Help a Friend Month: How to Support A Friend During Drug Use or Relapses
International Friend Month is a time to celebrate the special bond of friendship and cherish our friends. But it is also an opportunity to recognize the importance of being there for a friend during difficult times, especially when they struggle with drug use or relapse.
Addiction can be an extremely difficult journey; without the right help and support, it is nearly impossible to recover successfully. That’s why it is important to know how to be there for a friend during these tough times and give them the support they need.
But knowing what to do or where to start can be challenging. Perhaps you have mixed feelings about getting involved in their business or assume someone else will take care of it. In some cases, you may even feel hurt by your friend’s past behaviors and actions. All these feelings are valid and understandable, but it is important to remember that addiction is a complex issue, and your friend may be in desperate need of help.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions for how to be there for a friend during drug use or relapse:
Educate Yourself about Addiction
One of the first steps to supporting your friend is to learn all there is about substance use disorders. Research can help you understand what addiction is, the signs and symptoms, risks of relapse, and treatment options. It can also help you identify treatment centers near you.
Like most people, you may have no idea that addiction is a mental illness or that it is classified as a chronic and relapsing brain disorder. You may also not know that your friend has no control over their addictive behaviors and that they need addiction treatment to make a long-term recovery. Understanding this information can help you understand and support your friend’s journey.
Generally, some common signs of addiction or relapse include:
- Change in friend circle
- Changes in how frequently they take drugs or alcohol
- Unusual sleeping pattern
- Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, mood swings
- Financial issues
- Neglected responsibilities
- Loss of interest in hobbies, work, or school
- Withdrawal from family or friends
- Weight loss or gain
- Bloodshot eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Sleeping problems
- Excessive sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Runny or bloody nose
- Impaired coordination
- Unexplained need for money
- Lying or being secretive
- Legal issues
- Drug paraphernalia
- Socializing with others who abuse drugs
Learn about the Treatment Options
Once you recognize the problem and understand that your friend needs professional help, the next step is to learn about the available treatment options. For instance, if you know your friend has experienced a relapse, you can help them find the right treatment programs. It can be anything from inpatient rehabilitation and therapy to outpatient options like support groups or individual counseling. You can also provide information about intervention specialists and relapse prevention strategies that could help them stay on the road to recovery.
Talk to your Friend
It can be difficult to start this conversation, particularly when the topic is so sensitive. But you want to be open and honest with your friend and let them know that you are there for them. Try to keep it positive, focus on their strengths and remind them that you are always willing to listen. Explain what you’ve observed and discuss the kind of help they need.
A few things to keep in mind when talking to your friend about their addiction include:
- Pick the right time: Choose when your friend is relaxed and can give you their full attention. Let them know you are willing to talk at any time, but you don’t want to rush them.
- Talk when sober: It’s much easier to have a productive conversation with your friend when they’re in the right state of mind.
- Find a neutral place: Choose a place where your friend feels comfortable and relaxed. This could be in their home or at a local park or cafe.
- Create a two-way dialogue: It is important to allow your friend to open up and talk about their situation. Ask questions that allow them to explain their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This way, your friend won’t feel like they’re being lectured.
- Keep it honest: When it comes to addiction, it’s important to be honest with your friend. Speak openly about the risks and consequences of their drug abuse and provide them with resources and support.
- Be patient: Addiction is a difficult journey, but it’s important to be patient with your friend.
Be a Source of Support and Encouragement
Sometimes, drug use can be a source of shame and guilt for the addicted person. It is important to provide encouragement and support without judging or being critical of your friend’s choices. Show them that you are there for them, despite their addiction relapse. Tell them that you believe in them and their capacity to make the necessary changes for successful recovery.
It’s also advisable to develop and repeat a consistent, positive message, like “I care about you and want you to get help.”
When a friend is struggling with drug use or relapse, it’s important to stay in touch. Check-in regularly, even if it’s just a few minutes or an hour. This can be done through phone calls, emails, text messages, or even in-person visits if possible. Let them know that you care and are available to listen without judgment.
Stage an Intervention
If you feel like your friend is in danger, or if the addiction has been going on for a long time without any changes, it might be a good idea to stage an intervention. This involves gathering family and friends along with an intervention specialist who can talk with the addicted individual in a supportive environment and encourage them to seek help.
A professional interventionist should guide the process, because they have the expertise and experience to facilitate the conversation, create a safe space for everyone to express their feelings and concerns, and provide guidance and support for the addicted individual.
Participating in International Friendship Month is a great way to show your friend that you are there for them during their struggles with substance abuse. By talking openly, providing support and encouragement, and offering resources for relapse prevention, you can be a valuable part of their recovery process.
At Recovery Centers of America, we understand the difficulty of addiction and strive to provide comprehensive, evidence-based care that meets each person’s individual needs. Our experienced team of professionals is available round the clock to provide support and advice. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one on their journey to recovery.