Helping a Friend Who Misuses Drugs or Alcohol

Posted on: December 10th, 2018 by Pacific Ridge |

medicationBeing a good friend often means speaking up about hard truths. If you suspect your friend suffers with drug or alcohol addiction, you may wonder what you can do to help or if your friend even wants or will accept your help. Understanding what addiction is, how to talk to your friend about alcohol and drug abuse, and what to do next is the best way you can help your friend.

Learn the answers to some frequently asked questions about helping a friend who misuses alcohol or drugs.

What Are the Signs That My Friend Struggles With Addiction?

Unfortunately, many people do not realize that their friend struggles with drug or alcohol issues until the signs are obvious. If you are concerned your friend is experimenting with drugs and alcohol, watch for the following signs.

Physical Changes

People who struggle with addiction often pay less attention to their appearance and hygiene. Look for track marks or obsessive scratching, two common signs of drug abuse. Pay attention to the smell of your friend’s clothing and breath for signs of alcohol use. Also watch for slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and trouble with coordination.

Psychological Change

Lack of motivation, a sudden disinterest in school or extra-curricular activities, paranoia, excessive fear, and depression, and mood swings are effects of drug or alcohol abuse to look for.

Cognitive Changes

Consumption of alcohol or the use of drugs can lead to poor decision making, loss of concentration, memory issues, trouble focusing, and a shortened attention span.

Behavioral Changes

Many people notice behavioral changes, including a sudden change in the group of people their friend hangs out with. You might also notice secretive actions and isolating behaviors, including distancing from old friends and family.

Watch for sudden and unexpected changes in your friend’s health. This includes sudden weight loss, nausea, sweating, headaches, constipation, diarrhea, seizures, and nosebleeds.

How Should I Begin the Conversation About Drug and Alcohol Abuse?

Drug and alcohol abuse is a sensitive, charged subject. Your first instinct might be to confront your friend and accuse them of abusing drugs and alcohol. Or you might demand that they admit themselves into a drug or alcohol treatment facility. Instead, ask a counselor or therapist how to talk with your friend about your fears.

For example, your therapist might recommend engaging your friend while you are enjoying an activity together, such as watching a movie or listening to music. You want to have this conversation when your friend is sober and in a good mood. Ask your friend about their drug or alcohol use in a calm manner. Do not confront them, make an accusation, or fight.

Be prepared for your friend to deny any allegations, accuse you of past drug abuse, or bring up all the times you’ve drunk a glass of wine with them. Be honest with your friend about your own drug or alcohol use, but don’t allow them to use your past behavior as justification for their current abuse.

No matter how your friend responds, emphasize that you love them and want to support them. Your friend may need some time before they are ready to accept that they have an addiction and need your help, so be patient.

How Can I Help My Friend Deal With Their Addiction?

Coping with a friend in the throes of addiction is difficult, which is why you shouldn’t attempt to tackle this problem on your own. Encourage your friend to seek help and determine which type of facility or treatment plan works best for them. For example, your friend might benefit from an outpatient facility, which allows them to remain at home while they seek treatment for their drug or alcohol issues.

If your friend’s doctor recommends an outpatient facility, help them stay on track by encouraging their sobriety, setting clear guidelines and goals, and helping them care for themselves.

An inpatient facility is often the best choice for people who have serious struggles with drugs or alcohol and need to detoxify their system before they begin treating the root causes and consequences of their addiction. The detoxification process is stressful, and your friend’s doctors might recommend that the process be completed in a facility. The doctor can determine how long they should remain in the inpatient residential facility.

After your friend leaves an inpatient residential treatment facility, you’ll need to help them remain sober and continue to focus on their future. Support your friend during this time by encouraging them to indulge in healthy pastimes, continue to seek the help of a therapist, and continue their education or career. Respect your friend struggles and be supportive and encouraging of their hopes and future.

Coping with your friend’s drug or alcohol addiction is stressful, tricky, and confusing. But professional help is available to ease the recovery process. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact the professionals at Pacific Ridge.

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