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Addiction is a complex and challenging issue that not only affects the individual struggling with a substance use disorder, but also their loved ones. Starting a conversation with a friend or family member about their substance use and addiction is never easy, but it’s a crucial step toward helping them regain control of their life.

Recognizing the signs of dependence and addiction

Before you can have a meaningful conversation about addiction, it’s essential to recognize the signs so you can identify when there is a problem in the first place. Addiction often manifests in both behavioral and physical ways. Some can be subtle (especially in the early stages), while others are much more obvious.

Let’s dive deeper into these signs and provide examples to help you identify potential addiction issues in your loved one. Keep in mind that not all of these signs will apply to every individual struggling with addiction, but they can serve as important indicators.

Anxious woman sitting on floor and drinking wine.


  • Increased secrecy
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Isolation
  • Financial issues
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of interest
  • Impaired judgment
  • Loss of control


  • Weight changes
  • Skin problems
  • Impaired coordination
  • Tremors or shakes
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Needle marks
  • Nosebleeds and congestion

Does my loved one need professional help for their addiction?

One of the most critical questions to answer is whether your loved one needs professional help, and this decision can significantly impact their chances for long-term recovery and well-being.

Those who get professional help benefit not only from things like supervised medical detox, they also gain a deeper understanding of why they chose to use substances in the first place and arm themselves with education and tools to prevent relapse and increase the odds of long-term recovery.

Recognizing the severity of the problem

  • Frequency & amount: Consider the frequency and amount of substance use. If your loved one is using drugs or alcohol daily or in large quantities, it may indicate a severe issue.
  • Loss of control: An inability to control substance use, such as unsuccessful attempts to quit or cut down, suggests a loss of control that often requires professional assistance.
  • Cravings & withdrawal: Frequent cravings for the substance and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using are signs of physical and psychological dependence.

Impact on daily life

  • Functional impairment: Assess how addiction affects your loved one’s daily life. If it disrupts their ability to fulfill responsibilities at work, school, or home, it’s a significant concern.
  • Financial consequences: Consider whether their substance use has led to financial problems, such as unpaid bills, mounting debts, or borrowing money to sustain their habit.

Health & safety concerns

  • Physical & mental health: Evaluate the impact of addiction on their physical and mental health. Chronic health issues, frequent accidents, or worsening mental health conditions may necessitate professional help.
  • Risk of overdose: In cases involving drugs, assess the risk of overdose, especially with substances known for their high overdose potential (e.g., opioids).

Failed attempts at self-recovery

  • Relapse history: If your loved one has made multiple unsuccessful attempts to quit or reduce their substance use, it may indicate the need for professional intervention.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit can be a barrier to self-recovery and may require medical supervision.

Lack of support systems

  • Limited social support: If your loved one lacks a strong support system or has friends and family who enable them, professional help can provide the structure and guidance they need.

Dual Diagnosis

  • Co-occurring mental health disorders: Many individuals with addiction also have co-occurring mental health disorders (dual diagnosis). Addressing both issues often requires specialized treatment from professionals who understand the complex interplay between addiction and mental health.

If your loved one exhibits multiple signs and factors listed above, that typically indicates a severe problem, and it’s advisable to seek professional assistance.

Preparing for the conversation mentally & emotionally

Confronting a loved one about their substance use can take an emotional toll on all parties involved. That’s why it’s essential to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for what could be a challenging conversation.

Here are some steps to help you get ready:

Educate yourself. Understand the nature of the substance your loved one is using, common behaviors associated with addiction, and available treatment options. This knowledge will help you approach the topic with empathy and understanding.

Self-reflection. Take some time for self-reflection. Acknowledge the feelings, fears, and concerns you have concerning their addiction. It’s normal to feel a range of emotions, including worry, anger, frustration, and sadness. Recognize these emotions and accept them without judgment.

Seek support. Don’t go through this process alone. Reach out to friends, family members, or support groups who have experience dealing with addiction. Sharing your feelings and concerns with others can provide emotional support and valuable insights.

Set realistic expectations. Understand that you can’t control your loved one’s choices or force them to seek help. Be prepared for the possibility that they may not be receptive to your concerns. Setting realistic expectations can help you manage frustration and disappointment.

Plan what you want to say. List the key points you want to cover during the conversation. Focus on expressing your love, concern, and support rather than placing blame or making accusations. Be clear about the specific behaviors and consequences you’ve observed.

Choose the right time & place. Find a suitable time and place for the conversation where you can have privacy and minimal distractions. Avoid initiating this discussion when your loved one is under the influence of substances or during a heated argument.

Practice empathy & active listening. Approach the conversation with empathy. Try to understand your loved one’s perspective and feelings without judgment. Active listening is essential – let them express themselves and validate their emotions.

Stay calm & composed. Maintain your composure during the conversation. If emotions escalate, take a deep breath and refocus on your intention to support your loved one. Avoid getting defensive or confrontational.

Offer solutions & resources. Be ready to provide information about treatment options and resources available for addiction recovery. Offer to assist in researching treatment centers or support groups if your loved one is open to it.

Set boundaries. Consider establishing boundaries that you are willing to enforce if necessary. These boundaries should be communicated clearly and should focus on your well-being and the safety of those involved.

Be prepared for resistance. Understand that your loved one may not immediately accept your concerns or be willing to seek help. Be prepared for resistance or denial. Your role is to plant the seed of change and provide ongoing support.

Self-care. Prioritize self-care throughout this process. Caring for your own mental and emotional well-being is essential. Seek therapy or counseling for yourself if needed and engage in activities that reduce stress and promote resilience.

Stay patient & persistent. Recovery from addiction is often a long and challenging journey. Be patient and persistent in your support. Even if your loved one doesn’t take immediate action, your concern and encouragement can have a positive impact in the long run.

Remember that addressing addiction in a loved one is a difficult and emotionally charged process. Your goal is to express your love and concern while encouraging them to seek help. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t lose hope; recovery is possible, and your support can make a significant difference.

Why you should consider professional help for an intervention

An interventionist can be instrumental in getting someone to go into addiction treatment for several important reasons. Firstly, addiction can cloud an individual’s judgment and lead to denial about the severity of their problem. An interventionist, as a trained professional, can provide an objective and expert perspective, helping to break through this denial.

Interventionists have specific expertise in addiction and the intervention process. They understand the dynamics of substance use and addiction, the emotional barriers that individuals face, and the most effective ways to communicate with someone who is struggling. This knowledge enables them to guide the intervention in a way that is compassionate, respectful, and persuasive.

One of the key benefits of an interventionist is their ability to facilitate the intervention itself. They help plan and structure the meeting, ensuring that it stays focused on expressing love, concern, and the desire for the individual to seek treatment. Interventionists can keep the conversation on track, preventing it from devolving into arguments or blame.

Female therapist writing on clipboard while talking to patient.

Furthermore, interventionists often have access to a network of treatment resources and can provide immediate options for addiction treatment. This can be crucial because individuals facing addiction often need swift access to treatment to prevent further harm.

During the intervention, the interventionist can present information about the treatment process and its benefits in a clear and compelling manner. They can address any questions or concerns the individual may have and provide reassurance about the recovery process. This information can help alleviate some of the fears and uncertainties that may be holding the person back from seeking treatment.

Learn How Enterhealth Can Help

If someone you know is struggling with substance use or addiction, we want to help.

Our team of addiction experts includes specialists with expertise in conducting interventions. In addition, it’s important to understand that before confronting someone in an intervention, you should already have selected a treatment provider so that if the person agrees to enter treatment, you can take them right away.

At Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence, our comprehensive, science-based treatment programs address all aspects of substance use and addiction – mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual. That’s why our approach has proven more effective than traditional 12-step addiction treatment alone.

Call 1.800.388.4601 or use our contact form today to get started.

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