How To Help an Addict Who Doesn’t Want Help

Do you know someone who’s struggling with addiction but refuses to acknowledge their need for help and go to treatment? It’s a common situation, but just because you want to help doesn’t mean you know how to, since the answer often depends on the individual. When you aren’t sure where to start or what to do next, follow these three steps.

Step One: Assess the Severity of the Situation

A straightforward place to start is by simply assessing the severity of their situation. The more serious it is, the more drastic steps you may need to take. However, it is important to note that you may also be less able to help. The best you can do is get assistance from professionals as soon as possible, particularly when their life could be at stake.

When examining someone’s addiction struggles, important questions to ask include:

  • What substances are they actively using or do you suspect them of using?
  • Is their life or health at risk if they continue to drink or use?
  • Are they responsible for the well-being or care of any children?
  • Are they engaging in illegal activities to feed their addiction?
  • Is their behavior actively putting themselves or others in harm’s way?
  • Are they dealing with other mental health issues that also require treatment?
  • Have they tried getting help before?

Once you’ve identified how serious the situation is, you can better gauge the degree of help they need and the urgency with which to proceed. For example, if they’re actively putting themselves in harm’s way but don’t see the danger, you may start by having a conversation about the impact of the behavior and what they risk losing if they continue it.

Step Two: Understand Why They Don’t Want Help

The next step is to try and understand why they don’t want help. There are three common reasons someone refuses treatment:

Life Obligations

When someone is struggling with addiction, it’s common for them to use life responsibilities as a reason for refusing help. Whether it’s their career or family obligations, these individuals may say life is too busy or they have too much going on to be able to put everything on hold and enter treatment. This is often the case of high-functioning alcoholics since they’re able to keep it together but are struggling deep down.

If someone uses these obligations as an excuse, educate them about creative approaches to healing. There are more flexible treatments than traditional rehab, including intensive outpatient and at-home rehab programs that offer the flexibility to continue living life while getting the help they need.

When someone continues to refuse help, remind them of all the good things in their life they’re at risk of losing if they continue using or drinking.


When someone is in denial, they refuse to accept that what they’re dealing with is addiction. Instead, they may blame others instead of taking responsibility. They’re often engaged in codependent relationships that protect them from the fallout of their behavior.

You may want to begin by having an honest conversation with the people in their life who might be enabling their addictive tendencies. From there, you can begin to discuss the harm and damage they’re doing to the people they care about.

If they can recognize the pain their behavior is causing in their loved ones, it can be easier for them to acknowledge their shortcomings and find motivation to improve their life.


Someone who is obstinate remains steadfast in their refusal for help to the point that nothing you say or do will change their mind. While you can’t force someone to enter treatment, you can take steps such as planning an intervention and simply talking with them about how their behavior impacts your life and the lives of others.

If you’re encountering obstinacy, sometimes you have to be able to step back and let them go their own way. For some people, it takes reaching rock-bottom to realize they need help. The best thing family members and loved ones can do in that situation is to draw healthy boundaries and support from a distance.

Do you know someone who refuses to go to rehab? An at-home sober companion could be the alternative approach they need.

Step Three: Draw Healthy Boundaries

After someone continually refuses help with an addiction for months or years, even following interventions and repeated conversations, the family needs to start drawing healthy boundaries if they really want to help their loved one. They have to let their loved one experience the repercussions of their addiction. While that can lead to unpleasant consequences, it’s often the push individuals need. Of course, families should continue to provide care and support while continuing to live their own lives and remaining ready to jump in as soon as their loved one is ready for help.

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Help Your Loved One Find the Help They Need

Whether someone you care about is in denial that they need help or they’re ready to get help, ALYST Health is ready to support you as you explore the next steps. Read more about the best types of treatment for addiction, how to help an addict, or the impact of addiction on family and friends. When you’re ready to talk about how to help the person you care about, reach out to our team today.