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How to Help a Friend

If you are concerned about a friend or peer’s alcohol use, talk to them. Although it may be intimidating to start the conversation, you can be the person who connects them to support and ultimately help them avoid further negative consequences associated with substance use.


There are several signs that someone may be misusing alcohol. If you notice any of the following signs in yourself or a friend, it may be an indicator of alcohol misuse:

  • Frequent alcohol use and binge drinking
  • Experiences of blacking out, being unable to cut back and/or a strong desire to use
  • Being unable to do things that are normally expected of you
  • Neglecting social, occupational or recreational activities because of alcohol use
  • Legal, financial and social problems due to alcohol use

After you have recognized someone who may be struggling with alcohol misuse, you should have a conversation with them. In this conversation you should:

  • Ask questions that encourage personal reflection about their alcohol use
  • Limit advice giving, and guide the person of concern to evaluate their experiences and support networks
  • Be prepared to talk to them about what has raised your concern and resources available to them
  • Let them know that you are there for them and know your limitations
Expressing your concern to a friend or peer shows that you care about them. Always do your best to be open, empathetic and honest in these conversations.

Defensiveness

Once you have raised the topic, the person might respond defensively, deny having a problem, or agree that he or she has a problem with alcohol.

Make it clear to the problem drinker that you dislike the behavior, not the person. If you drink, be honest about your own drinking and attempts to control it. Understand that the person’s defensiveness is based on fear of facing the problem and isn’t directed at you.


Denial

If your discussions have no effect on your friend’s drinking behavior, you should still tell him or her how the drinking problem affects you. For example, you can say how hard it is for you to enjoy going out together to a party because you are afraid he or she will get sick, pass out or otherwise embarrass you both.


Agreement

If at some point your friend agrees that drinking is creating personal problems, you might want to ask these questions:

  • Why do you think you have a problem with alcohol?

  • What do you think you can do about it?

  • What are you going to do about it?

  • What kinds of support do you need from me to stop or limit your drinking?

You might also want to have some referrals ready for your friend.

There are many places to go for help. Check out the Alcohol and Other Drug Resources for a list of groups here to help you, or call Redfern Health Center to make an appointment for ACTT services.