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Why Do People Struggling With Addiction Lie So Much?

There are few things more painful in life than watching someone you love and care about struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. Unfortunately, addiction may turn someone whom you recognize and have known for ages into someone completely different. You may feel as though you are dealing with a stranger.

Substance abuse and addiction change the way people think, feel, and behave. Addiction can also change someone’s priorities. As their addiction progresses, drugs and alcohol become more important than things like work, school, or family. This is because people struggling with addiction are in survival mode, as their addiction makes them feel as though they cannot function properly without their drug of choice.

Sadly, one consequence of the behavioral changes and the nature of addiction itself is lying and manipulating. Addicts often lie to themselves, loved ones, and strangers for various reasons. They may lie to cover up the fact that they are drinking alcohol or using drugs. They may lie to avoid hurting their loved ones with the truth. They may also lie due to shame, guilt, or embarrassment.

Although lies can be harmful, it’s important to remember that addiction is not a choice–it is a disease or health condition that requires professional treatment.

Lies People Tell When Struggling With Addiction

Addiction and lying go hand in hand, so people struggling with addiction may lie about anything from small details to entire stories. They may lie to their friends, families, coworkers, and even themselves.

Common things addicts will lie about include:

  • Whether or not they used a substance
  • How much or how often they use drugs
  • How they obtain their drugs
  • Money and finances
  • Who they are spending time with
  • Where they are spending time
  • How other aspects of their life are going (job, finances, relationships)
  • Having control over their drug or alcohol use

Common Reasons Why Addicts Lie to Their Loved Ones

Addiction is a complex disease that affects a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. People who struggle with addiction often want to continue abusing substances without interference from loved ones, so they may begin to tell lies about their drug and alcohol use.

Some of the most common reasons why lying is so common among people struggling with addiction include:

Avoid Being Found out for Drug Use

While some substances like alcohol and marijuana are more socially acceptable, other substances like heroin, meth, and fentanyl are not. People who abuse marijuana, alcohol, and even prescription drugs can get away with masquerading their substance use as “fun” or “under control,” while people who abuse other substances are quickly labeled as addicts. Many people struggling with addiction will lie to avoid being found out about their drug use if they are abusing a “harder” substance.

Avoiding being found out can also apply to young people who may not want to get in trouble with their parents or spouses who do not want their intimate partner to find out about their substance abuse.

Shame and Guilt

Many people affected by addiction have a lot of shame and guilt. They are embarrassed about their situation and guilty for their past behaviors, but they still can’t stop getting high. Shame and guilt can be powerful emotions, so it’s not uncommon for addicts to lie to conceal these unpleasant emotions.

Avoiding Confrontation

If an addict’s loved ones find out about their addiction, confrontation or an argument may ensue. Confrontation can be uncomfortable, and it can bring forward emotions of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. If the person doesn’t want to deal with confrontation, they will lie about their substance abuse.

Protecting Loved Ones

Although harmful, some people struggling with addiction lie with the intention of protecting their loved ones. They feel as though it would be more harmful if their loved ones knew the truth, so they tell lies, instead. However, when people find out that they have been lied to for a long time, they are often hurt worse than they would have been if they had originally known the truth.


Like lying, denial and addiction also go hand in hand. Many people who struggle with addiction cannot accept the harsh reality that their substance abuse has gotten out of control. Instead, they deny to themselves and to others that they have a substance abuse problem.

Denial can look like saying things such as:

  • “I can stop whenever I want to stop.”
  • “My substance abuse really isn’t that serious.”
  • “My addiction isn’t bad enough to warrant a trip to rehab.”

How to Tell When an Addict is Lying

If you know that your loved one is struggling with substance abuse and they begin telling you things that simply don’t add up, you should trust your gut–you are probably being lied to.

Signs that an addicted loved one is lying include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Fidgeting with hair, clothing, or hands
  • Giving vague answers
  • Trying to change the subject
  • Speaking in broken fragments
  • Repeating themselves
  • Changing their story so it makes sense
  • Forgetting previous lies
  • Speaking in a higher tone of voice
  • Getting defensive or angry when confronted

What to Do When an Addicted Loved One Won’t Stop Lying

Addiction is a disease characterized by obsessive, compulsive, and drug-seeking behaviors. Although people struggling with addiction don’t have to lie, lying falls right alongside obsessive and compulsive drug seeking. If your addicted loved one is lying to you, you can’t expect them to tell the complete truth until they become willing to accept help.

If an addict is lying to you, you can:

  • Calmly explain to your loved one that you know that is not the truth
  • Reassure them that you will not judge them for the truth
  • Provide evidence about the truth that you know
  • Explain to your loved one how hurtful their lies and deception are
  • Focus on taking care of yourself and putting your personal needs first

Confronting an addict about their lies, deception, and manipulation may make them realize that they can no longer hide their substance abuse. Still, they may deny having a drug problem or refuse treatment. If this happens, there are steps you can take to convince your loved one to go to rehab and get the help they need.

  1. Present attainable treatment options to your loved one and explain to them why you think treatment is the best option
  2. Schedule a doctor’s visit for your loved one and encourage them to speak with their doctor about their drug and alcohol use
  3. Set and enforce healthy boundaries, allowing your loved one to face the consequences of their addiction without your enabling
  4. Stage an intervention to strike an emotional chord with your loved one and make them realize that treatment is necessary

With comprehensive treatment, your loved one can recover from addiction and put an end to the lies they tell. But first, they must accept the reality of their problem and become honest with themselves.

Find Help for an Addicted Loved One

Without treatment, both your loved one’s addiction and lies will get worse. The best thing you can do for them is to encourage them to attend treatment and continue offering your support.

At Mandala Healing Center, our admissions counselors are available 24 hours a day to take your call, assess your needs, and help you or a loved one begin treatment. Learn more about how we can help your addicted loved one by contacting us today.