Most people won’t think twice about helping their friends and family members who are struggling with health problems, but not many would do the same when it comes to chemical substance abuse. Addiction isn’t something to be overlooked or swept under the carpet; people have been medically diagnosed for it and if left untreated, it can have really negative side effects of long term use and be extremely life-threatening. However, alcohol or substance use disorder isn’t easy to talk about. If you’ve got a friend that might be suffering from substance abuse and would like to help them as much as possible, read on to find out more about what you can do to offer your support.
How You Can Help Your Friend Or Loved One
Since those suffering from addiction problems are often stigmatized in society, starting a conversation about it might not be the most comfortable thing to do, but it will definitely be lifesaving. Here are some reasons why it is important to reach out to your friend, regardless of how difficult it might be to do so.
1. You don’t want to tell your friend how to live
It’s different from telling someone to get their act together. With chemical substance abuse being the leading cause of death in the U.S, it is absolutely critical to address your friend’s substance abuse problem — you’re not telling them how to live, you’re helping them save their own lives.
2. You fear that you might jeopardize the friendship
Your friend might secretly be hoping that someone will reach out to them, because humans are social creatures, after all. No one should have to suffer alone in silence — reach out to your friends before they retreat further into their own shells.
3. My friend’s vices aren’t that bad
Comparatively, alcohol abuse seems much less severe than drug abuse, but you’ll be surprised to know that alcohol is equally as addictive as drugs. It has been reported by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention that excessive drinking has caused one in ten deaths in working adults.
4. You’re unsure if you’re able to say the right things
Remember to not be judgemental about your friend’s addiction problems. It would be good to let your friend know that you’re willing to be a listening ear so that they can open up to you about any personal/emotional issues that caused them to become reliant on chemical substance abuse in the first place. Be it your loved ones, close friends, acquaintances or even colleagues, let them know that you’re always there for them if they need help. Reaffirm that they’ve always been doing a good job but that you’ve noticed a difference in their behaviour lately, then go on to add that you’re concerned and that they can confide in you if they’d like to. They’ll definitely be sure to appreciate sincerity and genuine care from you.
5. You think that you’re not in the right position to say anything
In some cases, family members are the last to realize that the individual is suffering from substance addiction and needs help. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as the family members being in denial of the situation or that they’re simply too trusting of each other to believe that such substance abuse is going on.
Signs that Your Friend Likely Has an Addiction Problem
The individual doesn’t need to abuse the substance daily for it to be considered an addiction, and even the most successful person out there could be secretly suffering from substance abuse. It is crucial to take note of both the amount of substance used and the effect of it on the individual so that you’ll be able to better assess the situation. Here are some common signs that someone is suffering from substance abuse:
- Increased use of the substance, more so than usual
- Jumping onto the bandwagon and switching up to try the latest trending chemical substances
- Alcohol and drugs are incentives to individual
- Erratic behavior and personality changes
- Memory loss, or an inability to recall recent things well
- Seeking validation for their substance exploits
- Difficulties at work or home, which can result in skipping work or staying out late at night
- Spending most of their time with their drinking/drug buddies
- Has legal, money or relationship problems
So, What Can You Do?
Find a time when your friend is clear-headed and rational. This way, it will be easier to appeal to logic when talking about the negative consequences of substance abuse that they have experienced/yet to experience.
List down a pattern of events rather an isolated incident because they may not be aware of what has been going on; plus, you’ll be able to give them another perspective on what they’ve been doing. It will be tedious to talk about this topic but don’t fret about trying to perfect your words.
The most important thing to do is to convey your concern. Be as supportive as possible, and don’t make it sound like they’re doing something “bad”. Also, be specific about what you’re trying to say. This will help them understand the situation much better and you’ll be able your sentiments clearly.
You’ll also need to be mentally prepared that your friend might not be receptive to your help. Even if they take it badly, always remain calm and reassuring. If they’re ready to get help, advise them on what organizations they can go to, like Narcotics Anonymous or AA.
Talk them through the options they can take, such as seeking an assessment by a counsellor, a mental health professional or physician. In the event that your friend doesn’t want help, you can just let your friend know that you’ll still be there for them.
Additionally, refrain from encouraging further chemical substance abuse. If they’re calling you out late at night for drinks, remember to stand your ground and decline the invitation — but in the meantime, keep close tabs on them so that you know what they’re up to.
Seeking help for substance abuse will greatly alter your friend’s current state of living, so you’ll also need to be prepared to welcome the new changes. Be as supportive as possible and help them reinforce the newer healthy routines that they’ve been taught to adopt; it will be an intensive period of time for them and you might find that their personalities are changing as well, but all of this will be for the better — your friend will be on the road of recovery and your friendship with him/her will be even stronger than ever.