction in order for treatment to be effective.

Try a Change of Scenery

People with drug and alcohol dependency tend to do so more when it’s readily available. Thus, if you are able to take your loved one away, even just for a couple of hours or day, it may provide enough clarity to at least have a conversation about the problem.


Talking to an addict about their problem can be one of the hardest things to do. Thus, it’s important that you try to engage in regular dialogue that helps them to reflect on their own state of being. This is especially important given that often addicts have trouble regulating their day-to-day moods.

Here are a few communication tips to bear in mind that can help you stay on an even keel with your loved one or friend.

  • Always be completely honest and clear
  • Take time to think before you talk to them, especially about sensitive topics
  • Be extremely compassionate
  • Listen deeply
  • Don’t make assumptions about them
  • Talk face-to-face rather than on messenger or text

The Hard Truth

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the rate of drug overdoses increased by 21% between 2015 and 2016. The increase of drug overdoses has been skyrocketing in part due to the addition of dangerous (and undetectable) substances like fentanyl added to cocaine and heroin. Moreover, alcohol-related deaths are the third most common cause of preventable death in the United States.

Non-judgmental and compassionate communication is crucial when it comes to getting the message across to your loved one that they need help to overcome addiction. All of us are better at helping themselves when they know they have support.


Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.