This is Archived Content

This content is available for historical purposes only. It may not reflect the current state of science or language from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Find the latest information on substance use, health, and NIDA research at

The chart below contains examples of how patients might resist talking with you about their drug use and going into formal treatment and provides appropriate responses to help improve patient outcomes. Please note: these responses may not be applicable in every case.

NOTE: Click box below to view clinician response.

Patient Resistance Scenario 1
Patient answers “no” to any drug use, seemingly without considering it thoughtfully or is reluctant to give details.


Patient Resistance Scenario 2
Patient is uncomfortable disclosing personal substance use on a form.


Patient Resistance Scenario 3
Patient appears ashamed or embarrassed about recommendations to change substance use behaviors.


Patient Resistance Scenario 4
At-risk patient appears ambivalent to the idea of changing his/her substance use behavior.


Patient Resistance Scenario 5
Patient becomes upset, argumentative.


Patient Resistance Scenario 6
Patient resists referral for additional assessment.


Patient Resistance Scenario 7
Patient cites barriers to attending the referral appointment.


Patient Resistance Scenario 8
Patient resists the idea of going into formal substance abuse treatment.


Patient Resistance Scenario 9
In follow-up visits, patient shows no progress with change efforts.


Next Page: Knowledge Quiz