Having A Substance Abuse Discussion with a Loved One

Having A Substance Abuse Discussion with a Loved One

By In Family Based Recovery, Relationships and Addiction, Social Issues
Posted September 27, 2017

Discussions about substance abuse can be uncomfortable and emotional, but they’re also necessary.

Whether you are struggling with addiction yourself or fear that a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, you can use these guidelines to have a healthy and productive substance abuse discussion.

Confessing Your Substance Abuse to a Loved One

Lying and secrecy are very common problems associated with addiction. Addicts often go to great lengths to hide their substance abuse from family and friends.

But if you can muster the courage to have a substance abuse discussion with your loved ones, it can be a major step toward recovery.

First, mentally prepare yourself for the possibility that your loved ones may react with sadness or anger. This is a natural reaction, so stay calm if it occurs. Also prepare by doing your research. Find treatment options that you would be willing to consider in order to show your loved ones that you’re serious about recovery.

Choose the right time and place to talk to your loved one(s). Approach the conversation in a quiet, private location where your family is comfortable.

During the conversation, talk to your loved ones about the fact that addiction is a disease and that you’re willing to work toward recovery. Mention possible treatment options that you’ve researched. Share honestly about what you think caused your addiction: peer pressure, depression, an inability to deal with stress, etc.

By leading an open and honest substance abuse discussion, you will likely receive your loved ones’ support and encouragement on your recovery journey. Having a supportive inner circle is critical to successful recovery, so this conversation is an important one.

man and woman hugging

Confronting a Loved One About Their Substance Abuse

On the other hand, you may wish to have a substance abuse discussion with a loved one that you believe is abusing drugs or alcohol. This, too, is a sensitive and difficult conversation, but it’s important to show your loved one that people care and are affected by his/her substance abuse.

In this case, too, preparation is key. Do your research so you can have an informed discussion with your loved one. For example, if you believe your loved one has a heroin addiction, find out as much as you can about this drug and the recovery process, including drug withdrawal. Explore recovery options and insurance coverage so you can offer some solutions to the addict.

You may also want to write down a script outlining your thoughts, so you’ll still be able to get your important points across if the conversation becomes difficult.

Appropriate time and place, too, is key. Don’t publicly confront the addict, and try to find a place where he or she feels comfortable. It’s also crucial that the addict is sober when you initiate the conversation. A conversation while the addict is drunk or high, or while you’re angry about this fact, will not be productive.

Use a caring tone and indicate to your loved one that you are coming from a place of concern, not judgement. When an addict feels judged, he or she will likely respond with anger, defensiveness, and lies.

You can also try to soften your tone by using “I” statements instead of “You” statements. For example, say, “I feel sad when I see you abusing drugs,” instead of, “You make me sad when you abuse drugs.”

Lastly, be prepared to be firm during this substance abuse discussion. Offer your loved one some options for treatment, and then outline consequences that will occur if he doesn’t seek help. Examples can include kicking them out, restricting time with children, or refusing to cover for them when they’re too hungover for work.

This substance abuse discussion won’t be pleasant, but it’s far better than watching your loved one continue to spiral out of control and possibly even die as a result of his or her addiction.

man sitting on the road contemplating


Substance abuse discussions are never easy, but they can be life-changing and even life-saving. Plan in advance, pick an appropriate time and place, and be open and honest with your loved one.

Braving your discomfort and nervousness will be well worth it in the end.



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