man trying to avoid addiction manipulation from someone with a drug or alcohol problem

If you have a friend or family member who struggles with a drug or alcohol addiction, being able to identify the signs of addiction manipulation can help address these behaviors. Recognizing manipulation tactics in people with an addiction is essential for both loved ones and the addicts themselves, as it is a crucial step for rehabilitation and recovery.

What is Addiction Manipulation?

When someone struggling with addiction uses a range of tactics and behaviors to manipulate others, it’s often driven by their dependency on drugs or alcohol. People with an addiction might lie about their substance use, whereabouts, or activities. They may also make false promises about quitting or reducing their drug or alcohol use. Using emotions to control others, people with a substance use disorder (SUD) might evoke guilt, fear, sympathy, or obligation in their friends and family. They might try to play the victim or blame others for their behaviors and drug addiction.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation used to make others doubt their memories, judgments, or perceptions. An alcoholic or drug addict might insist that events didn’t happen as the other person remembers, especially regarding incidents related to their addiction. By highlighting their hardships, addicts try to obtain sympathy to redirect attention from their drug or alcohol problem and receive leniency or support from loved ones.

People with an addiction often shift responsibility for their actions onto others, suggesting that external factors or other people’s behaviors are the cause of their addiction. They might use financial manipulation, such as stealing money, manipulating others into paying for substances or creating scenarios where others feel obligated to provide financial support. In some cases, people with an addiction may resort to threats, either against themselves (like self-harm) or against others, to get what they need for their substance addiction. They will portray their need for drugs or alcohol as a matter of urgency or life-and-death to compel others to provide or allow access to the substance.

Often, people with drug or alcohol addictions will make promises of change or commitments to rehab as a way to satisfy concerned loved ones without actual intention or follow-through. Leveraging the emotional bonds they have with others, people with an SUD might manipulate those who are emotionally invested and close to them, knowing they are more likely to give in. Another sign of addiction manipulation is downplaying the severity of the addiction or denying it to avoid confrontation and to continue drinking or using.

Recognizing the Signs and Manipulative Behaviors of an Addict

Recognizing the signs of manipulation, particularly in the context of a drug and alcohol addiction, is vital for protecting oneself and loved ones from potentially harmful influences. Manipulation in addiction often involves subtle and complex tactics that can be challenging to identify. Here are vital signs and behaviors to be aware of when identifying a manipulator with a drug or alcohol problem:

  • Emotional appeals and guilt-tripping
  • Gaslighting
  • Isolation
  • Flattery and excessive praise
  • Constant crisis
  • Shifting blame
  • Inconsistency and unpredictability
  • Pressure tactics
  • Lies and deception

Recognizing these signs is the first step in protecting oneself from manipulation. It’s essential to maintain healthy boundaries, seek support, and, if necessary, seek professional advice when dealing with addiction manipulation.

Healthy Strategies for Handling Addiction Manipulation

Spotting the signs of addiction manipulation in loved ones and handling their behaviors can be challenging. Finding healthy and effective ways to deal with manipulative behaviors is beneficial for both the well-being of those being manipulated and the person struggling with addiction. Having a loved one who struggles with substance abuse can be physically and emotionally draining, especially when they have no intention of getting clean and going to rehab. Here are some strategies to consider when dealing with a manipulative person with an alcohol or drug problem:

1. Establish and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

Clearly define your limits regarding what behaviors you will accept and what you won’t. Establish these boundaries with your loved one and stick to them firmly, even if difficult.

2. Seek Knowledge and Understanding

Educate yourself about addiction and different manipulation tactics that people with drug or alcohol problems use. Understanding the nature of substance abuse and addiction can help you empathize with your loved one without enabling destructive behaviors. Understanding the process of recovery, including the risk of relapse, can help you maintain realistic expectations and respond appropriately when sending a loved one into rehab.

3. Develop Emotional Awareness

Be aware of your emotional responses to manipulation from someone with an addiction problem. Developing this emotional awareness means recognizing feelings like guilt or obligation that manipulators often employ and learning to respond to them healthily and constructively.

4. Practice Assertive Communication

Communicating your thoughts and feelings clearly and assertively without aggression is another healthy boundary with manipulators. Assertive communication allows you to express yourself honestly while respecting your loved one.

5. Avoid Enabling Behaviors

When dealing with someone with a drug or alcohol addiction, it’s important to distinguish between helping and enabling. Avoid actions that might inadvertently support the addictive behavior, even if they seem helpful on the surface. As a family member or friend of a person with a substance use disorder, sometimes offering your help and assistance can enable them and further contribute to their substance abuse.

6. Self-Care and Personal Well-being

Prioritizing your own mental and emotional health is critical when dealing with a manipulative loved one. This may involve engaging in activities that reduce stress, seeking emotional support, or setting aside time for rest. Positive behaviors and practices like self-care can strengthen you emotionally, equipping you to handle their manipulative behaviors. Sometimes, the healthiest option may be to distance yourself from the manipulative person and situation, mainly if it’s affecting your emotional health and well-being.

7. Build a Support Network

Surrounding yourself with people who understand your situation and offer emotional support and advice when needed can be constructive. Building a good support network might include friends, family, or support groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon for families and friends of people with an addiction.

8. Seek Professional Help and Support

Professional guidance and support from therapists, counselors, or addiction specialists can be invaluable in navigating and coping with addiction manipulation. While you can offer support to a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, professional treatment is often necessary for overcoming addiction. Encourage the person struggling with addiction to seek help and treatment at a drug rehabilitation center.

9. Practice Patience and Compassion

Remember that addiction is a complex disorder, and change and recovery often take time. Practice compassion and patience, both for yourself and the person struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. Implementing healthy strategies can help provide a balanced approach to dealing with addiction manipulation. These tactics ensure you protect your well-being while also addressing an addicted loved one in a constructive and empathetic manner.


Addiction can be a physically and emotionally draining disease to manage, but you don’t have to do it alone. Rock Recovery Center is here for you.

Our drug and alcohol rehabilitation services in West Palm Beach, FL, take a holistic approach to addiction treatment. Contact us today for more information and get started on your road to recovery.




  • Very Well Mind, 2023. Is Someone Gaslighting You? Learn the Warning Signs.
  • PsychCentral, 2022. Manipulation: Signs, Causes, and Types of Manipulative Behavior.
  • WebMD, 2022. Are You Enabling a Loved One’s Addiction?
  • Al-Anon. Al-Anon Family Groups.
  • Nar-Anon. Nar-Anon Family Groups.