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How to Help a Friend (Alcohol and Drug Concerns)

You know someone who has a problem with alcohol and/or drugs, and you want to help. Where do you start, and where do you stop?

Often, people want to find a way to help their friend or loved one who may have an alcohol and/or drug problem. Some may try an intervention, which refers to an attempt to bring a person closer to understanding or accepting how alcohol or other drug is negatively affecting their life.

Consider the following steps when planning an intervention with a friend or loved one.

  • Pay Attention: Specifically identify any alcohol/drug related behaviors that seem to interfere with an individual's relationships, work, classes, and/or health among other aspects.
    • It may help to write down the behaviors you observe and see that are specifically related to their alcohol/drug use causing you concern.
    • Write what you see as it arises including when and where it occurred and the resulting negative outcome.
  • Share concerns: Talk with the individual respectfully and honestly about what you focusing on specific behavior and the negative consequences that cause you concern.
  • Avoid blaming or judging them because it can be counterproductive, and avoid providing a rationale for their behavior or trying to "fix" them.
  • Listen: Carefully listen to the individual's response without expecting anything in return. Your job is to offer your undivided attention regardless of how they respond or what they say.
  • Offer Alternative: State what steps you want them to take, whether it is a visit with a counselor, or simply a behavior change.
  • Offer Support: Tell them what you are willing to do to help them meet your expectations.
    • Always let them know that the door is open to discuss the matter at a future time.
    • Clearly state the actions you will take if they refuse to change behavior.
    • If they fail to follow through, seek additional help from a trusted friend or trained professional.
    • Regardless of how scary it is to help a friend, remind yourself that you are doing this because you care about them.

Additional "How to Help" Resources

Above the Influence - Learn how to help a friend and other additional facts.

Behavior Concerns Advice Line

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