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How to Talk to Loved Ones About Addiction & Substance Abuse


When someone you love is struggling with addiction or substance abuse, you might be at a loss as to what to say to the person. The language you use can have a real impact, not only on your relationship but also on how the person views himself.

Many non-addicts use the wrong language when addressing addiction and substance abuse. Not only does this language make the person struggling feel bad about themselves for letting others down, it can also exacerbate their drug use. Knowing what, and what not, to say to people who are faced with these uphill battles is the first step to be a more empathetic person.

Focus on the Person, Not the Addiction

It can be easy to let a person’s addiction take over the image you have of them. This can lead to dehumanizing language, such as works like “junkie” or “crackhead”, which only serve to push a person with addiction issues deeper into despair.

While it can be hard to remember at times, especially when a person is deep within the throes of addiction, remind yourself there is a person in the midst of all this turmoil. This is a person you love dearly, and the fact that you’re using such language towards them shows how deeply hurt you are by what’s happening. If you find yourself wanting to use harsh language, stop a moment and consider the impact it could have.

Know the Difference Between Addiction & Dependence

When talking about substance abuse, clarity is key. It’s especially important to be clear about the type of problems facing your loved one, as this is the best way to get the right treatment for their issues. Consider the following:

  • Addiction – A compulsive urge to consume a drug of choice, despite the negative consequences. This can include loss of employment, arrest, and problems within personal relationships.
  • Dependence – Dependence on a drug occurs when your body is incapable of functioning normally without it. A person who is physically dependent on a substance, such as heroin, will experience serious withdrawal effects upon stopping.

It’s possible to become dependent on a wide range of drugs. This includes prescription drugs provided by a doctor, which can be highly addictive under the right circumstances.

Compassion Will Take Your Far

Let compassion inform your language when talking to a loved one experience addiction issues. While it’s important to set hard boundaries, it’s also important that you treat friends and family kindly during their time of need. Don’t lay blame or guilt on the person, and don’t become enraged by relapses and back-sliding. Chances are that the person struggling feels just as bad as you and is in need of your support more now than ever. We’re Here to Support You on Your Journey

Duke City Recovery Toolbox is here to help people struggling with addiction issues, as well as their loved ones. Our addiction treatment center, located in Albuquerque, NM, is dedicated to providing proven recovery solutions. We also provide medications to reduce cravings and prevent relapses, as well as peer support so you can have a strong foundation in sobriety.

Schedule an intake appointment today by calling (505) 224-9777. We look forward to meeting with you and discussing your sobriety goals.