4 Things to Never Say to an Addict

If you know an addict, you might be unsure of what to say to them. This can be even more difficult if you live with them or are in a relationship together. What’s just as important as what to say to an addict is what not to say. There are certain things that are considered greatly demeaning and unhelpful to those coping with addiction. To show your support, you need to refrain from saying them. Here are four things to never say to an addict.

1- “You need to quit already.”

Addicts know better than anyone that they need to quit. Their addiction has gotten the best of them, and they’ve learned that it’s not something they can hide like they thought they could. They hide their addiction out of shame and pride. The fear of being humiliated for their addiction plays a significant factor in their keeping it to themselves. When they share that they’re an addict with you, it’s an incredible show of vulnerability.

While you should be encouraging them to get sober and steering them away from harmful behaviors, you should not be doing so in a chastising way. Don’t hold their addiction over them in a way that makes them feel embarrassed for who they are. Addiction is not something that can be overcome through shame. They need to know that you’re supporting them.

2- “It’s not that bad.”

The seriousness of an addiction isn’t something to be treated flippantly. Telling an addict that their addiction isn’t an issue is a huge problem. You’re essentially telling them that you’ve determined the severity of their health issue for them. This can be a form of enabling, as you’re allowing them an excuse to continue with their addiction. It also signals that you’re not listening to them and trying to downplay their issues. To be a true friend to an addict, you need to take them seriously when they talk about their struggles.

3- “This is the right way to get clean.”

Addiction is too complicated to be handled universally in one specific way. While some are able to get clean relatively quickly, others need extensive help. Things like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous work great for some but not so great for others. Addicts need to find whichever methods of getting clean work best for them. Don’t try to pressure an addict to conform to a certain standard. It’s important that they are able to try as many methods as possible and find ones that they’re most comfortable with.

4- “You don’t seem like an addict.”

There is no one label that can be put on addicts. No one sets out to become an addict, and our understanding of addiction is barely developed. Anyone can become an addict. So, it’s insulting to imply that there’s some sort of image of addiction that all addicts adhere to. When speaking with an addict, you should do your best to be aware of any pre-existing biases you have. Think before you speak and ask yourself if what you’re about to say could be considered offensive or insensitive. Addicts are not meant to be viewed as any lesser than those who don’t have addiction problems.

These four things to never say to an addict are not meant to absolve the addict of all blame for things they’ve done. Instead, it’s meant to help people better understand how addicts are stigmatized through insensitivity. With these tips, you can gain a greater awareness of how to be more mindful of how to interact with addicts in a way that’s beneficial.

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