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Alcohol & Health
Treatment
Helping Alcoholics
Where Does My Call Go?
Updated on September 15, 2023
8 min read

Tips on How to Help an Addict Who Doesn't Want Help?

Why Do People Get Addicted to Alcohol

Alcohol is an addictive substance that releases dopamine and endorphins in the brain. These chemicals are responsible for a sudden rush of pleasure and euphoria which is the primary factor that causes alcohol addiction.

Some people use alcohol to cope with stress, depression, or anxiety, which can increase the likelihood of addiction. It makes them develop unhealthy habits like social isolation and binge drinking.

Other reasons for people to develop an addiction include:

  • Genetic factors such as a family history of alcohol use
  • Psychological factors such as anxiety and other mood disorders
  • Environmental factors such as early exposure to alcohol
  • Alcohol withdrawal’s uncomfortable side effects
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9 Ways to Help an Alcoholic Who Doesn’t Want Help

Friends and family can find it difficult to watch their loved ones suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Although most addicts can act aversive against help, you can still help them on their road to recovery.

Here are some ways to help a friend, family member, or loved one struggling with addiction:

1. Learn About Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

1 in 10 Americans struggle with a substance abuse disorder, and 15 million adults have an AUD. It’s important to seek alcohol addiction treatment if you notice any signs of addiction in your loved ones.2

Before taking action, verifying that your friend or loved one has an active addiction is essential.

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) include:

  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking more or longer than intended
  • Developing a higher tolerance or needing more to feel alcohol’s effects
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Cravings or intense urges to drink
  • Engaging in dangerous behavior while intoxicated
  • Inability to reduce alcohol consumption
  • Memory blackouts or lapses in memory from excessive alcohol consumption
  • Drinking that interferes with school or work responsibilities
  • Withdrawal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and shaking

Understanding these symptoms is crucial in figuring out how to help an alcoholic loved one. If your loved one has one or more symptoms, they may have an alcohol addiction disorder. 

2. Start with a Medical Approach

It can be difficult to help whenever an addict refuses treatment. Because of this, it’s important to contact a medical professional specializing in alcohol and drug use disorders.

Suggest or schedule a routine check-up appointment for the patient suspected of having an alcohol addiction. A medical doctor will be better able to identify their issues and offer proper medical advice toward sobriety.

Doctors can also recommend courses of action or treatment facilities, which can be eye-opening for the addict. Talking to a doctor early can also reduce the impact of an alcohol or drug addiction on the body.

3. Don’t Enable Them

One of the biggest challenges of getting help is curbing activities that subtly encourage addiction. Some ways to prevent yourself from accidentally enabling an addict are:

  • Abstain from drinking with them
  • Discourage them from drinking
  • Refusing to take over their responsibilities
  • Refusing to bail them out of jail
  • Avoiding giving or lending money to them 

It's important to stop enabling these behaviors and instead support them to build healthy boundaries.

4. Be Honest With Them

Honesty can help an alcoholic better understand how their actions affect themselves and those around them. Here are some things to keep in mind before you approach them about their drinking:

  • Don’t be judgmental
  • Be empathetic and sincere
  • Establish a safe environment
  • Don’t talk to them while they’re drunk
  • Show genuine concern for their well-being
  • Explain the consequences of their actions and how it affects others

Ensure that you can have their full attention during this discussion, ideally face-to-face, in a private setting where they can let their guard down. It will help them feel safe to be vulnerable about their condition.

5. Listen With Compassion

Be prepared to face a possible adverse reaction. A person with AUD may be in denial and react angrily to attempts to help them. 

Don’t take it personally; give them time and space to express themself and listen to what they have to say. Having an honest and compassionate conversation can be a great way to encourage recovery. Give them time and space to express themselves.

6. Encourage Them to Get Help

Alcohol addiction is a mental health disorder that requires medical attention. People struggling with alcohol use need a dedicated resource to support them without the addictive substance. 

As someone who supports them unconditionally, you can encourage them to seek help far better than anyone else can. You should urge the person to get into a formal treatment program, ask for concrete commitments, and follow up so they know your words aren’t empty promises.

If you’re unsure how to assist them in this stage of their recovery, you can seek a sober companion’s help. They can guide an alcoholic with their experience and knowledge of different recovery programs.

7. Offer to Take Them to a 12-Step Meeting

In 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholics can build a healthy support group of recovering friends. They’ll learn to break old habits, take new and better actions, and live by spiritual principles. By taking them to the meeting yourself, you can make them feel less anxious and ensure they are committing to treatment.

8. Stage an Intervention

It’s important to remember that an alcoholic who refuses treatment could severely damage their or another person’s life. Because of this, staging an intervention could be crucial.

Consider reaching out to an intervention specialist if an alcoholic refuses treatment. You can stage an intervention with their help to confront your loved one about seeking treatment.

A professional interventionist can:

  • Advise you on how to get the person into treatment
  • Explain what treatment options there are
  • Recommend programs in your area

9. Take Care of Yourself

The emotional impact of helping an alcoholic you love to stay sober can take a toll on your own health. Maintaining boundaries and seeking mental health support can help you stay positive and relieve stress.

You should practice self-care and seek support from a therapist or counselor to maintain your mental health and overall well-being. You can also participate in a program for friends and family members of alcoholics, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.

Why Don’t Alcoholics Get Help

Although people can generally drink a moderate amount of alcohol safely, it is still an addictive substance that can result in dependency. Because addiction changes the brain, an addicted person may resist help.

They may believe their drinking is not an issue or be ashamed or embarrassed to be labeled an addict.1 Although seeking help is an individual choice, there are ways to encourage someone struggling with addiction to get help.

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Risks of Waiting for an Alcoholic to Hit “Rock Bottom”

“Rock bottom” is a term that means an alcoholic’s lowest point, either emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Reaching rock bottom may have devastating and lasting consequences that therapy can no longer heal.

If left untreated, alcoholism at this stage can lead to:3

  • Health problems such as organ failure, disease, etc.
  • Financial problems
  • Legal problems
  • Trouble maintaining relationships
  • Neglecting obligations like work, school, pets, children, etc.
  • Behavioral health disorders such as depression
  • Coma
  • Death

In 2017, 2.6% of roughly 2.8 million deaths in the United States involved alcohol.5 Thankfully, addiction is treatable long before a person suffers rock bottom.

Don’t wait to give alcoholics the help they need. Letting them know the consequences of addiction can be a wake-up call to work on getting sober.

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Available Treatment Options for Alcoholism 

The right treatment option for an alcoholic depends on their unique needs, situation, and addiction severity. The best way to discover the appropriate treatment option for your loved one is to get an addiction specialist’s professional recommendation.

The most common treatment options include:

  • Inpatient programs ⁠— Involve checking participants into a rehab facility for 24-hour medical supervision
  • Outpatient programs ⁠— A treatment program where participants are freely allowed to leave the rehab facility
  • Partial hospitalization programs ⁠— A treatment program where participants stay at a rehab facility for a day and return home at night
  • Dual diagnosis treatment ⁠— A treatment program that addresses co-occurring mental health conditions alongside addiction
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy ⁠— A short-term therapy technique that explores the link between thought patterns and addiction
  • Medication-assisted treatment ⁠— Involves using medication, counseling, and therapy to treat addiction
  • 12-step programs ⁠— Support groups that follow a 12-step process designed to help guide individuals through the recovery process and maintain sobriety

Benefits of Addiction Treatment for Alcoholism

Addiction treatment for alcoholism supports every stage of the recovery process. The positive benefits include:

  • Medical detox and withdrawal support
  • A safe environment
  • Relapse prevention
  • Therapeutic intervention
  • Peer support
  • Family support
  • Aftercare and long-term support

Additionally, treatment can help maintain an addicted person’s physical and mental health while staying sober.

Summary

If your loved ones struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), they may avoid seeking help for different reasons. What’s important is that you stay patient and remain compassionate about their condition.

Most alcoholics aren’t ready to get the help they need, but your presence and willingness to help can encourage them to help themselves. Seek help from professionals such as intervention and addiction specialists to help your loved ones find the path to recovery.

Updated on September 15, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on September 15, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2023.

  2. Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2023.

  3. Basch, G. “Commentary: Don't Wait to Hit Rock Bottom - Treat Alcohol Problems before the Worst Happens.” Chicagotribune.com, Chicago Tribune, 2020.

  4. Kelly, J. et al. “Prevalence and Pathways of Recovery from Drug and Alcohol Problems in the United States Population: Implications for Practice, Research, and Policy.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Elsevier, 2017.

  5. White, A. et al. “Using Death Certificates to Explore Changes in Alcohol‐Related Mortality in the United States, 1999 to 2017.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, 2020.

  6. Meredith, L. et al. “Preliminary study of alcohol problem severity and response to brief intervention.” Addict Sci Clin Pract, 2021.

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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