How to Talk with an Addict

Together We Can
Together We Can
Published in
3 min readJun 18, 2021


Young man lighting a marijuana joint
When a person abuses mind-altering substances, their mind disconnects in varying degrees.

When a person struggles with substance abuse, the family and other relatives often find it difficult to speak with the person. This is normal if you do not have the background training and professional qualifications. There are things that a person should be aware of when attempting to reason with alcohol, drug, or medication abuser. Even if each category has its own particularities, certain guidelines and methods can reach the person.

Two men sit on a curb facing each other and talking
Meet a person where they are at

Communication and Receptiveness

Usually, a person in a normal state of mind will have some attention to receive various communications. Simple things like phone calls, verbal communication, and written words are well received. In general, people will understand what is said or written and reply in a normal manner. When a person abuses mind-altering substances, their mind disconnects in varying degrees. This means their attention is elsewhere. Either in some mental fog, dreamlike state, or semi-consciousness. Toxic substances such as drugs or alcohol create an alteration in awareness by directing it inwards, causing a state of introversion.

To attract their attention, a person will often feel the need to use a more “effective” form of impact. They will achieve this by loud noises, yelling, slamming doors, etc. And even when this is done, the person will only have a few moments with you before they drift off again. Or, as can be observed, they introvert further and collapse any chance of you reaching them.

The Enabler

The most common barrier to speaking with a loved one suffering from drug or alcohol abuse is the enabler. As stated by certified Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist Susan Chubbs, at ARC Services, in her article “What is an enabler.” Susan defines this person per the dictionary as: “One who enables (give the authority or means to do something) in order to continue the self-destructive behaviour (such as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behaviour.” There is a barrier to talking with an addicted person about the problem because of the other person’s continued supportive actions, the enabler. A large percentage of substance abusers will have someone in their environment enabling them by different means.

First Steps First — The Enabler

Zeroing in and handling the enabler will be the first action you should take to talk with an addict. This action will give the possibility of meaningful dialogue with the person suffering from addiction. When the enabler is spotted and handled, the next step is to find a time when the person is not under the influence. In other words, the person is sober. The window may be for only one day or even a few hours. Even if drugs are still in their system, your chance of getting their attention increases tenfold. You need to have a calm, friendly, non-upsetting, and non-challenging attitude with the substance abuser. Keep in mind that the person is physically, emotionally, and mentally weakened, and things can easily trigger.

How to talk with an Addict — How to Approach

The best approach is to let them know that you are interested in their life and what it is like for them at this time, as a friend. At this point, you are not there to help them, scold them, or make them feel guilty for their actions. They must feel safe to talk and share their life experience and thoughts with you. Because each person is different, there is no pat way of approaching them, but there is a way to start the conversation. Speaking with an experienced addiction counsellor at Together We Can, will further shed light and guide you to help that person you care about.

Light box with words time for change illuminated
Recovery from addiction is possible.



Together We Can
Together We Can

Together We Can is a drug & alcohol recovery treatment center in Vancouver BC.