No single identifying situation specifically points to a person being ready to enter treatment for substance abuse.

A person does not have to be formally diagnosed with a substance use disorder or even want to go to rehab to be ready for treatment.

Signs Someone Might Be Ready For Rehab

Based on information from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are several signs that someone is ready to have their substance use evaluated or that they should consider getting treatment.


Although this may not be the first sign that someone should get involved in treatment, it certainly is a sign that the person is having a serious issue with their use of drugs or alcohol.

Someone who frequently drives while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, uses drugs or alcohol while they operate other potentially dangerous machines, or uses alcohol or drugs in situations where others can be harmed certainly needs an intervention. 

Putting other people’s health at risk due to substance use is a sure sign that the person needs treatment, even if they don’t think they have a problem.


The use of alcohol or drugs often leads to serious physical health issues over time. Individuals often begin to experience emotional problems and issues with mental health due to extended drug or alcohol use.

Different types of substances affect the body and mind in different ways; however, whenever someone begins to experience issues that affect their health as a result of their substance use, it is a sure sign they have developed a problem.


Often, it is not the person who uses drugs or alcohol that first notices they are experiencing issues. It is people close to them. Once friends and/or family members begin to notice that the person is having issues associated with their substance use, it is probably time for them to consider getting treatment.


Whenever anyone who uses alcohol or drugs for recreational purposes begins to experience withdrawal symptoms when they cannot use their substance of choice, it is a sure sign they need help. Developing physical dependence on any substance as a result of recreational use suggests that the person has developed a serious issue.


Losing a job as a result of alcohol or drug use suggests a serious problem. If a person is fired, put on suspension or leave, or given some other sanction as a result of their use of drugs or alcohol at work, it’s a clear sign that treatment is needed. This also includes students who get poor grades, are suspended, or have other issues at school associated with their use of drugs or alcohol.


Personal relationships are often affected by drug or alcohol abuse. Some of the more extreme situations that would indicate the person needs treatment include:

  • Separation or divorce as a result of drug use
  • Loss of parental rights or investigations into fitness to be a parent as a result of drug use
  • Estrangement from important relatives due to drug use
  • Domestic abuse issues associated with drug use

Any significant issues in personal relationships that are a direct result of substance abuse should be a sign that the person is ready for rehab.


Although the presence of legal issues is not a specific diagnostic indicator of a substance use disorder, it is an important sign that the person is having issues with controlling their substance use.


Whenever a person expresses a desire to cut down or stop their use of drugs or alcohol but does not do so, it indicates they are experiencing significant difficulty controlling their use of the substance. Losing control over substance use definitely indicates there is a problem. 


Those who always lie about their use of drugs or alcohol, how much they have used, or issues associated with their use of drugs or alcohol need help.


People who experience injuries or hurt themselves while under the influence of drugs or alcohol should consider getting help. 

How To Approach Someone Who Needs Help

Being “ready” to enter rehab does not necessarily mean the person has decided they have a problem and need to enter rehab. Instead, it means they are experiencing or displaying behaviors that are consistent with the development of a substance use disorder.

These people often need coaxing to get help. If friends and family members were to wait for the person to express the notion that they are ready to enter rehab, they might wait forever.

There are several principles one should consider when approaching someone who needs assistance with getting treatment for a substance abuse problem.

  • Be empathetic and discuss the situation in a caring manner. Instead of accusing them, ask open-ended questions and demonstrate concern. Avoid criticism and arguing.
  • Maintain healthy boundaries. Do not consider yourself the only hope for a person who needs treatment.
  • Encourage responsibility. Do not attempt to cover for them or make excuses for them. Do not provide them with drugs or alcohol, no matter how desperate they may seem.
  • Get help from a professional substance abuse counselor, a physician trained in addiction medicine, or a member of a 12-step group. There is strength in numbers.

Rehab Does Not Have To Be Voluntary

One of the biggest myths associated with substance abuse treatment is that people have to hit “rock bottom,” or they must want to go to rehab for the treatment to be successful. NIDA specifically states that the outcome rates for people who are forced (coerced) into treatment are almost identical to those who voluntarily enter treatment.

It is up to the person in treatment and their treatment providers to understand the issue, want to change it, and then move forward and change the behavior. Thus, a person does not initially have to want to get into treatment, decide that they are ready for rehab, or even voluntarily enter treatment for it to be successful. They just have to take the first step to enroll in treatment.

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