How to Help a Friend Who Has a Drug or Alcohol Addiction

helping a friend who is an addict

The first thing that you need to know about helping a friend who is a drug addict or alcoholic is that you should not wait. The longer that you postpone taking action to help your friend, the harder it may be for him or her to quit.

Addiction is a progressive condition, one that gets worse as it persists, and it is generally easier to quit earlier in the addiction. This is due in part to the physiological aspects of addiction since the body of an addict becomes increasingly dependent on the chemical substance. It is also due to the fact that the addict becomes more and more emotionally and mentally dependent on the drug to find relief from stress, to feel at ease and even to feel normal. Worse, the longer you wait to step in and provide help, the more likely it becomes that your friend will get in trouble with the law, will overdose or even die using drugs or drinking.

Don’t be afraid to bring up the topic, and don’t let concerns over possibly offending your friend keep you from taking action. In fact, if you go about it the right way, you will not only avoid causing offense but will even strengthen your friendship by demonstrating that you sincerely and deeply care for your friend. The alternative is to hesitate or back off from saying anything, and by doing so you are implicitly encouraging your friend to continue the addiction. If you say something, you could lose your friend, but if you say nothing, you almost certainly will.

Staging an Intervention for an Addicted Friend

Helping your friend to quit will most likely depend on you staging some type of intervention. Depending on the circumstances and the nature of your relationship with the other person, this may consist of an intimate conversation between the two of you, or it could be a formal meeting at which many people attend. You have to make the judgment call based on whether you think your friend will respond more strongly to a private and one-on-one intervention or if you expect that it will take the voices of several friends and family members to impress on your friend that it is time to quit. Should you choose the latter course of action, it is wise to invite people whom your friend respects and looks up to, since their opinions will typically carry greater weight. In either scenario, make sure that you do not take an accusatory tone towards your friend; this approach will tend to only make the addict defensive and resistive to help. Instead, focus on how the addict’s behavior is affecting you, how you feel that you are losing him or her and the concerns that you have for the person’s safety, happiness, and health.

It is of vital importance that you plan ahead of time before you begin an intervention. Without a plan and a roadmap in place, the meeting is liable to get out of control and wander all over the place, potentially getting off track and devolving into an argument. Another reason you should have a plan in place is that it makes it easier for you to persist towards your goal when your friend balks.

Finally, you need to have a specific goal in mind that translates into actual action. Simply getting your friend to agree to quit is not enough; he or she is liable to wake up the next morning and to slip right back into the established routines and patterns of behavior. Instead, have a goal that at the end of the intervention, your friend will not only agree to quit but will actually move forward with checking into rehab.

The help that you can offer to a friend who has an addiction does not, however, end with going to rehab. As soon as your friend checks out, you need to be ready to assist him or her in transitioning back into the outside world, a world where drugs and alcohol are freely available. Help your friend to avoid situations and places where he or she would normally have consumed alcohol or drugs. Life after rehab will be enormously different for your friend, and you can provide invaluable assistance by being there to help him or her to readjust and move forward.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.