Lying and Addiction

Estimated reading time: 26 minute(s)

Addiction is an extremely negative behavior that can easily trigger many changes in behavior, including how a person interacts with other people. This may include lying to others, even to the people they love, for a variety of reasons. The most common reason, however, is to hide the underlying drug use and signs of addiction from being revealed to the world. To make this happen, an addict can become a chronic liar, which may create serious problems in their interpersonal relationships.

A person may routinely lie about their addiction, such as how often they use a substance or engage in a certain behavior. The reason can be multiple, such as to cover up their tracks, avoid confrontation, escape negativity, or doge a forced change. Learning more about lying and addiction and why do addicts lie can help loved ones better understand how to respond to such behaviors more effectively.

Why Do Addicts Lie?

There can be multiple reasons why an addict is attempting to lie about their substance use. Some of these reasons may include the following:

To avoid confrontation

Most people with addiction have been using substances as a coping strategy for a long time and do not have other healthier ways to deal with the daily stressors of life. Hence, they usually try their best to avoid confrontation as much as possible as they understand that being confronted is a difficult situation to escape, and they may end up agreeing to give up this habit.

To avoid forced change

Many people with underlying addictions are stubborn in a way that they understand how their behavior is in no one’s best interests, including their own. However, they choose to decide that it works best for them and continue engaging in it. Other people who have been observing them may not agree with this perspective and may encourage them to change. Hence, to avoid such conversations and forced changes, addicts commonly lie about the extent of their addictive behavior.

Due to enabling behaviors from loved ones

Enabling means doing things for someone that they can easily do for themselves. Such behaviors may allow a person to continue their addiction as they do not face the consequences associated with it. In simple words, enabling is when you know when a loved one addicted to something is lying, but you allow them to continue without letting them know that you know. Remember the difference between enabling and engaging, and remember that enabling is a very dangerous behavior as it only feeds the addiction cycle without giving any opportunity to a person to escape. [1]

To escape negativity

A person dealing with an addiction may often view his behavior as a type of holding pattern while believing that things are going to work out on their own and their addiction will eventually disappear. They do not want others to remind them about the negative aspects of addiction, especially if these aspects involve blaming them. In simpler words, an addict may lie to cover up their behavior as they do not want their loved ones to criticize them constantly.

Due to Brain changes

Addiction, such as alcohol use disorder, can trigger damage in certain parts of the brain, including the frontal lobe. Such damage may often increase a person’s potential to adopt defiant behaviors, such as lying or risk-taking. [2] This is yet another reason for everyone to be more sensitive to their loved ones’ struggles and do whatever possible to turn around the situation.

To avoid shame

Addiction can often make people behave in ways that bring them regret and embarrassment. When others point it out, such people may lie to avoid feelings of shame. Remember that someone who chooses to get along with such a lie is an enabler who may be trying to save their loved one from outward embarrassment but may end up worsening their inner emotional pain.

To remain in denial

A person fighting addiction may be in denial about their behavior being a problem. However, they usually understand that other people will not feel the same way about them, which forces them to lie.

To avoid being caught

Lying in addiction also helps people escape getting caught. Such people are often using illicit substances, and hiding their use can let them get away without any judicial or legal ramifications associated with their addiction. In other cases, they may simply be worried about the costs associated with their addiction and believe that revealing them may sabotage their personal or professional relationships.

Lying About Drugs in a Relationship: How To Spot?

Following are some symptoms that can help you understand if a person is lying about drugs in a relationship:

Using prepared speeches

An addict tries to avoid casual conversations and attempts to use more specific speech patterns when they are lying. This is because such people have extensively thought about the possibility of people asking them about their substance use, such as alcohol and drugs, so they prepare retorts to such questions and use them when needed. Carefully look out for these specific details a person may say use that confirm their drug use habit. For instance, they may become defensive when someone asks them if they are using drugs.

Addition or omission of details to story

Some people may try to avoid lying by omitting details in their explanations or stories when others ask them about their whereabouts or their daily activities. To spot such a pattern, try to think about what a person may not be saying instead of what they are saying. Addicts commonly hide details relevant to their drug use, especially from people whom they are in a relationship with, and are expected to share everything.

In contrast, a lying drug user may add extra details to their stories to the point where they become highly convoluted. For instance, if you ask someone taking prescription drugs about their usual dose, they may twist the conversation and may end up asking for more drugs as they have already used their stock. Alternatively, they may talk too much to hide their drug abuse. Carefully listen to an individual’s story and determine if it aligns with what you know about them and their drug use. If you suspect abuse, you may need to intervene and guide them about seeking professional help.

Co-existing signs of drug abuse

Anyone concerned about their family members, friends, or other loved ones regarding their substance use and believes that they are trying to cover it up by lying must pay attention to other cues suggestive of addiction. Even when an individual denies using any substance, their actions may reveal their secrets. Following are some symptoms to look out for that may confirm an underlying addiction:

  • Impaired attention span
  • Weakened concentration
  • Reduced sociability
  • Sleep-related issues

How to Deal with a Drug Addicts Lies

Lies remain a crucial cause of isolation that most addicts experience, along with the disillusionment and anger their loved ones commonly feel. While loved ones cannot force someone out of denial and slowly toward recovery, the following are some steps they can use to help an addict understand reality:

  • Understand that lying fulfills a purpose for a person with addiction. As frustrating as they may seem, the lies they tell are not a personal affront and remain a common part of the disease.
  • It is imperative to understand the motive behind lying and addiction, but it is equally important to learn how to push past them. These lies are keeping people trapped in addiction, and can only get out once they hit rock bottom. Loved ones can help them by raising the bottom through different measures, like arranging an intervention, contacting a therapist, or refusing to become an enabler.
  • Avoid looking the other way if you catch an addict in a lie. Do not be an enabler, and let them know what you can see to help them visualize the consequences of the actions they are willing to take.
  • Create a helpful and supportive environment for addicts that promotes honesty instead of threats. When an addict feels safe enough to tell the truth, they will eventually stop lying as they will know that they have the support to get well.
  • Encourage addicts to actively participate in support groups, such as Narcotics or Alcoholics Anonymous. These support groups help them replace their automatic response lies with honesty. Peers in these groups often hold participants accountable for the lies they tell and encourage them to face the truth no matter how harsh or bitter it is.


How to tell is someone with an underlying addiction is lying?

It may not be easy to tell if someone with an addiction is lying, as some people are great at disguising their honesty. The best way to understand this is by noticing any changes to the characteristic behaviors of a loved one or by corroborating what they are telling you through other sources of information. Some red flags that depict lying in addiction include being vague or repeating questions before responding to them.

What lies do addicts commonly tell?

People with addiction commonly lie about whether they are engaging in certain behaviors or using substances. They may also lie about their whereabouts, such as where they were, who they have been with, and where they spent their money. Other commonly told lies include how they obtained a particular substance, how they got the finances to pay for it, and how their drug use is affecting their life.

Do recovering addicts still lie?

While not all recovering addicts lie, some may go back to this habit to conceal their ongoing substance use and relapse from family members or friends.


1 Davidson L, White W, Sells D, Schmutte T, O’Connell M, Bellamy C, Rowe M. Enabling or engaging? The role of recovery support services in addiction recovery. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. 2010 Oct 1;28(4):391-416.

2 Nakamura‐Palacios EM, Souza RS, Zago‐Gomes MP, de Melo AM, Braga FS, Kubo TT, Gasparetto EL. Gray matter volume in left rostral middle frontal and left cerebellar cortices predicts frontal executive performance in alcoholic subjects. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2014 Apr;38(4):1126-33.

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