Why Do Addicts Refuse Treatment?

When your mind is working rationally, it can seem hard to believe that a struggling addict would turn down an offer for help. Overdoses kill millions of people every year, so your loved one is literally being faced with a life or death decision. Chances are, their life probably isn’t so good right now, either. They may have no steady job or happy relationships. What could possibly make them refuse treatment?

If addicts readily accepted the help they were offered, our nation wouldn’t have the substance abuse problems that we do. Unfortunately, getting an addict to commit to a treatment program is oftentimes a long and arduous journey.

Let’s examine some of the most common reasons why addicts refuse treatment and how you can help your loved one find their way.

They view addiction as a weakness and don’t want to ask for help.

As individuals, it’s hard to admit when we are weak and vulnerable. But we generally have enough self-worth that we will ask or accept help when needed. Ironically, those who need the help the most are often the ones to refuse it.

It’s very possible that your loved one is feeling proud right now and wants you to think they have control of the situation. They may also be comfortable doing things their way rather than coming to terms with what’s going on. Remind your loved one that they are not weak and that asking for help is actually a sign of strength and courage.

They are afraid to lose what they have.

Not all addicts who need help are living on the streets with no job, car or money. Some bring home an income – and the income they won’t risk losing. People who have families to take care of may also hesitate to accept treatment. They don’t want to admit to their child that they have a problem, and they don’t want to disrupt anything at home.

Try to understand what it is that your loved one is afraid to lose. Remind them that by not getting help, they are putting themselves more at risk for losing their job or their children. If they were to get clean, they could be a better employee or parent.

They are not ready to quit.

Sadly, not all addicts are prepared to stop using. It can take years for an addict to admit they have a problem and be ready to accept help, even though they may suffer physically, emotionally and financially. If your loved one doesn’t seem to be interested in quitting, it’s going to be challenging to get them on board, at least right now.

What you can do in the meantime is to establish firm boundaries and remove yourself from the role of an enabler. Let your loved one experience the natural consequences of their actions. If you continue to let them live in your home and pay their way, they aren’t going to have a reason to quit.


There are many reasons why addicts refuse treatment, but the above three are some of the most common. Even though you’re probably feeling frustrated right now, don’t give up on your loved one. You can support them without supporting their habit, so continue to keep treatment options open and discuss them regularly. The River Source is here when you need us, so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns!

About the Author

Director of Marketing and Admissions

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