What If An Alcoholic Refuses Treatment or Rehab?

Compare Rehab UK | What If An Alcoholic Refuses Treatment or Rehab?

What Should You do if Someone Refuses Treatment?

When a loved one suffers from drug or alcohol abuse but refuses treatment, it can be extremely tough. Everyone who loves and cares about them suffers when they refuse treatment or do not accept they have a problem. Friends and family members of addicts may live in shame and silence. Addiction is a complex and vicious disease, yet it may be treated.

When an addict refuses treatment for their addiction, it may look like you have failed them. Hearing that they have an addiction problem might be challenging for those who are struggling with it. If users recognise and accept that they have a problem, they are more likely to succeed in rehabilitation.

You may feel obliged to intervene if a loved one in your life refuses to act on their own. Because this is a potentially delicate situation, thinking about what to say and do before acting is crucial. There are certain steps you can do to help you deal with the problem and provide your loved ones with the care they need.

Addiction is a serious problem that requires immediate attention. Get Confidential Help Now. Call our 24h admissions line to get help – 0800 999 1083.

1. Admit There is a Problem

It doesn’t help anyone if you’re in denial. It can be difficult to accept that your loved one has an addiction that is out of hand and life-threatening. While this may not appear to have a direct influence on the person who is suffering, you are acknowledging the problem and preparing to be a support system for your loved one. It’s not easy for either side, but when it comes down to it, they must change, and you must support them.

Everyone that’s close to the addict must admit the situation. It’s not only the addict that can be in denial, but also their close friends or family.

2. Educate Yourself About the Problem

When a family member battles with a drug or alcohol use disorder, the first step is to educate yourself about the disease of addiction. Addiction is a chronic (but treatable) medical disorder that involves intricate connections between brain circuits, heredity, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. Addicts use substances in a compulsive manner, despite the negative effects. Your loved one may not recognise, or deny, that they have an addiction problem. If you have a better understanding of addiction, you will be able to better handle the problem.

Educate yourself about the addiction to discover what they’re going through. While each addiction is different and may be more traumatic than anything you’ll find online, withdrawal symptoms and other comparable features are frequently linked with them. Understanding addiction can assist you in planning for the future and keeping an eye out for any sign of an overdose.

It’s also useful for reaffirming your viewpoint in case of future involvement. It’s impossible to comprehend the severity of the issue from a third-party perspective if you have no idea what your loved one is going through. To better grasp your loved one’s role in all of this, do your research and learn about the specific drug or alcohol difficulties that they are dealing with.

Addiction includes multiple stages and pinpointing your loved one’s specific stage might be challenging. It can mean the difference between being able to talk to them one-on-one and realising they’ve gone too far or figuring out where they are in their addiction and taking appropriate steps.

You can learn more about drugs or alcohol addiction by consulting online resources or you can also join support groups for loved ones of those with addictions.

3. Manage Expectations

Addiction is a serious illness that affects many different sections of the brain. As a result, you should manage your expectations that your loved one will go to treatment. Addiction creates a lot of defence mechanisms that make determining whether or not they’re willing, or even ready, to start recovery difficult. Be prepared for the repercussions when you sit down and communicate your concerns about your loved one’s addiction to them, but never lose hope. Some examples of commonly employed defence mechanisms may include:


Your loved one can reject that there is an issue and refuse to accept reality.

Guilt Avoidance and Projection

Your loved ones may turn their attention away from themselves and blame others for their addiction. Also, your loved one may blame others for their negative feelings, decisions or behaviours.

Your loved one may exhibit irrational or improper behaviours, attitudes, and feelings in an attempt to justify themselves to others.


Distorted thinking is a major challenge when dealing with someone who is seriously addicted.

Thought distortions can make interacting with such a person extremely difficult, even if you perceive the situation correctly.

Addiction is a serious problem that requires immediate attention. Get Confidential Help Now. Call our 24h admissions line to get help – 0800 999 1083.

4. Healthy Boundaries Can Help You Protect Everyone

Healthy boundaries are vital in all of your relationships, but they are especially important in a connection with someone who’s addicted. Taking care of yourself, recognising and valuing your will and desires and speaking openly are all part of this process. When your loved one refuses to attend addiction treatment, you can regain some control and stability by establishing firm boundaries. It’s critical to enforce appropriate boundaries in these situations to protect yourself and others you care about.

If you find yourself engaging in any of the following behaviours, it may be time to set suitable boundaries:

  • Criticising someone you care about;
  • Telling your loved one what to do on a regular basis;
  • Protecting your loved ones from the consequences of their conduct by enabling them (for example, lying for them, calling in sick for them at work, picking them up from the bar, etc.);
  • Avoiding confrontation by walking on eggshells around a loved one.

Here are some examples of good boundaries you can set with a loved one who refuses to seek treatment:

  • “No drugs or alcohol are permitted in this house or in the presence of any member of our family.”

You may build a healthy, firm boundary immediately by letting your loved one know those addictive substances are not permitted in your home. After that, inform your loved one of the repercussions of breaching that barrier (or any other boundary you establish), and make sure to enforce those penalties.

  • “You must understand that if you are arrested for any reason, I will not bail you out or pay for your legal representation.”

If a loved one refuses to get treatment, they must also recognise that they are adults who must accept responsibility for their actions.

Make it obvious to your loved one that they must follow the law as well as the rules of your household.

  • “I won’t let any of your drug-abusing buddies inside my house.”

Setting limits about who is allowed in your house is also vital, especially if your loved one refuses treatment and lives with you. When talking with your loved one about who you don’t want in your home, be precise about who those people are. This boundary helps you and your family avoid some of the negative consequences of addiction.

5. Follow Trough On Consequences

If your loved one does not respect your boundaries, you must follow through with repercussions. Many people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs regard repercussions as meaningless threats. It’s crucial to follow through on your threats so that they realise you’re serious. You might have to take away their internet access, financial aid, or force them to leave. You are the only one who can decide which repercussions are appropriate in which scenario.

6. Stop Enabling

When you actively or indirectly encourage someone’s addiction, you are enabling them. Do you provide financial support to a family member who refuses to seek treatment? Do you let them stay with you? Do you buy them food or assist them with their obligations when their addiction makes it difficult for them to perform their responsibilities on their own? Enabling also includes covering up for a loved one’s addiction. Perhaps you hide the real motive and justify your loved one’s absences from their job, school, or family gatherings.

When you quit enabling someone with an addiction, you give them the chance to fully confront the consequences of their actions. Your loved one may begin to realise how much control their addiction has over all aspects of their life if you don’t help them. You make them work harder to maintain their drug-seeking behaviours, which may lead them to seek treatment.

There are strategies to avoid becoming an enabler if you’ve recognised yourself as one or have been labelled as one by someone else.

Refuse to contribute financially to their vice. Be anti-combative rather than confrontational about it. Give an explanation if they ask for a favour and you decline. When someone feels ganged up on, it might lead to their disappearing for days at a time, which is always concerning.

7. Contribute With Your Support

Even if your loved one first rejects treatment, it’s vital to let them know that you’ll be there for them when they’re ready. Providing informational materials on treatment centres is a great way to help someone understand what addiction treatment involves.

You can let your loved one know that help is available when they are ready by regularly providing support and establishing appropriate limits.

Let the person know that you are always there for them. By avoiding bringing it up directly or revealing anger, you’re demonstrating to them that you’re not being judgmental and simply want to assist them.

After a few of these short, non-confrontational conversations, you may notice significant changes in behaviour. You’ve arrived at a crucial point in the recovery process when someone is genuinely trying to overcome their addiction and showing it. If you keep offering your support and they respond appropriately, they may eventually admit to you that they have an addiction and that they need treatment.

Addiction is a serious problem that requires immediate attention. Get Confidential Help Now. Call our 24h admissions line to get help – 0800 999 1083.

8. Don’t Make Use Of Guilt

It’s all too easy to confuse the idea of an ultimatum with lecturing or guilting an addicted person into quitting their vice. Under no circumstances should you try to persuade them to give up their habit. It’s a no-no to use phrases like “How could you do this to me,” or anything else that may make the person feel guilty or ashamed.

It may be tempting to use lectures, ultimatums, and guilt against your loved one in an attempt to get them to stop drinking or taking drugs and begin treatment. This is, however, never a good idea.

It is ultimately up to them to decide whether or not to begin recovery. Providing treatment support and resources is a better method to encourage your loved one to seek help. When you use guilt, such as when you say, “How could you do this to me?” you are adding to the guilt and humiliation that your loved one already feels. This might lead to increased substance misuse and resentment.

9. Think About Hiring an Intervencionist

If your loved one refuses to undergo treatment after talking to them about their addiction, it may be time to stage a professional intervention. An intervention is a one-on-one meeting with your loved one, family members, or friends. With the guidance of a qualified substance abuse counsellor, everyone plans what they want to say to the person.

Interventions force the addict to face the consequences of their addiction to themselves and those closest to them and are especially efficient when done in a specialised treatment facility where it’s also possible for professionals to provide medical advice for the available treatment options. If your loved one refuses to accept treatment, an intervention can be a powerful tool for persuading them to make the correct choice.

Alcohol Rehab

10. Self Care

You can only control your own actions in the end. If your loved one refuses to begin treatment despite an intervention, you must look after your own needs.

Perhaps you can find hope by joining a support group. Support groups are important because they allow you to meet with people who know firsthand how difficult your situation can be. Take time to exercise, consume a healthy diet, and get enough sleep to reduce stress.

By seeking therapy for yourself, you may eventually inspire your loved one to seek help as well. Your loved one may decide to follow your example as you become healthier because you have the potential to inspire someone who is battling addiction.

Addiction is a serious problem that requires immediate attention. Get Confidential Help Now. Call our 24h admissions line to get help – 0800 999 1083.

Last Edited: September 19th, 2022
Clinically Reviewed: April 12, 2022
Compare Rehab UK | What If An Alcoholic Refuses Treatment or Rehab?
Clinical Reviewer


BACP accredited psychotherapist with 16 years experience working in mental health specialising in psychodynamic person-centred therapies treating those with a range of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, OCD and Addiction.