If there has ever been a more frustrating subject, time-consuming and aggravating, it’s the subject of talking to a drug addict about their drug addiction. So many parents, family members and friends have explained their failed attempts. Convincing an addicted person to get help is difficult, and that in most cases, the family just gave up. That is one reason why drug and alcohol abuse requires professional counsellors with years of experience and training. Like a dentist specializing in tooth problems, drug addiction counsellors work with drug addicts and drug addiction.
Starting a conversation with a drug addict is an art in itself. First off, the addicted person is quite aware of the upsets, emotional pains and anxieties they are causing others. The drugs simply dull the awareness, so they seem not to care. But underneath all the complexities, they care and don’t want this type of lifestyle. Getting to this underlayer of truth is the tricky part. But it can be done by anyone who cares. All one needs is a bit of advice on how to approach the drug addict.
First, the timing must be right. If the person just got high, you can be certain that anything you say is misread or not heard, despite the head nods and agreeable yes’s. The best time to approach the issue is when the drug addict is not high, calm, with no attention on something urgent like late rent or some such problem. Open the conversation by being interested in their life as a drug user. Ask them what it is like to be on drugs? Typically they’re very willing to tell you all about it. Be interested in what they have to say. Keep questioning move in the direction of “doesn’t it hurt?” or “how does your wife feel about it?” and similar questioning. Do not be too hasty. There is no rush; it can sometimes take 3 or 4 different conversations at different times, sometimes more.
The idea is to create a friendly relation with the drug addict that is safe for them to talk to you. So the drug addict doesn’t feel judged or evaluated, or demeaned. You need to create trust, friendship and a relaxed atmosphere with the addict. At one point, the person will give a sign of not being happy or will show some sadness or frustration. It is what you want. It’s what is ruining their life (according to their point of view, not yours!). Once the person recognizes this ruin and you can see they see it, remember this; the drug addict knows that they cannot do anything about it. But you know differently, softly coax them into agreeing on maybe, possibly they can do something about it. Don’t get over-excited about the person being agreeable to change. It can backfire at any time. A drug addict has a final defence built in by the drug or alcohol itself. The thought of withdrawal from drugs or alcohol is painful or unpleasant. Some drugs can have horrible withdrawal effects on the person.
But all you’re attempting is to bring the person to look at possibly getting help, just to look at it. There is a case where a person worked with a best friend that was lost to drug addiction, spending over three months coaxing him to get some help with the above guidelines. Near the end, he brought over a couple of pamphlets from 2 different drug rehab treatment programs and just left them on a coffee table without the addict’s knowledge. A few days later, the addict called this person and said: “Thanks, I’m in a drug rehab and getting better.” So don’t lose hope if the person doesn’t flip around in the first few days or weeks. Just stay interested; helpful, friendly and do not be judgemental or evaluate for the person. Just care.
If this fails or you feel you just don’t have it in you to do it, you can hire the help of a professional drug interventionist. It doesn’t matter where you live; assistance is possible to save this person’s life. We connected people to interventionists to help their loved one get into rehab.