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Dealing with someone who has a substance abuse problem can be difficult, especially when you are attempting to speak to them about their addiction. However, with substance abuse in South Africa becoming a rising problem, it is important to know how to talk to people about their addiction without worsening the problem.

To discuss someone’s substance abuse and mental health issues, you need a positive approach. Those who battle with addiction will often react negatively to a harsh or argumentative conversation. You can make a significant impact with your words as well as your actions by not being confrontational or accusing.

If you are planning on speaking to a loved on about their addiction, there are some tips you can follow to make the process positive for both parties.


Create A Safe Space


An essential part of substance abuse awareness is knowing that an unsafe space or a situation where the person feels judged is not conducive to a conversation. You should not come across as confrontational, but rather ensure that the person is comfortable and that your demeanour is pleasant.

By creating a safe, non-judgemental space, you are allowing the person to open up to you. They will be more likely to listen as well as converse, opening up a path to possible treatment. Keep in mind, a person with addiction may not want to have a conversation at first; you may need to have multiple discussions before any success.


Listen As Much As You Talk


Addiction often stems from a specific situation or event in a person’s life. Listening to someone’s story will help you understand why they turned to substance abuse, enabling you to assist them better.

Whether you visit them at a clinic or having a friendly chat at your house, it is essential not to take over the conversation. A person with an addiction is more likely to confide in you if they feel that you are willing to understand them. By not interrupting unnecessarily, shows that you respect them, even though you may not agree with all of their reasoning.

Avoid Angry Reactions


You might feel a considerable amount of anger towards the addicted person, but you need to remember that you are angry at the disease and not at the person. If you come across as harbouring anger towards the person, they will likely want to end the conversation and all future ones, too. You should enter into the discussion with an open mind and a readiness to understand.

While you might feel anger towards some of the actions of the addicted person, it is important not to bring up bad memories or events. Showing anger will create a tense, negative situation in which the person will feel judged and confronted. Rather try to see it from their point of view; many of their actions were guided by addiction and not their consciousness or forethought.


Discuss The Future


When speaking about the future, it is important to focus on the hard facts. What this entails is encouraging your friend or loved one to think about what their future will look like if they continue on the path they are on. It might sound like a scare tactic, but it is merely a communication tool that helps them to see the bigger picture of their addiction.

Many people with substance abuse issues do not think about the future; they are focused on the present and with feeding their addiction. You should try to indicate what their future could look like without help or intervention. Asking them to think about their long-term future could spark a realisation that they need to get help or speak to a substance abuse counsellor. However, you need to remember that you should try to remain as positive as possible so as not to deter or scare the person.


Commit To Communicating


A commitment to communicate consistently throughout the treatment journey is a critical step in talking to someone about their addiction. At first, it might be nearly impossible to reach someone with a substance abuse problem, but if you keep trying, the result is worth the effort.

Remember to create a safe space and listen as much as you speak. Avoid becoming angry, confrontational, and accusing, and talk about the future to spark a reaction. If someone close to you is dealing with addiction, contact Life Path Health to find out how we can assist you.

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