How can I help a friend with a drug or alcohol problem?

Public Safety

How can I help a friend with a drug or alcohol problem?

Has a friend become moody, short-tempered, and hostile? Does he seem "spaced out?" Is she suddenly failing courses and hanging out with kids you don’t trust?

Stop and think about it. Your friend may have an alcohol or other drug problem.

Here are some signs of drug or alcohol abuse:

  • Increased interest in alcohol or other drugs; talking about them, talking about buying them.
  • Owning drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, hypodermic needles, or rolling papers.
  • Having large amounts of cash or always being low on cash.
  • Drastic increase or decrease in weight.
  • Slurred or incoherent speech.
  • Withdrawal from others, frequent lying, depression, paranoia.
  • Dropping out of school activities.

If your friend acts this way, it is not a guarantee that he or she has an alcohol or other drug problem. You need to compare behavior now to behavior in the past. But it’s better to say something and be wrong than to say nothing and find out later that you were right to be worried.

How to talk to a friend who’s in trouble.

  • Plan ahead what you want to say and how you want to say it.
  • Pick a quiet and private time to talk.
  • Don’t try to talk about the problem when your friend is drunk or high.
  • Use a calm voice and don’t get into an argument with your friend.
  • Let your friend know that you care.

Ask if there is anything you can do to help. Find out about local hotlines and drug-abuse counseling and offer to go along with him or her.

Don’t expect your friend to like what you’re saying. But stick with it --- the more people who express concern, the better the chances of your friend getting help.

Remember --- it’s not your job to get people to stop using drugs. Only they can decide to stop.

Take control of your life and decide not to use drugs!

Look for help. Talk about the situation with someone who knows about drug abuse and helping abusers.

Skip parties where you know there will be alcohol or drugs.

Hang out with friends who don’t need alcohol or other drugs to have fun.

Get involved with drug-free activities. Ask your friends to join.

For more information:

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI)
PO Box 2345
Rockville, MD 20847-2345
800 729-6686 or 301 468-2600

Distributes a wide range of free information on alcohol and drugs. Materials are available in English and Spanish. Operates a computerized database and proves a free catalog of materials.

800-COCAINE 
Answers emergency questions about cocaine use.

800 662-HELP
This toll free, 24-hour hotline can tell you how to get help for alcohol and other drug problems.