How to Motivate an Addict to Enter Drug Rehab


Getting an addict to successfully complete a drug rehab program is a challenge, but getting them into treatment is even harder. In order to continue their destructive behaviors, most addicts live in a place of denial – they either don’t think they need treatment or they are aware they need help but are unwilling to commit to 30-plus days of rehab.

You know your loved one needs help, but you also know that the ultimate decision to get well rests with them. No matter how badly you want them to get clean and sober, they have to want it, too.

Although you can’t force an addict into recovery, there are a number of things you can do to motivate the addict to see the reality of their addiction and seek drug treatment.

Admitting the Problem

The first step is to help the addict realize that he or she does in fact have a problem with drugs or alcohol. In most cases, lecturing, bullying, demanding or begging will not work. The harder you push, the further away they will pull.

A better approach is to gently point out inconsistencies in the statements and behaviors of the addict without blatantly disagreeing with them or reacting with anger or blame. Although it isn’t useful to play along or pretend to agree with an addict’s irrational thoughts and behaviors, offering resistance will likely result in a standstill.

If you can help the addict reach the conclusion that they have a problem on their own, they are more likely to accept the need to enter an addiction treatment program and eventually commit to long-term sobriety.

Encourage Responsibility by Refusing to Enable

An addict is more likely to admit having a problem with drugs or alcohol if their loved ones refuse to enable. By refraining from paying their bills, bailing them out of jail, or providing a free place to live, you force the addict to experience the full weight of the consequences of their addiction.

You don’t want to reward or punish the addict for their choices – you simply want them to feel the natural consequences of their behavior so that they begin to question whether drugs or alcohol are adding anything worthwhile to their life. Because you have done nothing to help or hinder, the addict will have no one left to blame for their problems but themselves.

Staging an Intervention: CPR for the Addict

When one-on-one conversations and natural consequences aren’t enough, an intervention may help the addict gain a moment of clarity about their illness and agree to get help. The goal of an intervention is to have a group of close friends and family confront the addict or alcoholic about their drug use and insist that they enter drug rehab after the meeting.

Although interventions have gotten a reputation for being surprise ambushes or harsh confrontations, a well-planned intervention is actually an expression of love and compassion for someone who needs help.

Interventions can be hosted by a professional interventionist or a designated leader. In most cases, the host gathers a group of close family and friends, usually 3-6 people, whose opinions and support matter most to the addict. Together, they form a circle of support around the addict, free from blame, criticism or guilt.

Every participant writes a letter to the addict expressing love and concern and describing in a calm, straightforward manner the way the addiction is impacting both the addict and the people who love them. Each person gives specific examples of incidents that caused them pain as well as a list of behaviors they will no longer tolerate if the addict refuses to get treatment. For example, a loved one may refuse to loan money or provide a place to stay in an effort to help the addict fully experience the negative consequences of their drug or alcohol abuse.

Once a date and location are set for the intervention, the host invites the addict to attend and explains why everyone has gathered there. Next, the participant take turns reading their letters aloud and asking the addict if they are willing to seek treatment right away.

It is wise to have researched and made arrangements for a drug rehab program that the addict can enter immediately after the meeting. The services of a professional interventionist will be indispensable in finding the best drug rehab program to suit your loved one’s specific needs.

While some addicts will listen calmly and attentively to their loved ones’ concerns, most will respond to an intervention with a number of excuses for why they can’t commit to rehab (e.g., cost of treatment, work responsibilities or other commitments). A professional interventionist can help the addict’s loved ones anticipate and respond to those excuses and keep the atmosphere positive and solution-oriented.

In 85 percent of interventions, the alcoholic or addict agrees to enter treatment. If the addict refuses to accept drug treatment, be sure to follow through with the commitments you made during the intervention and try approaching your loved one again in a few days or weeks. With patience and persistence, you will eventually succeed in motivating your loved one to get the help they need.

Conveying Love and Empathy

No one wants to listen to or accept help from someone who treats them with contempt or blame. In all of your attempts to reach out to someone struggling with addiction, remember to speak and act from a place of love and empathy. As your loved one makes progress, reward them with plenty of praise and encouragement.

It is difficult to admit having a drug or alcohol problem, and the addict is only likely to acknowledge the need for treatment if they know the person on the other end will respond with compassion and respect.