How to get an alcoholic into treatment

If an alcoholic (or drug addict) is unwilling to seek help, is there any way the family or friends can get him or her into treatment?

This can be a challenging situation. Since denial is part of the problem and a symptom of addiction, the affected individual actually doesn’t feel the need to get help.

Sometimes, a medical emergency or a police related circumstance can force the alcoholic or addict to get treatment, but we don’t always have to wait for a crisis.


Here are some effective steps you can take to help an alcoholic accept treatment:

Stop the “rescue missions.” It is common for family members to rescue the alcoholic from the results of his addictive behaviour – getting them out of addiction-related jams and making excuses on their behalf. What the family is doing is protecting the addict from his or her behaviour. This way, they don’t allow the alcoholic to face the consequences of their behaviour – therefore, the addicts don’t feel the need to change. What is recommended is that the family allow the individual to fully experience the damaging effects of their addiction – thereby getting motivated to do something about it.

Plan for an intervention. Interventions are great for confronting and motivating an addict to get help for his or her problem. Consult a therapist (your local rehab is a good place to check out). Plan well. A good time is soon after an alcohol-related incident. However both parties should be calm and sober. Check out the treatment options available so that these can be presented during a meeting. Plan well and execute with confidence.

Be supportive but firm. Tell the affected family member that you are concerned about his or her addiction that you would not continue to support or tolerate their behaviour. Relate how his or her addiction has affected the person and the family as a whole. However do convey that you will support treatment. Provide options of treatment facilities that are practical (which you should have researched prior to the intervention).

Spell out the consequences. Tell the affected family member that unless he or she gets into addiction treatment, you will not continue to support – not as a punishment, but to protect yourselves from damaging consequences.

The consequences may vary – from not giving financial support, to banishing him or her from the house to severing ties. The consequences may appear cruel – but do remember that the price you may have to pay otherwise might be heavier. And remember, do carry out the threats. Otherwise, your words become as worthless as the repeated promises of the addict.

Move fast. As soon as there is some indication that the alcoholic or addict may be somewhat willing to get help, move fast. Do the homework before the intervention and get an appointment with the counsellor at the rehab as soon as possible. Remember, the alcoholic is likely to change his or her mind – so move before that happens!

Get help from a friend. If the family member refuses to get help, ask a friend to talk with him or her. The best choice for talking to the addict would be another recovering alcoholic who is sober. Sometimes an elder in the family can be useful as the person may not react easily. Any caring, non-judgemental friend can be a valuable source for communication as well.

Be informed. Do not approach the alcoholic with any pre-conceived notions about addiction. Read up on the subject. Addiction is a disease, not a moral shortcoming. It is also not the lack of “will power” or a result of some emotional trauma. The more informed you are about addiction, the more effective your approach will be.

Getting an alcoholic or addict into treatment can be tough task. However, it’s well worth it!