10 Steps to Take if an Alcoholic or Addict Refuses Treatment

They don’t believe that they’re sick. They don’t believe that anything’s wrong. It takes a big wake up call to get through the addiction, and to the person that we all know is still inside, screaming to be let out.

If Your Loved One Refusing Treatment:

10. Admit It to Yourself

If you’re in denial, it’s not helping anyone. Even for those who haven’t dealt with a family member or a friend falling down the rabbit hole, it can be difficult to admit to yourself that their problems have gone on too long, and has become serious or life-threatening. While this doesn’t sound like it directly impacts the suffering addict, you’re admitting the problem and bracing yourself to be a support system for your loved one. It’s not easy for either side, but when it comes down to it, they need to get better, and you need to be there for them.

9. Educate Yourself

Find out what they’re going through on an educational level. While every single addiction is different, and potentially more harrowing than what you may find online, withdrawal symptoms and other synonymous aspects tend to go with their coupled addictions. It can help you prepare for the future and keep your eyes out for any signs of potential overdose.

More than that, it’s also a key component in validating your stance in an intervention down the road. If you know nothing about what your loved one is going through, it’s very difficult to understand the magnitude of the situation from a third-party perspective. Do the research, and understand the specific drug (or alcohol) issues that your loved one is going through in order to better understand their place in all of this.

8. Decipher the Situation

There are different stages of addiction. It’s difficult to determine exactly where your loved one resides. It makes a difference between being able to talk one-on-one with them and realising that they are too far gone and only they can help themselves. If you can determine where they are in their addiction, it’s going to be beneficial.

Do you need help understanding how to reach a loved one who is suffering from addiction?

7. Start with the Medical Approach

When someone is in the grip of addiction, their clarity quickly withers away. Suggest or schedule a routine check-up appointment. Inform the doctor of the addiction prior to the visit, and do so for multiple reasons. They’ll be better able to identify the issues and see past the excuses of the addict. Doctors will still protect doctor-patient confidentiality, but in their medical and professional opinions, they can also recommend courses of action to take, which can be very eye-opening for the addict. In some cases, it has been proven to help them think clearly when someone outside of their social or family circle is able to recognize issues. Before they are too far gone, it’s a wake-up call.

6. Stop Enabling Their Habit

If you’ve identified yourself as an instigator, or have been identified as one by an outside perspective, there are ways to prevent it. Fear controls everything; it’s human nature. Fear of losing your loved one to addiction, or to the life it would leave them with, will be detrimental in providing them with the environment that they need. If you were always wondering why they needed lump sums of money or what they were doing with it, the answer has become pretty clear.

If you’ve even gone so far as to get advances on your paycheck, or pawn items for additional income, looking deep inside yourself will reveal that you’ve always known something was going on, and you’ve finally admitted to yourself that you’re financially supporting an addiction. There are safe ways to stop this without causing a ruckus. Instead of being confrontational about it, be anti-confrontational. There is a right time and place for everything. If they ask and you refuse, give a reason. When an addict feels ganged-up on, it can cause them to disappear for days at a time, and that’s always very worrying. Refuse to fund their vice.

5. Offer Them Constructive Support

Offering Support For An Addict Who Refuses Treatment

Without stating the obvious, let the addict know that you are there for them no matter what. It’s very easy to have a conversation with someone, and keep the subject matter silent, while both of you know what’s going on. By avoiding bringing it up in direct words or unveiling anger, you’re showing them that you’re not being judgmental, that you just want to help.

After enough of these timid, non-confrontational discussions, you may notice positive changes in behavior. When an addict is truly trying to fight through their addiction and they begin to show it, you’ve hit a pivotal point in the recovery process. It can be a make-or-break situation. If you’re still showing the same level of support and they are responding appropriately, there may come a time when they openly tell you about their addiction and that they need help. This is going to make the entire process easier and eliminate the need for an intervention.

4. When All Else Fails, Don’t Use Guilt

It’s very easy to mix up the thought of an ultimatum, and lecturing or guilting an addicted individual into ceasing their vice usage. Under no circumstances should you attempt to guilt them into quitting their addiction. Phrases like “How could you do this to me,” or anything that will garner guilt and/or shame from the addict is a surefire no-go.

3. Positively Encourage Them

We’ve been able to identify if we are enabling them, or if someone else is, but it comes down to one thing. They need help, and whether it’s a therapist or detoxification program, you can encourage them to seek help far better than anyone else can if you’re an important and influential figure in their life.

2. Analyze Where You Are

It’s coming down to the wire. If all previous attempts have failed, our number one solution will be the last ditch effort to getting your loved one off of drugs, and giving them the health and attention they need to recover. By taking a step back and looking at the last few weeks or months of events, you’ll be able to better determine if your efforts are proving useful or if you need to take one more stab at this.

1. Don’t Use An Intervention

Interventions don’t work. If the person in question isn’t really to change, forcing them to do so will not only fragment your relationship with them, but also fail at long term success. They may initially do what you want them to do, however if they don’t want to do change, they’ll ultimately just revert back to their original using or drinking habits. This can be extra dangerous as their tolerance may drop whilst they drag themselves through your intervention, and as soon as they decide to use or drink again, they will often use or drink the same amount as before which can cause them to overdose.

Instead, it may be that a hard decision has to be made. You may have to cut them off until they are ready to change and make real efforts to seek out treatment, and also, be willing to apply the changes to all areas of their life, not just seeking treatment and expecting that treatment will work in their exact same old lifestyle that they were living in before. This means changing their friends to those who don’t use or drink, adapting their environment, become aware of triggers and what to do when they occur, creating and sticking to a recovery plan and others.


Have You Considered The Alternatives?

It’s important to consider alternative options that may be more appropriate and agreeable for you, as well as the addict in question. They may be refusing treatment because they are worried by horror stories, myths, stigma or misinformation about inpatient treatment. Although they may not show it, they may actually be worried about going away to a strange place, being told what to do, fearful that they’ll be unable to access drugs and alcohol if things don’t work out, or it may be that they are worried of loosing control over their care and treatment.

After all, who wants to be in a strange place, possibly feeling the effects of withdrawal whilst going through a detox regime, with people you don’t know taking complete control over your treatment plan, meals, chores and recovery activities for weeks, months or even years in some cases!

For some people, thoughts like these put people off from wanting to enter an inpatient recovery program, causing them to rebel and withdraw into themselves, ultimately pushing away any possible effective communication and dialogue about treatment options.

But There’s An Alternative To Consider!

Many members of the public, friends and family of addicts who have no experience of dealing with addicts is that they think that if you need to get clean and sober, you must go into a rehab as that’s the treatment option if you have a drug and alcohol addiction. However, there is an option that many don’t know exist, or often forgotten about, especially in the heat of the moment when discussions with the addict in question have broken down is to consider suggesting outpatient treatment instead!

Outpatient, or community drug and alcohol services as they’re better known by can offer a great opportunity for recovery when inpatient treatment just isn’t an option anymore.

It maybe come as a surprise to realise that the majority of people who get clean and sober using the help of professional, structured support actually don’t set foot into an inpatient rehab. 97% of those who get clean and sober do so with the help of community based drug and alcohol services according to Government National Statistics.

Other reasons this may be a better option is:

  • They’re able to stay at home in familiar surroundings.
  • They may have pets that they can’t or won’t want to leave behind.
  • The cost may be out of the question, especially when no “charity” beds are available and waiting lists growing by the minute.
  • Allows the addict to continue working, studying or continuing hobbies or interests if they still appeal in later stages of addiction?
  • Provides the opportunity for the addict to take control over their treatment by attending their appointments and choosing which supplementary recovery activities they want to take part in.
  • Eases anxiety for example by not having to live with strangers, or live in close proximity to others who may trigger negative feelings or OCD flareups.
  • Family and friends can still visit and help the person rather than only being on the end of a phone or internet communication through apps such as Zoom or Skype.

These reasons, along with many others may allow community treatment to become a more appropriate option.

Almost all (99%) people in treatment received some form of structured treatment. You can find a definition of structured treatment.

Of the people that did receive a structured treatment:

  • 97% received a community-based treatment
  • 9% received treatment in a primary care setting
  • 4% received treatment in an inpatient setting
Breakdown of settings where peoples’ treatment took place – Government National Statistics.

The number of people receiving treatment in inpatient and residential settings has continued to fall year on year since . There were 25,847 people receiving treatment in those settings. There were 25,847 people receiving treatment in those settings in 2014 to 2015 compared to 16,757 people in 2018 to 2019.

If you need help with this, you can find contact information for a wide range of charities, groups and organisations who can help you along the way by clicking here!


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Published by Drink ’n’ Drugs

Providing useful, relevant, up to date information and support for those suffering from active addiction or those who are in recovery.

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