Talking about drug use is a difficult process, but it’s even more difficult when the person you’re talking to is your friend. According to the Office of Adolescent Health, 39% of high-school seniors reported drinking alcohol, nearly 23% reported using marijuana and 16% reported smoking cigarettes. Recognizing and combatting the negative results of drug use can begin with basic questions and end in saving a life.
Some symptoms of drug use and abuse can include the following:
- Drinking only to get drunk
- Incapable of remembering things said or done while drinking (blacking out)
- Dangerous actions resulting from the use of drugs or alcohol
- Becoming annoyed when someone criticizes drug use or drinking
- Finding it necessary to drink or do drugs to enjoy social activities
- Using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress
- A sudden change in peer group, health or hygiene
- Legal trouble from using drugs and/or alcohol
Matching your friend’s behavior with one or more of these symptoms may indicate a problem, but not necessarily an addiction. However, providing your friend or loved one with the help they need begins with something as easy as a caring conversation.
Before talking with your friend it’s important that you know all the facts about the topic you want to discuss. Don’t be afraid to reach out to parents, friends, teachers, coaches, religious leaders, or even find information from trusted resources online.
Prepare a list of specific times when the drinking or drug abuse caused a problem, but make sure to focus on your friend. Don’t turn the conversation to how your feelings were hurt, or your plans were disrupted.
Create a private space for your discussion away from television, phones, computers etc. You want your friend to take your concerns seriously, so treating the situation seriously will set the right tone.
Talking to your friend can have more of an impact by following some of these simple recommendations:
- Talk with your friend right after a bad episode, but wait until they are sober as they’re more likely to listen.
- Make specific observations about facts that cannot be disputed.
- Avoid generalizations about your friend’s character or other people’s feelings.
- Appeal to your friend’s wellbeing by expressing your concern for their health and safety.
- Openly discuss negative consequences of drinking or drug use by using specific examples from their past actions.
- Point out differences between sober behavior that is good and drinking or drug-abuse behavior that is bad.
- Distinguish between the person and the behavior—remind your friend that they are better than the choices they’re making.
- Encourage professional help or talking with a counselor.
- Blame or accuse
- Argue, even when feeling provoked or attacked
- Lecture, judge or name-call
Remember that the ultimate goal is to help your friend and improve their quality of life. Be prepared and stay focused throughout your conversation.
Above all, don’t go it alone. You can express concern, but you probably won’t be able to change your friend’s behavior. It’s ok to ask your parents or another adult for help. Realize that your friend is headed down a dark road and it will take professionals and adults to help get your friend back on the right path in life. You are doing the right thing. You may even be saving a loved one’s life.