Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Things You Should Never Say to an Addict

man speaking with distressed woman
Drug and alcohol addiction affects everyone differently, but there are some universal dangers to them: they are powerful and can lead to harmful behaviors. If you have ever attended or know someone who has attended an online drug and alcohol course, then you already recognize the challenges that addicts face. Overcoming problems related to substance abuse is hard, and this is only made worse by a callous society that stigmatizes the marginalized.

Words have force, and what people say can affect others emotionally and psychologically. This resonates especially with addicts. Here are a few things you should never say to an addict or someone who is participating in addiction therapy:

“Once an Addict, Always an Addict”
A statement like this implies that addicts are incapable of change. It is completely inaccurate, ignorant, and dismisses the circumstances and life experiences that have led the individual to the present. Saying such a phrase makes individuals feel alienated and misunderstood--and it can even trigger a relapse.

“Going Cold Turkey is the Only Solution”
To go “cold turkey” means to stop using alcohol or a controlled substance suddenly and completely. This pathway to treat addiction is very harmful. It can induce withdrawal, which can trigger both psychological and physiological responses. These responses may include anxiety, mood swings, dizziness, and even seizures. Since suddenly “quitting” a substance can be so dangerous, it is highly recommended that an addict seek pathways to quit through medical supervision or a detox program.

“Get Tough--Pull Yourself Together”
Telling someone to simply “get over” their drug or alcohol problems comes off as patronizing, which is damaging to a person’s self-esteem. While today’s cultural consciousness is biased towards bravado and sheer willpower, the bare truth is that overcoming an addiction is often complex, multifaceted, and takes more than a force of will. Most addicts know that they need help and know what they need to do--and using dismissive language does not help their situation.

If you have a friend who has a substance abuse problem and has just attended an online drug and alcohol course, the best thing you can do for them is to be supportive and empathetic. Instead of filling conversations with idle talk, make a point to listen first. Showing you care is more productive than saying things that mean you don’t.