Discussing a friend’s drug or alcohol use isn’t an easy thing to do. People with drug problems usually defend their use or make excuses. It can be hard for people to admit to themselves that they have a problem.
When you talk, your friends will listen – even if you’ve tried drugs or alcohol yourself. You may be worried that your friend will be mad at you – but if you really think that he or she needs help, you need to say something.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Be safe: Never confront your friend when he/she is drunk or high. And you should talk to your friend in a place that you feel safe. If your friend becomes angry or violent, leave and bring up the subject later when he/she is calm.
It’s not your fault: Remember that your friend’s use is not your fault and you should never blame yourself.
The Tone: Remember, how you say something is as important as what to say. A supportive, caring tone usually works best. Be assertive, not aggressive.
Be Discreet: No one likes to be called out in front of others. Wait until the right time and place to have this talk. It’s best not to start the conversation if they’re high, angry or upset. And afterwards, keep the details of your conversation private.
Plan What to Say: You may want to reference some specifics like if your friend skips class, takes stupid risks or is frequently hungover. Tell him or her that you’re concerned and that’s why you want to talk. If you are nervous about talking with them, ask another friend who knows the situation if you can practice with him or her, to help work out ahead of time what you are going to say. You may want to have a hotline number or some facts on hand. That way, your friend can call for confidential help or check out the facts.
Balance: Your friend may think you’re just being “critical,” so try to give examples of how you feel when you see him or her use drugs. For example, “You are my best friend. But I feel like you’re a different person when you’re high and that’s really disappointing.” Or you can write an email or note if you feel uncomfortable talking face-to-face.
Listen: After you finish talking, ask your friend what he or she thinks – and listen. It’s critical that you hear what your friend’s saying so you can offer to help. But you shouldn’t feel like you have to personally solve your friend’s problem – there are counselors who can help at times like this.
Keep At It: Talking to your friend about drugs may be a continuous process – not a one-time event – so you may want to check in with him or her from time to time. You may want to recommend that your friend talk to a counselor – and have a hotline number ready.
What if my friend doesn’t stop using?
Helping a friend with a drug problem can be stressful and difficult. You may feel a lot of pressure to get your friend to stop, or you may get totally discouraged if your friend doesn’t listen to you. But remember, your friend’s drug or alcohol use is not your fault. It’s up to him or her to stop using. Remember to never put yourself in a dangerous situation while trying to help and don’t get yourself in trouble. If you think that your friend is in immediate danger, such as having suicidal thoughts, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if he/she passes out or becomes unresponsive from taking something (overdoses), you should definitely call 911 and also talk with a trusted adult or call a help hotline.