Drug addiction can be treated successfully, but it’s extremely difficult to stop using addictive substances on your own. You may be in a situation where a friend is struggling with obvious substance abuse, but has not asked you for help. At what stage do you intervene? When do you say something? And how?
When all the signs point to drug addiction, there are many ways you can successfully navigate talking with your friend about recovery options.
Initiating a conversation
You want to help your friend who is showing psychological and physical symptoms of substance abuse, but you may not know how or when to bring up the issue. Here are a few tips to get the conversation started so you can help:
- Do not begin this discussion while your friend is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Wait until they are sober and then meet at a neutral spot where alcohol isn’t served. Express your concerns and your desire to help and support your friend;
- You can probably see the effect that your friend’s substance abuse is having on their family and close friends, or how it is negatively impacting their career or schoolwork. Consider guiding the conversation towards how drug use is harming both their loved ones and things that are important to them. It is possible that your friend will care more about how the addictive behaviors are affecting those they care about, than how it is affecting them mentally and physically. Additionally, they may not be aware of the impact of their choices on other’s lives and this realization could positively motivate them;
- Before having a conversation, educate yourself about the resources in the community available for addiction treatment so you can direct your friend toward professional help. However, do this only if your friend shows openness towards talking about treatment, otherwise they may quickly reject your offer.
When talking with your friend, never put them on the defensive or accuse them of anything. Say things like, “I noticed,” or “I am concerned because I see…” and allow them to talk and give their side of the story. You can help them more than you may realize by simply listening to what they share.
Constructive ways to help a friend addicted to drugs
If they are open to talking and willing to receive your support, consider the following tips for helping your friend with a drug addiction.
Learn as much as you can about substance abuse and addiction treatment so you will be more aware of what they are going through and what you can do to help. You can’t control another person’s actions, but you can educate yourself and speak with others facing similar issues.
Convey that you are available for support. As they move through treatment, acknowledge and celebrate your friend’s progress, but do not abandon them if they relapse. Relapse is a common occurrence in recovery, and it provides an opportunity to address missing skills.
Though this person is not a member of your family, they are important enough to you that you want to help. This is admirable, but remember not to get so involved in someone’s addiction issues that you forget to take care of yourself and your needs. You may need someone to talk to for advice and support, too.
Explain that support is necessary to overcoming addiction. Ask that your friend seek out the assistance of a physician, counselor or a treatment center that helps those recovering from addiction.
Lastly, if your friend is in denial and refuses to discuss addiction or get help, consider staging an intervention with the help of a therapist and those who are closest to your friend.
What not to do
Try not to be judgmental. Remember that anyone can become addicted to substances, regardless of age, gender or economic status.
Don’t protect someone from the negative consequences of their addictive behaviors. Making excuses for someone or covering up their actions can turn you into an enabler. You want to help, not enable further substance abuse.
It’s important that the person you are trying to help understands that their addiction is an illness that can be treated, rather than a lack of willpower or a failure on their part. Convey your understanding that the best way through this illness means getting treatment and staying sober. Remember to express your commitment to support them in taking positive action toward recovery.
Helping a friend with a drug addiction find treatment
You might consider suggesting Rehab After Work to your friend as a treatment option. Or, you might consider speaking with one of our counselors yourself to gather more information or support for yourself as you support your friend.