KNOW SOMEONE ON DRUGS?
Are you worried that your friend is drinking or using drugs? Here’s what you can do.
THE WARNING SIGNS
If your friend has one or more of the following warning signs, he or she may have a serious problem with alcohol or other drugs:
• Lying about things, or about how much alcohol or other drugs he or she is using
• Avoiding you in order to get drunk or high
• Giving up activities he or she used to do, such as sports, homework, or hanging out with friends who don’t drink or use other drugs
• Planning drinking in advance, hiding alcohol, drinking or using other drugs alone
• Frequent hangovers
• Pressuring others to drink or use other drugs
• Taking risks, including sexual risks
• Having ‘’blackouts’’ -- forgetting what he or she did the night before while drinking (if you tell your friend what happened, he or she might pretend to remember, or laugh it off as no big deal)
• Feeling run-down, hopeless, depressed, or even suicidal
• Sounding selfish and not caring about others
• Constantly talking about drinking or using other drugs
• Getting in trouble with the law
• Drinking and driving
• Suspension from school for an alcohol or other drug-related incident
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MY FRIEND?
It is possible for you to help a friend who is in serious trouble with alcohol or other drugs. Whether or not your friend takes your advice and gets help is really your friend’s decision and responsibility. Sometimes, approaching the friend in trouble with another mutual friend can make our intervention easier since there is safety and support in numbers.
The first step in getting help is for your friend to talk to someone about his or her alcohol and drug use. Eventually, your friend will need to admit that there is a problem, and to agree to Stop drinking and/or using other drugs completely. Your friend needs Support and understanding, and someone he or she can trust to talk to about the problem. You can’t force a friend to get help, but you can encourage and support your friend to seek and find professional help.
If you are worried about a friend, it is important for you to speak to someone in private who is knowledgeable and reassuring. Telling someone isn’t being disloyal to your friend. It’s important to know the facts about what’s happening to your friend if you plan to help. Don’t try to help your friend on your own until you have talked to someone you can trust -- a counselor, teacher, doctor, nurse, parent, or someone at your church or synagogue. Ask this person to keep the conversation confidential. You don’t have to mention your friend by name; you can just talk generally about the problem. Talking to a professional will help you figure out what the best steps are for you to take.
If you decide to speak to your friend, here are some guidelines that you and your advisor should consider in planning how and what you could do to help:
• Make sure the timing is right. Talk to your friend when he or she is sober or straight -- before school is a good time.
• Never accuse your friend of being an alcoholic or a drug addict, but do express your concern. • Try not to blame your friend for the problem; if you do, he or she might be turned off right away.
• Talk about your feelings. Tell your friend you’re worried, and how it feels for you to see him or her drunk or high on other drugs.
• Tell your friend what you’ve seen him or her do when drinking or using other drugs. Give specific examples. Tell your friend you want to help.
• Speak in a caring and understanding tone of voice, not with pity but with friendship.
• Be prepared for denial and anger. Your friend may say there is nothing wrong and may get mad at you. Many people with alcohol and other drug problems react this way. When confronted, many users will defend their use, blame others for the problem, or give excuses for why they drink or use other drugs.
• Find out where help is available. You could offer to go with your friend to get help, but be prepared to follow through. This gesture will show your friend that you really care.
• You need to tell your friend that you are worried about him or her, and that someone who can help needs to be told. Your friend might get really mad at you, but if you say nothing, things may get worse and your friend may be in more danger.
• Your friend’s problem is probably hard on you, too. The situation may have left you feeling lonely and afraid. Maybe you’ve thought, ‘’What if I get my friend in trouble? What if I lose my friend over this? What if I don’t do anything and something awful happens?’’ It’s hard to keep all of these questions and feelings to yourself. It’s important that you talk about them. You can share these feelings with the person that you go to for help about your friend’s problem. Your school may have a substance abuse prevention counselor as well.
WHAT DOES MY FRIEND HAVE TO DO TO GET HELP?
Probably the hardest decision your friend will be faced with is admitting that he or she has a problem. To get better and recover, your friend has to get some help to stop drinking or using other drugs.
Facing such a problem and asking for help can be a scary thing to do. Your friend will have to take an honest took at where drinking or other drug use has brought him or her, and admit that it has caused emotional and maybe physical pain.
Your friend will not be able to solve this problem alone. He or she will need experienced help. A good counselor will support your friend and direct him or her to the kind of treatment and/or support groups that are most helpful.
Encourage your friend to talk to other people with drinking and other drug problems, who are now in recovery, such as members of alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These groups are confidential, self-help organizations that offer assistance to anyone who has a drinking or other drug problem and wants to do something about it. AA and NA members are recovering alcoholics and addicts, so they have a special understanding of each other. Talking with others who have experienced similar problems is an important part of recovery. There is no fee for membership in these organizations. If your friend is afraid to go to a meeting alone, you can go along with him or her to an ‘’open’’ meeting. Friends and family members are welcome to attend this type of meeting, and there are special meetings in most neighborhoods or communities. Local branches of AA and NA are listed in your phone directory.
If your friend has a drinking or other drug problem, you may be the only one willing to reach out and help. Your friend may not appreciate your help right away, or he or she may realize it means you really care. Ultimately, it’s up to your friend to get help.
It is not your responsibility to make that happen. In fact, you can’t make that happen. All you can do is talk to your friend, show how much you care, and encourage him or her to get help. Your concern and support might be just what is needed to help your friend turn his or her life around.
However, if your friend is in serious trouble with alcohol or other drugs, and you have been unable to get your friend to get help on his or her own, you should consider speaking with your friend’s parents or guardian. The potential consequences to your friend’s life can be too severe to do nothing.
For more information call the Wholistic Health and Wellness Program 613-575-2341 ex.3100.
800-COCAINE answers emergency questions about drug use and provides referrals and counseling.
800-662-HELP this toll-free 24 hour hotline can tell you how and where to get help for alcohol and other drug problems.