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Real Teens Ask: How Can I Help My Friend?

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Sara Bellum
July 20, 2010

Lots of teens have questions about drugs. Each year, NIDA scientists spend a whole day chatting online with high school students and answering their questions.

At the last “Drug Facts Chat Day,” a teen from Lima Central Catholic High School in Lima, Ohio asked:

What should I do if one of my friends is using drugs... What should I tell him to convince him to stop?

There are many ways to help and support your friend, but in the end, it will need to be your friend’s decision. And just by asking us this question, it’s easy to see you are a good friend. Sometimes our friends won’t appreciate advice they don’t want to hear—especially if they are using drugs—but telling the truth to help someone close to you is part of being a real friend, even when it’s hard to do.

Here’s some ideas of things to say and do to help:

What To Do:

  • Find out if your friend is experimenting with drugs, or if he may be addicted. Neither one is good—but you may need more support if your friend is addicted.
  • Understand that addiction is a brain disease. Just like you wouldn’t expect someone with cancer to be able to heal herself without the help of a doctor, the right treatment, and support from family and friends, you can’t expect your friend to heal herself.
  • Know that it is never easy for anyone to admit that they have a drug problem. You will need to be patient—and not give up easily.
  • Listen, encourage, share, and support. Sounds easy right? But it’s so hard. We provide further tips and resources in a previous post we wrote titled “How to Help a Friend in Need.”
  • BTW, it's tough having a friend with addiction issues. So, if you need some support, visit: http://www.alanon.alateen.org/.

What To Say:

  • Just telling your friend that you’re concerned can be a big help. Your friend may not want to talk about it, and the effects that drugs have on the brain may keep him or her from “hearing” you or acting on your advice.
  • Assure your friend you are there for her and that she is not alone. People with drug problems often have gotten in with the wrong crowd—and they don’t want to turn away from these so-called friends for fear of being alone.
  • Suggest that he or she speak to a trusted adult who will keep it confidential. Maybe there’s a family friend who could help.
  • Turn to a professional for immediate help if the problem looks to be too big for you to handle alone, or if you’re worried your friend may have suicidal thoughts that she could act on.
  • Use SAMHSA’s Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator or call 1–800–662–HELP to tap into a support network where you can find immediate and confidential help 24/7. They will also be able to direct you to local treatment options.

When the people we care about and have lots in common with make bad choices, it can be frustrating, confusing, and a little depressing. Still, we should be there for our friends, and also try to be a good role models for them by making smart choices ourselves.

Comments

This is very good advice. Speak to a trusted adult - 9 out of 10 the drug abuser does not realise they have a problem until it is too late...fiona from London

I think is i am a drug and alc user at the age 13 and the thing is that you cant help your friend usless they wanna be helped. you can tell thier parents about what is happing and get them into a treatment a lot of hospitals have treatment for teens. but the thing is they cant be helped unless they wanna be help. in thier head is just i want the drug i want the drug. so talk to theri parents about it ! (:

What should you do if you promised your friend you wouldnt tell anyone, but are still very worried about them?

Encourage your friend to talk to a trusted adult who might help them. This could include a parent, their doctor, a teacher or guidance counselor at school, among others. If there is no one else to confide in, they may be able to find to a local treatment professional who can help them by consulting this resource from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

Actually my ex is found drugs because we broke up he's cutting himself, smoking and just being a douche. You should pull your friend aside and give them suggestions that an adult/counselor can help with.
My friend also does drugs and I don't want to tell everyone but I can't keep it a secret what do I do? I told my parents and my mom is trying to help them out but I want them to listen so, I would just keep it between you two and try helping him/her all you can
Same thing just happend to me just tell someone who you trust or will keep it confidential.
AHHHHHHHHHH DRUGs nooooooooooooooooooooo my brain is melting. i chose to do drugs now im dead
I believe that treatment centers can work for addicts that are not ready. Think about it? If they are using they are so messed up they can't really think. I hope that one day will come when families can put addicts into treatment against their will. We don't allow people with dementia to roam the streets and people put them in treatment without their permission. Addiction is a chronic disease and until everyone understands it things are not going to get better
My friends name is Sarah we were friends 2 years ago but things happened and we broke up but now I'm going to see her next year and I know she's doing drugs I still care for her alot while we were friends she was going through alot of tuff stuff and I now feel like I abandoned her and she doing alot of bad hard core stuff I want to help but I don't know should I even confront should I gradually became friends again and try to be a good friend and support her or should I just leave her alone? I really still care for her

Hi fallon.  It sounds like Sarah could really use a friend that would be a positive influence on her.  You can make a difference by being supportive and helping her see how drugs are affecting her life.  You can also talk to a guidance counselor and tell them your concerns. 

Hi I recently found some evidence on my brothers phone that pointed towards him doing drugs..I don't know what to do! I am pretty sure the evidence is real. I do not want to confront him about it because obviously he has been doing it behind my family's backs. Who should I tell? Do I tell anyone at all? Please tell me what to do.

Hi Sara.  You need to tell your parents what you found.  It will be difficult, but drugs can harm your brother's health.  If you're afraid to tell your parents, you should tell a trusted adult that knows your brother.  Good luck!

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