Talking with Your Friend about Substance Abuse

Talking with Your Friend about Substance Abuse

Roommates having a serious talk

You’ve noticed that your friend has changed. She’s unable to hold up her responsibilities at home and at work. She’s let some of the hobbies and friends that used to mean so much to her slip away. You’re concerned that her habits with drugs or alcohol are impairing her life, and that she may not be able to fix it alone.

How do you help her? What is your responsibility regarding this person that you love? And how do you open up this difficult conversation when she may be very resistant to your concern?

Talking with adult friends about substance abuse can be a tricky area to navigate, especially since you don’t want to overstep your bounds. However, if substance abuse is affecting the life and relationships of someone you love, you might be the only one who is in a position to influence them. Here are some tips to help a tricky conversation go better:

First, Gather Information
Find out what you can about the affects that your friends’ habits are having on her life. Talk with other significant people in her circle, including her family if you can. Learn about her history, and her family’s history. Substance abuse is usually not an isolated incident. Genetics, trauma, and mental disorders often influence behavior. Learn what you can about the substance in question, and do some basic homework about what resources are available to her, since she may be hesitant to seek them out herself.

Secondly, Make Sure You’re Coming from the Right Place
If you can’t approach the conversation with love and concern being your primary motivation, you may not be the right person for the conversation. If you can broach the topic with non-accusatory language, putting selfishness aside and communicating the challenge effectively, then move forward.

Remember that this should be a two-way conversation. After you’ve expressed your own concerns, ask some questions that will encourage your friend to reflect, and express her own concerns and goals. For example, “Do you think that you need to make some changes?” “How can I help you?”

Thirdly, Always End with a Message of Love and Support
The conversation may not go as well as you hope. In fact, it may be the first of many conversations. Stick to your guns, let your friend know what you are and are not okay with, and know that in the end, change only happens when your friend is self-motivated. Let her know that you love and care about her and that you’re ready to help her when she’s ready to ask for help, even if that moment isn’t now.