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How to talk to your loved one about addiction

Do you suspect that your loved one is struggling with an addiction?

Signs that someone you know is addicted:

  • Unusual money behavior – suddenly struggling with bills, etc.; always short on funds
  • Becoming unreliable and secretive
  • Sneaking around the house (i.e. slipping into the house to reach the bathroom – and the toothpaste and Visine) before talking to anyone
  • Loss of interest in friends, sports, social activities
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Unstable mood and unpredictable emotions and actions
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Low energy, fatigue, and depression
  • Paranoia and panic attacks
  • Endless excuses for bad behavior/ blaming, guilt-tripping, and making others responsible for their misery


Tips for knowing how to talk about addiction with your loved one:

Don’t take lying personally

Be matter-of-fact about it – Use language to reflect your own perspective, rather than blaming the person with the addiction

Give information that might influence the person to make their own mind up to change, rather than trying to persuade them to change

Focus on what will be better if things change, not what will be worse if they don’t

Simply state what you know happened, rather than asking questions and going along with the answers, so as not to feed into their lying

Give feedback gently and early, preferably as soon as their behavior bothers you

Mention in a kind and positive way what you would like to see happening instead of the addictive behavior, preferably before addictive behavior becomes part of your routine

Build up your loved one’s pride in areas of their life that are unrelated to their addiction – someone who is abusing substances will already have a lot of guilt and shame about their behavior


If you need support with finding out ways to talk about addiction with a loved one:

Support Groups

You can turn to support groups like Al-Anon (an AA spin-off for the family and friends of alcoholics) or Alateen (geared toward teenagers and preteens who are affected by the drinking of a parent or other close relative) for help. These groups are free and open to the public. These fellowship groups can help you better understand your loved one’s problem with addiction. In particular, you can learn you aren’t responsible for it and that you can’t force him or her to stop. These groups also can teach you effective ways to cope as your friend or family member faces the consequences of addiction and how to talk about addiction with them.


Interventions involve a meeting or confrontation between the addicted person and those who are affected (family and loved ones). By confronting your loved one and being able to talk about addiction with them, including the consequences of the addiction, an intervention might penetrate your loved one’s denial and help him or her decide to seek treatment.

Bear in mind that interventions can be painful and do not always work. In fact, interventions can backfire, because they can make people with addiction feel alienated from their support system. This can further distance them from the help they need. For these reasons, interventions should be considered only as a last resort in response to a desperate situation.


If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction please give us a call at 800-951-6135.





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