When a person becomes concerned about a loved one’s drinking or drug use, it can be difficult to know what to do. Many scenarios regarding the confrontation may occur, inducing fear, reluctance, or indecision about the best ways to help the loved one get treatment through professional rehab.

These hesitations can be cleared up with a few pieces of advice that may help family or friends of a person who is struggling with drug abuse or addiction find the best way to convince their loved one to enter a treatment program. These include:

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How to convince a loved one to enter treatment

  1. Learn about addiction and treatment.
  2. Make an intervention plan.
  3. Be objective and control emotions.
  4. Avoid judgment.
  5. Admit the individual to treatment immediately.
  6. Remember self-care.

Step 1: Learn about addiction and treatment.

To put it bluntly, it can be difficult to confront a loved one about addiction if the family member or friend initiating the conversation doesn’t know much about addiction and treatment options. Because of this, the first thing to do is learn about addiction and what causes it, what it does to the individual’s brain and behavior, and why treatment is necessary.

There are a number of elements to take into consideration when researching a loved one’s addiction and treatment options. These include:

  • The mechanism and causes of addiction: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a great resource for understanding what addiction is, how it happens, and what types of intervention are most likely to help an individual recover from it. This can be highly useful in helping someone understand why treatment is needed.
  • The drug or drugs being used: Different drugs have different effects on the individual’s body. Some of these may cause issues with the individual’s ability to focus or process what is being said. Others may cause the person to feel paranoid or be more likely to respond aggressively. Knowing what to expect can help.
  • Whether or not there are co-occurring conditions: If a loved one turned to drugs to self-medicate depression or anxiety, or if there is potential that another mental health disorder is occurring alongside the substance abuse, it is important to understand how this affects the individual’s behavior and how treatment needs to be adjusted to be most effective under these circumstances.
  • The options for treatment and when they are used: Inpatient care, outpatient treatment, aftercare, therapy, alternative treatments – each of these has a place, depending on the individual’s readiness for treatment, the degree of the abuse or addiction, and whether or not there is a high risk of relapse for the individual. Understanding what each option brings to the table can help in making an informed decision about the type of care that is needed for the individual.

State or municipal health and human services departments can be a good source of local information. Healthfinder.gov can help in locating the relevant department or service for each state or county. Working through a reputable, research-based treatment facility can also help point family and friends in the right direction.

Step 2: Make an intervention plan.

Making a plan for approaching a loved one about an addiction problem can help family or friends to be prepared for anything that may happen during the conversation. Gathering a group of people who can help, and even potentially hiring an intervention specialist to help in developing the plan, can ease the burden of the conversation. It can also provide a united front in convincing the person that family and friends have the loved one’s best interests at heart.

The Association of Intervention Specialists can help in finding a professional trained to plan the event. The treatment center may also have resources that will support the process. In any case, establishing the plan in advance can ensure that family and friends have prepared responses for multiple objections that the individual might raise, making it more likely that the loved one can be convinced of the need for treatment.

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Step 3: Be objective and control emotions.

It can be easy to become emotional when confronting a loved one about addiction. Many emotions may be brought up. Anger, fear, shame, disappointment, guilt, and other feelings often boil under the surface of the love and hope that motivate the family or friends to intervene. These feelings are natural and understandable.

However, letting these emotions get out of control during the conversation can be counterproductive. For example, if the family member or friend becomes angry and starts yelling, the loved one may also become angry and defensive. This can result in the person closing off any open-mindedness toward what the family and friends are saying.

This does not mean that the family or friends should not be honest in presenting how the individual’s drug abuse has hurt their relationship. As described through Healthline, objectively, honestly letting the loved one know how the addictive behavior has affected family and friends often comes as a revelation to the loved one, and it can be a powerful tool in convincing the person that help is needed.

Step 4: Avoid judgment.

People who have never had an addiction problem may find it hard to understand why loved ones struggle with addiction. With all of the opinions and ideas about addiction that are presented throughout society, it can be easy to become judgmental of the person who is struggling with addiction and dismissive of the issues that may have led to the problems with drugs and alcohol.

Nevertheless, this judgment should be avoided as much as possible during the conversation. As explained in the book Helping the Addict You Love, judgment of the situation can shut down the conversation. Instead, asking questions and trying to understand the individual’s situation, even if family and friends don’t agree with it, can help establish the loved one’s trust that family and friends are acting out of love and concern, providing the support that is most likely to help the person succeed in treatment.

Step 5: Admit the individual to treatment immediately.

Research has shown that getting a person into treatment as soon as willingness is expressed is vital to encouraging a positive start to – and outcome of – the treatment process. For this reason, having treatment readily available as soon as the person is willing to enter is considered to be one of NIDA’s Principles of Effective Treatment.

For this reason, getting a treatment program lined up to accept the loved one immediately is an essential element of the planning process before the conversation is started. Selecting a treatment center can involve a good deal of research, using what family and friends have learned about addiction and treatment as a starting point to finding the program. The professionals who work in research-based, certified treatment programs can provide a great deal of support throughout the process of trying to convince the loved one that treatment is needed, and they can help determine the most appropriate level of care for the individual. They can also help plan for immediate admission to the program as soon as the individual accepts that help is needed.

Step 6: Remember self-care.

Dealing with a loved one who has a drug abuse problem can be draining and difficult for everyone involved. It is important for family and friends to remember that they also need to practice self-care. A number of organizations and support groups exist to help family and friends process emotions and learn more about living with a loved one who is recovering from addiction. These include:

  • Al-Anon and Nar-Anon
  • Families Anonymous
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics
  • Co-Dependents Anonymous

Other resources may be available through the loved one’s treatment center.


It can be challenging to help a loved one get treatment. However, by keeping all the above advice in mind, family and friends can be better prepared to confront their loved one, providing the needed love and support that can make recovery from addiction a true possibility.