What Can I Do as the Friend of an Addicted Person?
By Jim Woods
When you have a friend who struggles with addiction, it can be difficult to know what to do. A lot of the information you’ll find is written for family members. But as a friend, what can you do right now to help?
The first step is to prepare yourself to talk to your friend. Become knowledgeable about the signs of addiction. As someone becomes addicted to a drug, his body becomes dependent on that substance and requires a certain amount of the drug to feel normal. In addition, his mind craves the feeling that the drug gives. Instead of participating in normal activities and hobbies, he will spend time under the influence of drugs. Maybe you’ve noticed that your friend is spending a lot more time going out at night, or that he is sleeping more than usual. Maybe he is having money problems or seems to be sick a lot. Don’t ignore these signs. You know you need to do something. Try taking some of these specific steps when you talk to your friend.
How to Help a Friend Struggling With Addiction
Put yourself in your friend’s shoes. How would you feel if a friend approached you about the same problem? How would you want them to approach you? The answer to this question is a great starting point for how you can make a difference in your friend’s life. Feel free to write some notes down and you can refer to them before you talk to your friend. When do you normally see him? You will likely want to talk to him in private. He may want to get help, but he may not be sure how to find it. In other cases, he may even be too afraid to ask for help.
When you talk to your friend, consider sharing specifically about how their drug use is affecting something they care about, such as their family or their career.1 Give specific examples, not broad sweeping statements. Don’t accuse him or try to scare him into sobriety. Rather, just express your concern and explain how their change in behavior has been affecting you personally.
Your Relationship With Your Friend
In some cases, your friend may be in denial about their addiction. He may shrug off his behavior as not being a problem. Please keep in mind that when someone is under the influence of drugs, he will not act normally. Even the most previously honest individual can lie or rationalize ways to feed his addiction.
It is important to set clear boundaries for what is acceptable behavior and what is not. This is one of the best ways to protect yourself. When your friend does not respect boundaries you’ve set, it may be time for an intervention, when a group of friends and loved ones gather about the addiction.
In many cases, you should not handle this intervention alone. If the addict has a healthy relationship with family members, it may be best to get the family involved. Contact your friend’s family and inform them of what is going on. While this is a very emotional time, try to give specific examples of why you are concerned. The family may wish to deal with the situation on their own or keep you involved. In either case, it is important to respect the family’s wishes.
When you get help for your friend, it is possible that your friend may be mad at you. The good news is that he will likely forgive you. Don’t let this challenge stop you from doing the right thing—the loving thing—for your friend. Express your intentions as clearly as you can, and try to talk to your friend when he is not under the influence. This will help ensure that he will understand you.
A Great Way to Get Help Now
If you would like more information about how to help your friend, please know you can call our toll-free number anytime. Through scientific research, we now know more than ever about how drugs work in the brain. We also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated.2 Our addiction counselors are available 24 hours a day to assist you with any questions that you have. Our caring staff can help you find the treatment and recovery resources that will assist you in helping your friend.
1 “Helping A Friend With an Addiction.” University of Rochester Medical Center, November 20, 2017.
2 “What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, November 20, 2017.