How to Talk to an Addict in Denial

How to Talk to an Addict in DenialDenial is an effective defense mechanism that gives drug users “permission” to continue to abuse drugs or alcohol. Denial ensures that they are not to blame for their substance abuse and addiction, and they can believe that they are victims of circumstances. They can overlook the need for assistance getting clean, and they can convince themselves they could stop using if they wanted. These thought patterns make it difficult to approach an addict in denial. It may take a significant “wakeup call” for an addict to break free from the power of denial. By understanding denial you can find ways to counteract and potentially save your addicted loved one from the effects of substance abuse.

Drug Addiction Denial Strategies

Rationalization, justification and minimization are the top three denial strategies. “I can control my substance use,” is a statement of rationalization. Sentences that begin with, “I only use when” or, “I use because,” are examples of justification. “I use less than some people,” or, “Others have worse problems,” are examples of minimization. In addition to these denial strategies a person may do the following:

  • Explain behaviors without associating them with drug use
  • Blame someone else
  • Turn the conversation away from drug use
  • Lie
  • Manipulate
  • React to concerns about drug use with defiance and argumentative behaviors such as yelling
  • React to concerns about drug use with humor
  • Withdraw from loved ones
  • Appear to comply

Talking to Someone in Denial about Drug Abuse and Addiction

An addicted loved one has an arsenal of denial tactics that they will readily use in any conversation about substance abuse, so you need to prepare yourself before talking to that person. Do the following:

  • Set a goal. What are you trying to achieve with your conversation? Be clear and have realistic expectations.
  • Document. List of the behaviors you observe, and list drug-related effects such as illness, loss of income, impaired relationships with friends and family, depression, fear or loss of trust.
  • Prepare. The addict is going to use denial behaviors, so it is important for you to be prepared. How will you handle rationalization, anger or withdrawal? Set limits on what you will deal with and what you will not.

By making an individual aware of how his or her addiction is impacting work, social life and interpersonal relationships, you may help your loved one find the power to break through denial and seek assistance.

Help Talking to Someone in Denial about Addiction

It is difficult to talk to a person who is in denial, but you can break through addiction by reaching out to a friend or family member. We can help by providing you with information and resources that will assist you in approaching a person in denial. Call our toll-free helpline to learn more about helping someone overcome addiction. We are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you have, so please call now.