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How to Discuss Substance Abuse Concerns with Loved Ones

How to Discuss Substance Abuse Concerns with Loved Ones

Substance abuse is an incredibly sensitive topic and it’s never easy to open up the conversation when you are concerned about a loved one. When discussing your concerns to a friend or family member, it’s important that you approach it with care and clarity. Walk the fine line between direct and firm, while still being compassionate and understanding. These discussions can never be planned out to a tee, but you can still enter the situation with clearly defined talking points and reference items. We’ve compiled a list of things to consider when planning an intervention to discuss substance abuse concerns with a loved one.

Understanding Interventions – Who is Involved

Before you can hold an intervention for your loved one, you need to wholeheartedly understand what an intervention is and what goes into it. An intervention should be held in collaboration with a doctor or mental health clinician/counselor. Involving a professional ensures that there is a “neutral” party present, and also gives peace of mind that there’s someone with experience in interventions there and ready to prevent a crisis. They can help prevent the intervention from becoming chaotic.

Aside from an intervention specialist, you should gather other people who are close to your loved one. This can include other family members, close friends, and anyone else that has a close relationship with them and is focused on helping them get into addiction recovery. An intervention cannot be a spur of the moment conversation, it has to be planned to be successful.

Determine What You Want to Say

For a successful intervention, you must be clear on what you want to say. Come prepared with key concerns, and the information or “evidence” you have witnessed to support your point. You must be able to back up the claims you are making. However, it’s important that you don’t come across as confrontational or aggressive. Instead of saying “you have a problem,” try “we are concerned that you may be going through a hard time.” This puts the focus on yourself, making it feel less accusatory while still reflecting that the concern is there. Instead of pointing fingers, extend a helping hand. 

To keep the conversation focused and on-track, you need to have a clear direction to go in, with an opening, discussion, and closing. The end game for the discussion is to have your loved one willingly enter addiction recovery treatment. However, don’t get discouraged if they are not receptive to that at first.

Resources to Bring

When staging an intervention for your loved one, you need to come prepared with impact statements in addition to your talking points. An impact statement is exactly what it sounds like: a statement that directly details how your loved one’s substance abuse has impacted them and the relationship they have. These are a powerful part of an intervention because they help your loved one understand how their substance use affects more than just themselves. Like your talking points, impact statements should not contain personal attacks on the subject, and should be written from a place of love and honesty.

Along with your impact statements, you need to have a “backup plan” in place. Although the goal is to get your loved one to accept addiction recovery treatment, that is not always the case in interventions. Be sure to have your boundaries laid out, are you prepared to cut off contact if your loved one does not get treatment? Do you have to cease financial support if they do not accept help? Determine what boundaries you need to have in place if the intervention does not go as expected. These boundaries should not be hostile, but rather come from a place of care and desire to not enable your loved one that is struggling with substance abuse. Be prepared to follow through on these boundaries if the intervention does not go as planned.

The Aftermath

Once you have conducted your intervention, be sure to follow up. If they decide to enter addiction recovery treatment, follow through on supporting them in finding the right detox and rehab center. If they choose not to get help, still follow up with them, while still maintaining the boundaries you put in place during the intervention. Continue to remind them that you care about them and are concerned. Let them know that you will be there for you if they decide to seek treatment after the fact. This will help your loved one understand that you are genuine, and can potentially steer them towards eventual treatment.

About Rise Above Treatment

Rise Above Treatment is a Murrieta, California based addiction treatment center that is committed to helping people recover from drug, alcohol, and other mental health concerns that are holding them back. We offer a range of services, including medical detox, residential rehab, addiction PHP, sober living options, and intensive outpatient programs. If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction, visit us at or give us a call at ‭(855) 948-6325‬ and begin your journey to recovery.

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