If you think a friend may be abusing or addicted to drugs, one of the best first steps is to be open and listen without judgment. People dealing with addiction often experience a great deal of shame. Many others take drugs in order to escape from feelings of anxiety and depression, and your friend may avoid situations in which he or she fears being scolded or made to feel worse.
Try educating your friend on the effects drugs have on his or her brain. Understanding the physical consequences and health risks of taking drugs may help your friend decide against continuing.
If they continue to use drugs, show that you’re available and willing to listen, without judgment. Just being there for your friend can be a great help.
It’s also important to understand the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction. Both are dangerous, life-risking behaviors. However, while drug abuse is still, for the most part, a conscious choice, drug addiction means that the abuse has spiraled into a disease, making it very difficult for the user to control their desires for drugs. That doesn’t mean all is lost! But it does mean that your friend will probably need more than sheer willpower to stop using drugs.
If you think your friend has reached a point where he or she needs help overcoming an addiction, talk to him or her about their treatment options. Parents, teachers and school counselors have access to resources that can help your friend.
While it’s better to convince him or her to talk to an adult on their own, if you feel your friend’s life or future may be in danger, it may be time to tell a parent, teacher or counselor about the problem, with or without your friend’s consent.
If you’re not sure whom to talk to, or where to turn, call 1–800–662–HELP for information about drug treatment programs and advice on your specific situation. If your friend is at risk of ending his or her life, you can call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK for immediate support.
Showing that you care about your friend, even if he or she isn’t yet ready to talk about their drug problem, is the best way to show support in the long run. Teens who begin using drugs and alcohol often join social groups where drug use is common. Having a caring, non-judgmental friend outside of that group is a great resource for a teen in need, if he or she recognizes their problem has gone too far.