3 Things Not to Say to an Addict

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Many people don’t understand how to support a recovering drug addict. Here are some things not to say to an addict.

It’s hard to know what to say to someone in drug rehab. Should you congratulate them? Express condolences? Not mention it at all? If you’re not sure how to support a recovering drug addict, a support group for friends and family members of an addicted individual can help. The most important thing, though, is to really understand addiction before you try to support someone you love who is in recovery. If you don’t understand addiction, you won’t be able to fully support your loved one. Along those lines, here are three things not to say to an addict.

1. Why can’t you just exercise willpower?

Addiction is widely regarded by the medical community as a disease, which is any health condition that changes the function of a body system, that can be systematically diagnosed through common symptoms, and which can be successfully treated.

Addiction is a result of changes in the physical structures and chemical functions of the brain. These tangible brain changes occur primarily in the memory, reward, and learning centers of the brain, and they affect thought and behavior patterns.

Once you’ve developed an addiction, willpower and good intentions are not enough to stop for the long-term, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Successful recovery almost always requires professional help. That’s because addiction almost always had underlying causes that must be addressed, and it leads to unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that must be changed. Successful recovery requires identifying missing coping skills and developing them to help prevent relapse.

If you’re wondering what to say to someone in drug rehab, try, “It’s great that you’re getting the help you need to recover.” This acknowledges that you understand addiction isn’t a matter of choice, that getting help is a good decision, and that you support your friend or loved one.

2. Come on have some, just once won’t hurt.

Addiction is a relapsing disease. This means that while an addiction can be sent into remission and someone can remain in recovery for a lifetime, using again can quickly lead to a recurrence of the addiction, once again characterized by compulsive drug use despite negative consequences. Trying to get someone in recovery to have a drink with you or use again is one of the most important things not to say to an addict. Just a single instance of using could send your friend or loved one back down a path of addiction and dependence very quickly.

3. You can be our designated driver.

This is one of the biggest things not to say to an addict. In early recovery, and often well into the future, addicted individuals must be very careful to avoid high-risk situations, which are any situations that can lead them to a slip-up. For someone with an alcohol addiction, a high-risk situation will include going to a bar. People in early recovery should stay away from places where drugs or alcohol are being used, and they should avoid hanging out with people who are using. How to support a recovering addict is to invite your friend or loved one to an event where drugs and alcohol won’t be part of the festivies. Take your friend to a movie, go to an art museum, have coffee, or hit the Y for a game of basketball.

Supporting a friend or family member in recovery involves knowing the things not to say to an addict and understanding why. This requires understanding addiction and what your friend is going through, and it requires making an effort to be encouraging, positive, and understanding. Successful recovery requires support, and the more you can support your loved one, the better his or her chances of long-term abstinence.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.