Since your friend might be secretive about their dependency it’s kind of hard to tell. Watch your friend for any of the following signs, and, if one or more appear, you might want to talk to your friend about getting some help:
- Gets drunk or high on drugs on a regular basis; needs to be drunk or stoned to have ‘fun’.
- Lies about things, or about the amount of drugs they are using.
- Stops doing activities that used to be a big part of their life (sports, homework, or hanging out with friends who don’t do drugs).
- Seems withdrawn, depressed, tired, and cares less about personal grooming and physical appearance.
- Changed eating and sleeping patterns; rapid loss of weight; has difficulty concentrating.
- Red-rimmed eyes or runny nose not related to cold or allergies.
- Has “blackouts” and forgets what they did while under the influence.
- Sounds selfish and doesn’t care about others.
- Gets in trouble with the police; gets suspended from school for drug-related problems
Before you speak with your friend you need to learn how you can help before you can actually offer help. Talk with a teacher or guidance counselor you know and trust. If you’re worried about breaking your friend’s trust, ask the person you go to for help to keep the conversation confidential — you don’t even have to tell him your friend’s name.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you do finally talk to your friend:
- Make sure the timing is right. Talk to your friend when they’re sober — before school is usually a good time.
- Tell your friend that you really care about them and are very worried about the direction they’re going in.
- Don’t accuse your friend of being a drug addict. Just let them know that things have been a little different lately, you’re worried, and you’re there to help.
- Tell your friend what you’ve seen when they use drugs. Be specific. Let your friend know that the stuff they did scared you and that you want to help.
- Try to watch your tone — don’t sound like you pity your friend or like you’re mad. Use the same tone of voice the two of you always use with each other.
- Don’t be surprised if they get angry. Your friend may say there’s nothing wrong and may get mad at you. This isn’t unusual — many drug users react this way.
- Find out where help is available. You must follow through if you offer to go with your friend to get help. It’s what happens after the conversation ends that will let your friend know that you’re really there for them.
- Know that you can make a huge difference by reaching out to help a friend, but that it ultimately is up to your friend to help him or herself succeed. Do not feel it is your responsibility, or your fault, if things do not turn out as you hope.
Article adapted from the Partnership for a Drug Free America : www.drugfree.org