TEN Things NOT to Say to the Addict in Your Life

Watching a loved one live with addiction is the worst thing possible to experience.  You feel helpless because you cannot do much to STOP it.   But, there are things that you can do and not do that will help the situation overall.  This Post is going to address things NOT to do.  In particular, things that you can say that will do more harm than good.

First off,….Refrain.

When someone close to you is living with addiction issues, it can be a very frustrating experience.  As mentioned above, people want to help the addict, but simply do not know how.  There is no perfect remedy for helping someone addicted to opiates or heroin.  If that were the case, we would have a lot LESS addicts walking the streets today.

Watching someone suffer because of their substance use and addictive behavior—whether it be your spouse, your friend, your neighbor or your co-worker is not easy at all.  It may be perhaps, more difficult and challenging than what the addict themselves are going through.  Feeling helpless to help another person is extremely stressful and draining.

So, What Do You Do?

Of course you want to help, right?  Because that is what good, loving people do.  You probably read a few books, or Googled a couple of articles that told you just how you should act when it comes to dealing with the addicted person in your life. and what you should say to them.  There is plenty of information out there, but we hope that you fully research our site HEROin Me  ( ) before going elsewhere.  We even provide a source where you can purchase relevant books about the subject of addiction:

Or,  maybe you didn’t need to do any research at all because you already know just what your friend or loved one needs to hear.  As soon as your buddy starts listening to you, he or she is going to be clean in no time!  Sure, in a perfect world that would be great.  Problem solving—DONE.

But,  I am here to tell you that a lot of the things you said to your favorite addict didn’t help at all.  It probably hurt worse.  Its not your fault…you had no idea and most people do not.   Some of what you might say are just plain old mean, while others are just trite clichés from the “Things You Say to Addicts” books you read while researching help tools.  Of course, maybe you did get lucky, and you said something on the list that actually helped the addict.  But for the most part, if you said anything from the so-called ‘list’ to the person you were trying to help, at the very least you made them feel ashamed, and at the very most you pissed them off or offended them in some way.

Again, Its Not Your Fault.  Its Innocent Ignorance

This is not to say that you shouldn’t talk to the addict in your life about their problems.  We are NOT suggesting that whatsoever.  You must communicate with the addicts in your life as much as possible.  You may be the only sober person who they speak with on a regular basis.  You might be their only source of help and support.  I can tell you from personal experience that the only thing worse than someone in my life saying something ridiculous to me,  was when they ignored my problem and pretended it didn’t exist.

So give it your best effort, but avoid the following 10 comments:

1.   Why don’t you get help?

This one is just awful. There are a myriad of reasons why a person who is suffering with addiction does not get help. These could be mental health or emotional reasons such as depression, anxiety or shame, or they could be logistical problems like poverty, lack of insurance, or no access to services. Instead of throwing a shame bomb at your loved one or friend about why they have not gotten any help, why don’t you just ask them what help they might need? If you do so and don’t act judgmental while you do, what you find out might surprise you

2.   I am so ashamed of you.

This one is a classic. So the odds are that your loved one already has some issues around self-worth and accepting themselves, which is probably why they started getting all messed up on their drug of choice in the first place. So then when you show up and tell them how pathetic you think they are, it just wraps everything up in a perfect little package. Drop this on your loved one and odds are they are going to head back to whatever they are using at warp speed.

3.   What are you talking about?  You aren’t an addict.

Let’s get this one right out of the way. Whether it be booze, drugs, gambling or sex, the very last thing that someone with a problem wants to hear is that they actually don’t have a problem.  You might think you are soothing your loved one’s anxiety, but in reality you are making them feel like it is pointless to talk to someone about what they need help with and how they are suffering, or maybe even dying. If someone comes to you and puts themselves out there and tries to talk to you about what is going on, for God’s sake, don’t tell them that their problem is all in their mind.

4.   You need to hit bottom.

This one fails on every level. It is possible that he or she actually does need to hit bottom. Who knows, really? But when you say it to an addict, it sounds like you are saying ”Just keep using, sooner or later something will happen that will turn things around.” Even worse, what does that mean? What are you saying? Because a bottom can mean a lot of things. Is your bottom having your girlfriend of six months leave you and getting fired from your job at the insurance company, or does it involve killing someone in a drunk driving accident and going to prison? It makes sense to encourage your friend to get help now, not to wait for something horrible to happen in their life first.

5.   Why don’t you just try to use in moderation?

Oh wow, really? Why didn’t I think of that? I will start doing that right away.  The thing is, maybe this can happen down the road—maybe. But right now, your friend needs to be working on staying away from what is hurting them all the time. If the person could use in moderation, they would be. No one wants to be completely out of control. (Not for long, anyway.)

6.   You are weak.

Addicts aren’t weak. Not at all. Most people that suffer with addiction are fighting all sorts of issues that have to do with all sorts of things every day, things that you could not imagine dealing with. Despite this, most of them don’t quit fighting, ever. What is “weak” is making blanket statements around people struggling with addiction.

7.   You will never change.

Oh, but they will. They actually are changing all the time, you are just not noticing. All human beings have the capacity to change—some will change a little and some will change a lot, some will get worse and some will get better. To point at your friend or loved one and tell them that this is it, that their life will never change, is shortsighted, mean-spirited and not at all productive. This is a great thing to say if you are trying to insult someone—otherwise, not so much.

8.   You have no ambition.

Well maybe, maybe not. Maybe your loved one has so much ambition that it causes them anxiety, and using is their way to cope. Maybe your coworker is so depressed that the only way he can get out of bed and go to work is to indulge in his drug of choice. There are a lot of very successful people with all sorts of ambition that struggle mightily with substances. The bottom line is, you have no idea how little or how much ambition a person has by whether or not they are clean or sober.

9.   You contribute nothing to society.

One does not have to be Columbo to see how this one could blow up in your face. It is fairly likely that your buddy already doesn’t feel like they fit into society, and they think they are a failure in relationships, in academics and their career. When they get drunk, use drugs or act out sexually, it is to mask how out of place they feel in society—and you saying this to them just made them feel way worse about all that, and thus more likely to use. Were you trying to make them more likely to use? No? Then don’t say this.

10.   No one else I know has these types of problems.

Oh yes they do. Really? You honestly think this? All sorts of people you know have these sorts of problems. Your professor in college, your best friend’s wife, your neighbor. You have absolutely no idea how many people are suffering with addiction all around you. Telling your loved one that he is the only one that is this big of a screw-up not only makes you look like a jerk, but an idiot as well.


So, there you have it.  Take heed and keep these sayings in mind as you try your best to help the addict in your life.  It wont be easy.  It will feel impossible and helpless.  But, NEVER GIVE UP.  The most important thing that addicts DO NOT want to hear in general is that they are the only one who is this big screw up and loser.

Why?  Because do you honestly believe this is the case?  All sorts of people you know have these sorts of problems.  You just might not be aware of it.  It could be your professor in college, or your best friend’s wife.  How about your neighbor or co-worker?  Or, perhaps it could be your Pastor of church or a leader in your community.  Addiction strikes anyone and everyone it seeks out.  It takes no favorites or discerns who or who should not become an addict.  Everyone is vulnerable, especially those who have a family history of opiate addiction or alcohol abuse.

I am stronger than opiate and opioid heroin addiction       Please Share Your Comments Below

6 thoughts on “DON’T SAY A WORD!

  1. It is very important to think first what we have to say to someone who is addicted to drugs. We need to understand what they are going through and offer moral support as much as possible. The list of comments that you have presented are very useful and will help someone rethink of what they have to say to someone who suffers drug addiction. It made me realised that they don’t want to become addicts but certain circumstances or events in their lives had put them in that situation.

    1. Yes, this is so very true! Thank you for making a good comment and contributing to this Post. Most addicts certainly did NOT want to become an addict or were naive to the dangers. As for myself, I created because I to, was an opiate addict, but I overcame year ago. I stumbled into addiction after I became dependent on my opioid pain medication…namely Fentanyl. I was legally prescribed all kinds of pain medication like oxycodone, oxycontin, hydrocodone, percocets and Fentanyl BEFORE, DURING and AFTER a series of reconstructive surgeries on my shoulder and neck. My pain was severe and took me out of life almost every day. This entire ordeal lasted over a decade and I still live with chronic physical pain today but I use other methods to cope with my pain than opiate drugs. I became dependent on these drugs because I was on them for so long. Years and years I had to take them to function. The surgeries were suppose to eliminate my, however they actually made things worse because tumors called neuromas formed on my nerves after getting sliced during surgery. A bad situation to say the least that almost took my life. Anyway, point is that I agree with you that I never asked for addiction. It fell on my lap. I never knew the dangers nor did my Doctor ever warn me of them. He was just treating my pain. However, had he done some research of my family history, he would have learned that I was pre-disposed to addiction. Genetically, it runs in my family. Addiction, just like alcoholism is totally genetic and this is exactly why many people fall victim even though they never would have done anything to cause them to be addicted. Today, I focus on helping others who were just like I was years ago. There are so many hurting people who need help. There is a world of young people who need awareness & prevention teachings. We need better treatment methods. We especially need to reduce the number of people who relapse which is 90%. 90% of all heroin addicts relapse during their first week of rehab. My site, I HOPE becomes the go to site for helping people with opiate addiction. HEROin Me is a great place to get information about heroin and opiate addiction. Thanks, Matt B.

  2. Hi MattyBx, I appreciate the thoughts and effort put in the post on the things that shouldn’t be said. Yes, sometimes we unintentionally end up making things worse for the addict instead of improving his condition. Many of the suggestions are not limited to addiction problems only, but also apply to other issues faced in life, like relationships, career and finance. May I suggest a post on 10 things that should be said to help improve and addict or maybe 10 ways to prevent someone from resorting to addiction. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for your Comment and that is a very good point! Things not to say to heroin or opiate addicts could also apply to other challenging situations. Very true! We all know that people are just trying to help the addict or situation, but often times offend people and could make things worse. All in all I know that people mean well. That is a terrific idea, I will write about things that are helpful to say and do with an addict (that would also apply to other troubling situations) and Post. That would be good information and helpful to provide. Thanks you.

  3. Hello Matt

    Thank you for this helpful article, I think everyone should read it because dependence is widespread.

    My girlfriend is going through something that looks a lot like dependence and I often don’t know how to address this issue if at all. This article has at least given me a good overview of what not to say. What are the things that I should say?

    1. Great question as another reader also asked what SHOULD be said to an addict or person dependent on alcohol or in other troubling situations…so I will be writing a Post about ‘supporting comments’ for opiate and heroin addicts along with other challenging situations.

      I am sorry to hear about your girlfriend. All that I can say is that you are NOT alone. There are many, many people who struggle with dependency and addiction and even more people who are the loved-ones who are concerned about the person. For example, one addict will have 10 friends and family concerned about them once they realize their loved one has issues. It is NOT easy to hide dependency problems after a while. Its a tough situation you are dealing with. I would recommend gentling asking her how she is doing and if she is OK. Let her know that she can always talk to you bout anything and everything and that you would support her no matter what. (I think some people keep dependency problems to themselves for fear of rejection, or denial, or getting into trouble or creating drama they dont want). But, just remember that most people dealing with addiction or dependency problems…DO WANT HELP. They do NOT want to be in their situation. They are crying for help inside, but dont want to admit outside what the issues are. They may claim they dont need or want help…but that is only the first layer. Gently break through that first layer and we hope that she (or the person) will begin to open up. Thank you. – Matt B.

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