Resources & Education

November 19th, 2014

Overcoming common reservations about helping a friend who is an addict

Attractive best friends outdoorSay you are at dinner with friends and someone at your table starts choking. Would you step up and do the Heimlich to help the person? Would you at least summon for help? If you’re like most people, your answer is, “Of course I would!”

Just like someone who is choking, an addict’s life is also in danger. So why is confronting someone about his/her drug or alcohol addiction so much more daunting than helping someone who is choking? Usually the issue is more emotional and complex. You might be worried that you will lose a friend or that you are overstepping. The truth is – it’s tough. But saying something could help save your friend’s life.

The following are some common reservations that many people have when they’re deciding whether or not to talk to his or her friend about his/her alcohol or drug abuse.

  1. It’s none of my business. If you are concerned about someone, then it is your business. Thinking that an addiction will get better with time or just go away isn’t what will happen. More times than not, it will get worse before it gets better. Many addicts feel trapped and don’t know where to turn for help. Know that you’re best intentions are in mind and that you’re identifying yourself as someone your friend can turn to.
  2. It’s not that bad. It’s hard to determine the line of where abuse and/or addiction begins. You might think, well my friend likes to drink on the weekends. But is that person blacking out, passing out, not remembering, or hung over a lot? Is he withdrawn socially, sleeping a lot or agitated? These are warning signs that your friend needs help. And if you’re thinking that drinking is nowhere near as bad as drugs. Think again. Alcohol is a gateway to drugs and can be just as if not more dangerous.
  3. I’m sure the family is on top of this. Oftentimes, if the person has been using for some time, family will make allowances in order to protect themselves and their loved one. Another thing to consider is that your friend might be hiding his abuse from his family. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the family might not even be aware of how bad the abuse has gotten. It may help for you to talk to a family member about your concerns. And remember that as a friend you may have a bigger impact since you aren’t family.
  4. I’m going to lose my friendship. This might be one of the biggest fears. However, most people are surprised to find out that the opposite happens. Many times the person who is abusing alcohol or drugs is secretly hoping someone will reach out and talk to him honestly about his problem.
  5. I don’t know what to say. First you need to find the right time to talk. Don’t try to talk when your friend is drunk or high. He may become defensive and won’t comprehend what you are saying. Things could escalate quickly and turn out badly. For more information about what to say, follow the dos and don’ts in this article about how to talk to a friend about drug abuse.

Remember, you can’t force someone to stop using drugs or alcohol. Also remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Painkillers Kill offers many different resources for friends, family members and addicts. Visit our website or call Horizon Health Services at (716) 831-1800 for immediate assistance.

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