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Concerned for a friend?

If you think your friend has a problem with substance use…

  • try talking to your friend, but be supportive. You might say, “I’ve noticed some changes in you. Are you having any problems?”
  • cite specific examples of your friend’s behavior. You might say, “The last time I was with you, you drank so much you passed out.”
  • avoid name calling, lectures, and verbal attacks.
  • keep your mind open to your friend’s perspective.
  • do not continue your conversation if you become impatient or angry.

If your friend is defensive…

  • make it clear that you like your friend, but do not like the behavior.
  • be honest about your own substance use and attempts to control it.
  • understand that the person may be afraid of confronting the problem.

If your friend is ambivalent…

  • tell your friend how the problem affects you. You might say, “It is hard to have a good time if I’m afraid you will get sick, pass out, or embarrass me.”

If your friend agrees with you, you may choose to ask these questions:

  • Why do you think you have a problem?
  • How do you think you could solve it?
  • What are you going to do to resolve your problem?
  • What can I do to help you?

Learn the Lingo!

To decrease the stigma of addiction it is important to have a common language that de-stigmatizes it. Addiction-ary is a great resource in learning this common language!

Setting Limits

You may need to set limits on what you will do with or for your friend. Let your friend know what your limits are and stick to them. For example, you may decide not to socialize with them while they use substances. You may decide not to allow substances in your room or apartment. Limits, and sticking to them, are important particularly if a friend denies that they have a problem. Do not agree to hiding or disposing of liquor, or covering for them with family members, dates, or other friends. Withholding or lying may allow your friend to continue the inappropriate behavior.

Remember that you cannot control your friend’s choices or behaviors. SMART Recovery is a great resource to help learn how to set limits and offer support.