You may be hesitant to get involved if you think a friend is addicted to drugs, but don’t worry about interfering. By showing your friend that you care, you can help more than you realize. Remember that drug addiction is a leading cause of death in countries around the world.
Before you talk to your friend, read all you can about addiction. It will help you understand the many ways drugs affect brain function. In short, when your friend uses drugs, the brain releases a flood of dopamine, a brain chemical responsible for feelings of pleasure.
The brain wants to continue those good feelings, which triggers cravings for more drugs. As time goes by, tolerance develops and your friend needs more and more to achieve the same results. Sometimes, the brain may require a large amount to feel “normal.”
If your friend is hesitant to seek treatment or can’t admit he is addicted, you may need to plan an intervention. Remember, it isn’t true that people must hit rock bottom before treatment works. In fact, the sooner your friend gets into treatment, the better the chances of successful recovery.
Never put yourself at risk while attempting to help a friend. Don’t accompany her to buy drugs. Never ride with a person who is drunk or high. Always take care of your own wellbeing.
How to Talk to a Friend about Addiction
- Get together in a neutral place such as a park or coffee shop. Don’t meet your friend where drugs or alcohol are available.
- Don’t try to discuss serious matters if your friend is high or drunk. Wait until a better time.
- Stop the discussion if tempers flare. Try again later when you’re both calmer.
- Be positive and supportive and avoid blaming. Don’t bribe your friend and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Understand that addiction is a chronic brain disease.
- Prepare yourself for excuses and denial, which are both common symptoms of addiction. Your friend probably knows her life is in trouble, but she isn’t ready to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth.
- Your friend is likely to blame job stresses, a demanding boss, or a spouse that doesn’t understand.
- Remind your friend, without shaming or guilt, how his addiction is affecting you and other people he loves.
- Try not to take it personally if your friend gets angry or says hurtful things. Addiction causes people to do things they wouldn’t normally do, including lashing out at people they care about.
- Investigate drug treatment clinics or rehabs in your area. You can also mention 12-Step groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholic Anonymous, but don’t force the issue. Twelve-step groups help many but they aren’t the answer for everyone.
- Don’t despair if your friend isn’t ready to accept help. It’s not your fault. Let your friend know you’ll be there when he’s ready for help.
- Remember that ultimately, your friend is responsible for her own recovery.
- Don’t hesitate to plan an intervention, but don’t attempt to stage one on your own. Talk to other people who care about your friend, and then seek the assistance of a trained professional. A botched intervention can be more destructive than no intervention at all.
Differences between Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction
The two terms are often used interchangeably, but before you talk to your friend, you should understand the important differences between drug abuse and drug addiction.
Drug abuse refers to the harmful, non-medical use of psychoactive substances, including drugs and alcohol. It involves a deliberate decision to use drugs in an unsafe way. Although abuse can lead to addiction, many people abuse drugs without becoming dependent.
People who abuse drugs can still control their behavior. Sometimes, an honest conversation with a loved one can be the beginning of important changes and may prevent a progression to full-blown addiction.
Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that involves chemical dependency and a total loss of control over the drug. Using the drug can take over all aspect of a person’s life, becoming more important than work or school, or even friends and family A person in the grip of addiction may place drugs above eating and sleeping.
A person who is addicted to drugs may run into financial or legal problems, or he may lose his job or develop terrible health issues. In spite of the many negative consequences, he is still unable to stop without help.