Addiction and Denial

Clear Treatment


Addiction is tenacious seeking and compulsive use of a chemical substance without regard for consequences. On the other hand, denial is the refusal to accept the truth. Yet together, these two create the perfect storm.



Denial is a serious psychological problem, but it’s a little difficult to explain. It’s as if a part of the mind shields the rest of the mind from reality. The mind actually tries to protect itself from a problem, by denying the existence of a problem.

Some drug users don’t know they have a problem. Others intentionally refuse to acknowledge a problem. Yet, more often than not, most don’t want to know. At the very least, they don’t want to know the entire truth. Some may even cringe at the very thought of having their illusions shattered.

Just try to persuade a person to acknowledge a problem, from someone who doesn’t want to know they have a problem. It can be a difficult endeavor. In general, it’s counterproductive to tell a person they have a drug problem, since this may elicit defensiveness. An alternative approach is to express concern about the consequences of their drug use. Oftentimes, it’s more effective to state, you were arrested for DUI, or you were fired for a dirty urine test, or you overdosed last Thanksgiving holiday, rather than saying, you’re an alcoholic or drug addict.


Parental Denial

It’s completely natural for a parent, sibling or spouse to not want to believe the worst about someone they love. Family members may go about their daily lives as if a loved one’s drug problem doesn’t exist or isn’t that bad. Consequently, they enable the drug abuser, which means they unintentionally become complicit to his or her downfall. The drug abuser is already in grave danger, but when you add in an enabler, the problem gets worse. For some drug abusers, an enabler may facilitate their ultimate downfall.


Denial is a Defense Mechanism

Addiction teaches drug abusers to delude themselves into believing that nothing is wrong, i.e. denial, when in fact, something is obviously wrong. Therefore, the main problem never gets addressed. To make matters worse, denial becomes the go-to defense mechanism. Therefore it expands into other areas of their lives.

If a heroin addict man denies he has a drug problem, he can just as easily deny other things. Watch how surprised he behaves when the boss fires him. The point here is if a person practices denial as a matter of course, that person is living outside reality. If that person lives outside reality he or she is self-destructing to greater or lessor degree. Reality is a person’s most powerful condition in life and by striving towards greater reality he or she empowers themselves and typically lives a much healthier and much happier existence.


Breaking through Denial

Way down deep within an addict’s mind he or she knows there is a problem. During an intervention or when confronted by a spouse or parent, the addict typically becomes frightened, and acts defensively. He or she may even act out aggressively with cursing, yelling or slamming doors. The point here is that drug abuse, irrational thinking and defensiveness are prevalent attributes of being an addict and all three are inherently anti-social. When people are confronted on their bad behavior, they either admit they’re at fault and try to change, or become more defensive and more irrational.

Interventions are designed to confront and wear down irrational thinking and defensive behavior. Thinking irrationally and acting defensively can be exhausting. That is why just a few hours of confronting a drug addict and he or she may simply quit fighting. Experience has shown us, time and time again, that enabling kills but confronting saves lives.