How to help a friend with a drug addiction

How to help a friend with a drug addiction

If you’re worried one of your friends may be addicted to drugs, it can be hard to know where to turn. On one hand, you’re probably scared and worried for them. On the other hand, you may feel if you speak up, your friendship will be ruined. Thankfully, many experts have come together to devise a few tips for where to start.

Don’t make assumptions

It can be easy to assume someone is using drugs if their behaviour changes or they exhibit a number of signs such as red eyes or sudden weight changes, but these can be due to a number of different things. Puberty, for instance, causes several behavioural and appearance changes which can last well into the late teenage years. Mental health issues such as depression can also cause seemingly ‘addictive behaviour,’ such as becoming withdrawn, losing interest in activities they once loved and neglecting responsibilities. Ensure you don’t jump to conclusions if you notice these changes appearing in your friend. The first step is to have a conversation with them about these changes, and they may open up to you about their drug use.

Talk to your friend about your concerns for their relationships

Talking to your friend in a caring, genuine and supportive way is the first step. Your friend may not care their drug use is bad for their health or their job, but they may care if you explain it is changing their relationship with you and others they love. Without trying to make them feel guilty, explain to them you support them and love them, but are worried they are damaging their important relationships.

Be there for them

Being there for your friend, even before they have begun a journey to becoming drug-free can be difficult. However, showing you support them, and you’re there for them, is the most important thing you can do. One way to do this is to ensure they know there are recovery supports and services available when they’re ready. Remember though, being supportive doesn’t mean getting walked over. If your friend is taking advantage of you, either emotionally or financially for their addiction, you can put your foot down. Saying and showing you love someone doesn’t mean being taken advantage of.

Know you can’t rush them to get help

Have you ever heard the phrase “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink?” This phrase is exceptionally true for people with addictions. They may know they are addicted to a substance, but seeking help is an entirely different consideration. Remember, as a friend, it’s not your job to push them to get better. If you have shown them their options for recovery, you have done all you can do. It’s up to the person to seek help
when they’re ready.

Support them when they’re ready to get help

Even though it could be years after their drug use began, whenever your friend is ready to get help, support them. Knowing you love them can be a powerful driver to encourage someone to continue with drug rehabilitation or treatment. Thankfully, there are countless rehabilitation programs created to help people like your friend who are addicted to substances. These programs are created and led by experts trained to help your friend work through the psychological, emotional and physical complications
of drug addiction. It’s important to recognise the expertise of these programs, and never try to treat a friend yourself.

Don’t take responsibility for your friend’s drug use

It’s important to remember it is your friend’s decision, and theirs alone, to use drugs. You are not responsible in any way for their addiction. Your friend may choose to continue using drugs even after admitting to their addiction, or even relapse after getting treatment. Remember these lapses are not your fault or responsibility. All you can do is be supportive of
your friend. Helping a friend who is addicted to drugs is difficult but is important. Showing you support your friend helps them feel loved even at their lowest times. Remember though, there are professionals trained to look after people like your friend, and they can offer the most transformative, effective help.

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