How to help someone with addiction

Navigating the challenges of addiction can be a delicate and complex journey. Whether you find yourself supporting a loved one grappling with addiction or trying to understand the nuances of helping someone who is resistant to change, the path to recovery can be overwhelming.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when helping someone with a substance use disorder.

Addiction is the continual use of a substance despite any negative consequences. When someone is in active addiction, the person suffering is unable to stop their use no matter what you say or do.

Substance abuse isn’t a personality or moral disorder. It isn’t a reflection on someone being a good or bad person. It’s an illness which requires treatment. Just as you wouldn’t tell someone with cancer to just get over it – the same doesn’t work with addiction.

Denial is a key symptom of active addiction. The inability for self awareness in relation to substance use is generally masked with reasons ranging from plausible to ridiculous.

How to help someone who doesn’t want to change.

It is common for someone who is unaware or in denial about their addiction to be resistant to change. When a person is in this stage it can require a delicate balance of compassion and empathy from those around them. The process of acceptance can take time, but your overwhelming support can be a powerful catalyst for change.

  • Remember you can’t make somebody change, but you can create a safe and non-judgmental space for open communication.
  • As you develop your skills for talking to someone about addiction you can assure them that seeking help is a sign of strength.
  • Make sure that you set clear boundaries. Both for what you are able to accept and also what you can give.
  • Encourage self-reflection by highlighting specific behaviours that have raised your concerns and any information that helps to destigmatise addiction and seeking support.

It’s important that you look after yourself during this process, as you are also learning how to help someone with addiction. There are programs available, such as our free Family First Step program that will teach you about addiction and provide you with the skills you need to better understand and cope with the situation. Supportive family and friends play an invaluable role in the recovery journey and so it is important to find the right support for you as you navigate through it all.

How to help someone who doesn’t want professional help.

There are a range of reasons that someone in active addiction doesn’t want to seek professional help. Fear of judgement and stigma, along with a perceived loss of control are common reasons for people avoiding help. Feelings of shame along with denial about the severity of their situation can lead to someone trying to tackle their challenges on their own.

When offering support to a loved one, encouraging small steps can go a long way. By providing information about available resources such as counselling, support groups, or helplines you can help create a path to recovery. Contributing information and belief in their ability to recover can also do wonders in dismantling the barriers that may be hindering them from seeking professional help.

There are a range of programs available to support someone on their recovery journey.


Are you concerned about yourself or someone you love? Would you like to chat with someone about addiction?

Register for a free 20 minute phone consultation with one of our friendly clinicians.