How to Explain Addiction to a Non Addict

Here are some tips for how to explain addiction to a non addict.

If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol and looking into treatment programs, you may be wondering how to explain addiction to a non addict, such as a parent, friend, or co-worker. Addiction is a complex disease of the brain, and it’s recognized as such by the medical profession and the government. But it’s no wonder that so many people wonder how to explain addiction to a non addict: A recent Associated Press poll found that 44 percent of Americans believe that addiction is merely a lack of discipline or willpower, and thirty-four percent believe that it’s the result of bad parenting or a defect in character. Trying to explain addiction to someone who doesn’t understand it can be a challenge.

Here, then, are four tips that’ll help you understand how to explain addiction to someone who doesn’t understand addiction.

1. Understand addiction yourself.

Trying to explain what it means to be addicted to someone who isn’t addicted can be very difficult. If you don’t know how to explain addiction to a non addict, you may have trouble understanding it yourself. So the first step is to understand what addiction is so that you feel comfortable talking about addiction to someone who isn’t addicted.

The fact is, addiction is a result of changes in the chemical functions and physical structures of the brain. It’s driven by the same brain functions that govern your survival instinct. When you heavily abuse substances, your brain may eventually begin to equate wanting drugs or alcohol with needing them. Intense cravings and changes in your thought and behavior patterns will result in compulsive drug use despite the negative things that happen because of it. This is the main characteristic of addiction.

2. Explain that your addiction doesn’t define you.

Sometimes, people just assume addiction is a choice because they’ve never really given it much thought other than in the context of pop culture, where “addicts” are deeply flawed, down-and-out, and often criminal people who seem to bring nothing bad luck on themselves. People who have no experience with addiction often don’t realize that more than 23 million American adults are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and the majority of them are gainfully employed and good citizens. Addiction doesn’t mean someone is a bad or immoral person. It’s a disease that–much like heart disease or diabetes–anyone with the right risk factors can develop.

3. Refer to reliable sources.

One of the best tips for how to explain addiction to someone who doesn’t understand addiction is to point the person to reliable sources. People are likely to trust medical organizations like the American Medical Association, the American Society for Addiction Medicine, Harvard University Medical School, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, all of which stress that addiction is a disease–not a choice or a moral issue–and should be treated as such. People are also likely to trust government organizations like the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which stresses that willpower and good intentions are rarely enough to end an addiction for the long-term. The National Council on Addiction and Drug Dependence, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and all of the National Institutes of Health regard and treat addiction as a medical disease that requires medical intervention, just like any other disease.

4. Offer them ways they can support you.

When talking about addiction to friends, family members, or co-workers, don’t hesitate to let them know how they can support you in recovery. Even if they don’t understand addiction, if they’re supportive of you and want what’s best for you, they’re probably willing to do what they can to help you succeed. Let them know what you need, whether it’s moral support, help finding resources, or spending quality time together having fun.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.