Drug addiction or alcohol addiction can take over someone’s life and lead them down a dark and twisted path. Helping a friend with addiction can be hard, it’s never easy to see someone you care about go through this dangerous, addictive cycle. To make matters worse, it’s often hard to approach the subject with them.
You want to help, but you’re not sure how. The good news is, there are plenty of ways you can help a friend with an addiction. By lending them your support, you can lead your addicted friend down the road to recovery.
Of course, there is only so much you can do. While your support will mean the world to an addict friend, they’ll often need professional treatment options to get them clean. This involves using a residential rehab centre and undergoing a detox.
So, if you’re looking to learn how to help an addicted friend, then here are some key considerations to be aware of:
Understanding why people take drugs
A drug or alcohol addiction doesn’t happen overnight. It occurs with regular use, and your friend will slowly build up a dependency on certain substances. It’ll feel like they can’t function properly without it, which is what keeps bringing them back to the drug.
The question is; why do people do drugs or drink alcohol, to begin with? If you can figure out what pushed someone to take drugs, then it may help you lend some support and advice on how to kick the habit.
Commonly, people take drugs to:
- Fit in with their friends – This is a common reason that many people first get into drugs or alcohol. If all of your friends are doing it, then you don’t want to feel left out. So, your friend may just be trying to fit in, but that pushed them down the slippery slope towards addiction.
- Relax and socialise – Similarly, people like to drink alcohol or take drugs for recreational reasons. A lot of people smoke marijuana as a way of relaxing with friends – it’s seen as a viable way of socialising on weekends. The same goes for alcohol; people go out to pubs and drink for hours on end. It’s just seen as the standard way of doing things, no different from going out and watching the football or seeing a movie.
- Try new things – Most people’s first experiences with drugs come when they’re looking to experiment. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘you only live once,’ and this encourages individuals to try new things, just to see how they feel.
- Escape – Lastly, lots of people turn to drugs or alcohol as an escape. This is where drug addiction is perhaps at its most dangerous. If your friend is using substances to escape from their reality, then it will be tough to get them to stop. Typically, people do this when they’re experiencing troubles in their life. Perhaps a family member has died, or maybe they’re suffering from mental health issues like depression/anxiety. As such, they turn to drugs as a release from these evil thoughts and bad times, giving them away to feel carefree.
Naturally, you may not know why your friend is taking drugs. But, if you look at the points above, you may be able to work out what pushed them into trying drugs. If you know that their parents died or that they’ve been struggling with something in their life, then the chances are they turned to drugs as an escape. The only way to know for sure is to speak to them about it.
How to tell if your friend is addicted to drugs
Your friend could take drugs regularly, or go down to the pub for a drink every weekend, but that doesn’t always mean they’re an addict. Before you encourage them to get on a 28-day rehab program, you need to know that they’re actually addicted.
With that in mind, here are some telltale signs that you should be wary of:
- Sudden and extreme changes in their behaviour or mood
- Shakes or tremors and a feeling that they’re always on edge
- They start acting more isolated and distancing themselves from friends and family
- They no longer care about their personal appearance
- It feels like they have no interests or hobbies anymore
- They don’t take on any responsibilities and might start missing work
- You notice that they always seem to have hardly any money despite not going out with friends anymore
- Sudden fluctuations in their weight
- They’re continually sniffing and wiping their nose, and they have regular nosebleeds
- Their eyes are bloodshot
- Their pupils are either larger or small than normal
- They always seem distant when you speak to them
- Whenever you see them, they excuse themselves and return seeming different
- You notice spoons or syringes in their home
- Their rubbish bins are full of empty bottles
- Their speech is slurred, and they always seem drunk
- You can smell alcohol on them at all times
As you can see, there are plenty of signs of drug addiction, and your friend might not have all of them. But, if you notice a selection of these telltale signs, then the chances are they have a problem. After noticing this, you should try and help.
How to talk to a friend about their addiction
When you feel like your friend is suffering from addiction, the best thing to do is confront them about it. Now, ‘confront’ sounds like a strong term and insinuates that you’re going to be quite harsh and negative about the situation. It almost has the feeling of a schoolteacher telling off a child for misbehaving. That’s not the approach you want to take at all!
Instead, here are some tips to help you approach the subject of addiction with your friend:
Talk to them in a private setting when you’re both sober
It’s never a good idea to speak to a friend about their addiction when they’re high or drunk. Especially if you’re on a night out and you are a little bit tipsy yourself. This should be done in the light of day when you’re both sober. As such, both of you can take the conversation seriously and will remember it.
Talk to them in private as well, so there’s no one else around. This is the best way to actually get a reaction from your friend as they know you’re in a safe space.
Explain your concerns and why you think they’re addicted
Don’t look at your friend and tell them they’re addicted to drugs or alcohol. Instead, explain why you’re concerned. Tell them they’ve been acting different lately, and that you’re worried. Slowly approach the subject and let them know that you think they might have an addiction.
Sometimes, having someone say this out loud will make your friend come to terms with the situation. They might have been hiding from the truth, but your words bring them back to reality, and they may breakdown and get emotional. From here, you can lend your support and tell them that you’ll help get them out of this situation.
Alternatively, your friend may deny things, and that’s fine as well. It’s important to know that you can’t force your addict friend to admit that they have a problem.
Don’t be judgemental or critical
The last thing you should do is be very judgemental or critical of your friend. Understand that nobody chooses to be addicted. Nobody wants to have a drug or alcohol addiction that ruins their lives. All it takes is one small decision that has grave consequences. Your friend might have just wanted to fit in and feel accepted, or to have some fun on a night out. Or, they’ve been looking for an escape to help them deal with personal issues.
So, don’t go on the offensive and start throwing accusations and being critical of the situation. Layout your thoughts, tell them you’re here if you need them, and give them a chance to talk. They might explain things and tell you how the addiction started, which can be helpful when looking at treatment options.
As we said, your friend might not respond to you confronting them about this problem. They may deny it, tell you to shut up and kick you out of their lives forever. While this will be tough for you to deal with, you can’t blame yourself. You’ve tried to help, you’ve spoken up, and there’s not a lot else you can do if they don’t want your support.
At the very least, you should talk to your friend so you can feel like you attempted to help. Avoiding the situation altogether is not a good idea.
How to help a friend quit drugs
If your conversation goes well, then your friend might ask for your help. So, this section is devoted to teaching you how to help a friend quit drinking or stop taking drugs. There are different steps you can take, and here are the most effective:
Address the cause of the addiction
Talk to them about why they started taking drugs or drinking alcohol. If they admit that they’re depressed, then there are lots of ways you can learn how to help a friend with depression. By addressing the cause, you can take away the thing that’s making them turn to these substances.
Spend time with them
A simple way to help your addicted friend is to spend time with them. Arrange to do things that take them out of their regular routine. Here, you’re looking to stop them from going to places or being in situations where they usually take drugs or go drinking.
For example, they might always go to the pub every afternoon and stay there for hours. If you arrange to see a film or go shopping, then it removes them from this situation. They can’t drink if they’re not near any alcohol. The same goes for drug abuse; many people stay in their homes and take drugs. By spending time with your friend and getting them out of the house, you can prevent this from happening.
Provide them with information
You don’t want to be a pushy friend who continually tells your mate how harmful drugs and alcohol are for their health & wellbeing. Instead, send them resources that give them all of this information. If they choose to read it, then it may make something click inside their minds as they realise the damage they’re doing to their body and brain.
Arrange an intervention
If you feel like your efforts aren’t working, then you could arrange an intervention with other concerned friends and family members. Essentially, this is where you all sit down and address your concerns. By seeing so many people who care about them, this can convince your friend to finally make an effort to change their bad habits.
These ideas can help you support your friend and encourage them to kick their addiction. But, it’s often not always enough. As a result, you should also talk to them about professional addiction treatment options.
The importance of professional addiction treatment
Some people can go clean without any professional help. However, this is normally only the case for people with minor addictions. If your friend has a long-term addiction that’s plagued their life for years, then they will struggle to fight the habit without any professional help.
The best course of action is to find a rehab clinic that can provide different solutions to this problem. Both drug rehab and alcohol rehab centres are designed to target the leading causes of the addiction. This involves the use of a detox to cleanse the body of harmful toxins and prevent your friend from depending on these harmful substances. Along with this, there’s residential rehab that cuts them off from society and puts them in a controlled environment free from all their usual temptations.
Trying to get rid of addiction on your own is dangerous and difficult. So, if you really want to help your friend, then talk to them about professional treatment options.
Call our helpline today
If you have a friend that’s suffering from addiction, then please give us a call today on 0203 955 7700. We can provide extra advice on what you should do as their friend. Also, you should encourage them to give us a call, and we can provide the best treatment options to help them kick this habit and live a drug-free life.