How To Convince Someone To Go To Rehab Even if They Don’t Want to

Last Updated: July 2, 2021

Loving someone who has an addiction problem is incredibly difficult. Persons who struggle with either alcohol or drug addiction tend to lose their ability to love and care about other people in their lives. Their whole focus becomes the addiction and finding ways to get high or get drunk. Trying to communicate with loved ones who have an addiction problem can be challenging.
Read about how to get an addict into rehab. If one is looking for additional information about this, call the 24-hour hotline at (888)-459-5511 to speak with a knowledgeable representative who can offer more personalized information.

Why Is Convincing An Addict To Enter Rehab So Difficult?

Convincing an addict to go into rehab is hard because they obviously don’t want to go. What they want is to do is keep drinking or taking drugs.

This must be kept in mind when confronting anyone who has developed an addiction. To some extent, if one is trying to get a family member into rehab, one is not talking to a family member at all, but to an addiction that is trying desperately to perpetuate itself. The addiction is not in control. The task is to try to help the loved one person to take that control back.
This is not going to be an easy task, because one of the key aspects of addiction is denial. Someone with an addiction problem will lie to friends, family, co-workers, and everyone else about their addiction, but the thing one needs to bear in mind while trying to convince them to seek help is that the person they’re lying to the most is themselves.

Can and Should Someone Be Gotten Into Rehab Against Their Will?

Definitely, if that’s the only way for them to get help. There is a common myth about addiction that “In order to get better, addicts have to want it.” This actually isn’t true, because scientific studies show that success rates for those who were forced to go to rehab are remarkably similar to success rates for those who went to rehab voluntarily.

When Is The Best Time To Talk To Someone About Rehab?

First, it’s important to wait until the person is sober. Drugs and alcohol change how the brain processes information, and if the person is under the influence, an addict almost certainly won’t be able to comprehend what one is trying to say.
One should also not have such a discussion in the middle of some incident that has made either one or the addicted person angry or emotional. Wait until the next day, or some time to discuss things more calmly.

What To Focus On During The Conversation

The goal of any “intervention conversation” – whether it’s part of a formal substance abuse intervention or a more private one-on-one conversation – is to get the person to accept help and enter rehab. Try to keep the following general guidelines in mind:

  • Show the concern and care. The essential thing to get across is coming from a place of love and caring, one in which one really want the best for an addict. Saying “I love you” and “You’re not alone” are important, and usually much more effective than “tough love.”
  • Care and compassion are always the best approaches. Although it can be difficult, one should try to take a calm, loving, and compassionate approach to the meeting. Being angry and using harsh words is never productive. Remember that addiction is a disease.
  • Help the person make connections. If they’re lost in a haze of substance abuse, chances are they really haven’t ever made the connection between that abuse and the impact it has on the people and things they love. Make tangible connections that help them to understand that they’ve changed. For example, if addicted used to love golf but don’t play anymore because all the money is going to supporting a drug habit, that’s a tangible connection.
  • Prepare for the conversation by doing research beforehand. The challenge is how to get someone admitted into rehab. So one should know as much as possible about the treatment program. Bring written materials about the facility, their treatment programs, and their success rates.
  • Listen as much as speak. This is a good rule of thumb for any conversation, but it’s essential during a conversation with people one cares about and wants to help. One of the most powerful needs that human beings have is to be seen and heard.
  • Communicate the limits. If a loved one refuses help and doesn’t want to change, make sure to let them know the consequences of that decision. If one feels that can’t continue living with an addicted person while the drugs or alcohol are still being abused, say so. If one is afraid to allow an addicted person to be alone with the kids, be also very clear about that.

Things Not To Talk About

Naturally, there are a few things everyone should avoid when trying to get someone into rehab:

  • Avoid scary stories. Telling to a friend or family member stories about the horrible things that happened to other people when they tried to quit on their own is not helpful. Share hopeful, supportive stories, not negative ones.
  • Don’t compare problems. On the whole, the “No one is perfect and I have problems, too” approach doesn’t work, because frankly no one whose brain is controlled by a serious addiction believes anyone’s problems are as bad as theirs.
  • Don’t say stuff like “You’re so selfish…why don’t you just stop doing drugs?” It would be wonderful if addicts could instantly stop feeding their addictions, but most need help to accomplish that. They can’t just will away a condition that has literally reprogrammed their brain chemistry.

Understand and Communicate the Treatment / Rehabilitation Process

Again, the answer to how to get someone into rehab against their will is to have a plan. One needs to understand and be able to describe detoxification, the difference between inpatient treatment and outpatient counseling, aftercare, and ongoing recovery meetings and techniques.

Be Prepared For Excuses And Evasions

The addicted person might say things like “I can always start rehab next month, when it’s less busy at work”, but thi is just an evasion, a way to avoid having to make drastic changes to their life.
If the person firmly claims having the problem, be prepared with examples to show them that they do. Focus on specific events and incidents to make it harder for the addicted person to use general excuses.

Be Prepared In Case The Conversation Doesn’t Work

While one should always hope for the best when trying to get someone into rehab, one should be prepared emotionally for the possibility that addicted person is not going to be able to. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, only 11% of people with substance abuse addictions actually get the help they needed.
And even if the loved one does agree to enter rehab, it’s not a given that the treatment program will “take” and be successful the first time. An estimated 40% to 60% of people addicted to drugs or alcohol relapse. So, even if such an “intervention conversation” fails and the person refuses treatment, one may have “planted a seed” that bears fruit later.


Page Sources

  1. What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/step-by-step-guides-to-finding-treatment-drug-use-disorders/if-your-adult-friend-or-loved-one-has-problem-drugs
  2. How to Get a Person to Seek Treatment, https://www.narconon.org/drug-rehab/how-to-seek-treatment.html

Published on: May 17th, 2018

Updated on: July 2nd, 2021