Has a friend become moody, short-tempered, and hostile? Does he
or she seem out of it or spacey? Is she suddenly cutting classes
and hanging out with the "wrong crowd?" Stop and think
about it. Your friend may have an alcohol or other drug problem.
Additional Signs of Drug or Alcohol Abuse Include
- increased interest in alcohol or other drugs; talking about
them, talking about buying them
- owning drug paraphernalia such as pipes, hypodermic needles,
or rolling papers
- having large amounts of cash or always being low on cash
- drastic increase or decrease in weight
- sometimes slurred or incoherent speech
- withdrawal from others, frequent lying, depression, paranoia
- dropping out of school activities
- increased sexual activity.
If a friend acts this way, it is not a guarantee that he or she
has an alcohol or other drug problem. You need to compare behavior
now to behavior in the past. But it's better to say something
and be wrong than to say nothing and find out later that you were
right to be worried.
How To Talk to a Friend Who's in Trouble
It is not an easy thing to do. You may feel like your friend will
think you are judging him or her. A friend in trouble may very well
get mad at you for interfering in his or her business. Although
it's not your job to get people to stop using drugs, you can
and should express concern as a friend. Only the user can decide
to stop. Before you talk to a friend, it may be helpful to know
some of facts about drug use.
- There are an estimated 1.5 million Americans, ages 12 and older
who use cocaine.
- Drug-related deaths remain near historic highs.
- Current illicit drug use among 8th and 10th graders has more
than doubled in the past five years.
- Teens who drink alcohol are 7.5 times more likely to use any
illicit drug, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine than young
people who never drink alcohol.
Think ahead about what you want to say. These tips can help you
through the process:
- Let the friend know that you care about them.
- Plan ahead what you want to say and how you want to say it.
- Pick a quiet and private time to talk.
- Don't try to talk about the problem when your friend
is drunk or high.
- Use a calm voice and don't get into an argument.
- Ask if there is anything that you can do to help. Have information
about local hotlines and drug abuse counseling and offer to go
with him or her.
- Don't expect your friend to like what you're saying.
But stick with it — the more people who express concern, the
better the chances of your friend getting help.
- Look for help for your friend. Talk about the situation with
someone who knows about drug abuse and helping abusers.
- Seek advise from a trusted adult such as a guidance counselor,
a teacher, a religious leader or a parent about how to talk to
friends who may have a drug problem.
- Be prepared for denial by the friend when you talk to him or
her about his or her problem. The user may automatically turn
aggressive and defensive.
Keeping Yourself Drug Free Helps Friends Stay That Way
- Skip parties where you know there will be alcohol or other
- Hang out with friends who don't use alcohol or other
drugs to have fun.
- Get involved in drug-free activities. Ask your friends to join.
- Learn how to talk to your peers and younger kids about the
dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol. Many communities have programs
that teach teens how to counsel their peers about problems that
teenagers face, including substance abuse.
- Don't accept a ride from someone who has been drinking
or doing drugs. Find someone else to give you a lift.
- Offer to drive for the person who is high or drunk or call
your parents or a friend for a ride.
- Remind friends that buying or possessing illegal drugs is against
the law. Being arrested and getting a police record may not seem
like a big deal now, but could keep you from getting jobs, college
loans, or licenses for many professions.
- Remind friends that using intravenous drugs places them at
risk of getting AIDS and hepatitis.
- Encourage your school to organize drug-free activities — dances,
movies, community service projects, walk-athons, marathons, etc. — to
raise money for charities or local substance abuse programs.
- Use plays, songs, and raps to show younger children the consequences
of drug abuse.
- Urge your school, faith community, or neighborhood to organize
an anti-drug rally.
- Tell a teacher, your parents, or the police about drug dealers
in your school and community. Many areas have phone numbers that
let people report these crimes anonymously. Don't ignore
the problem by thinking, "that kid will graduate next year"
or "they only deal to a few kids." The problem will
only get worse.
- Talk to school counselors about starting an alcohol or other
drug abuse prevention program.
- Check with recreation centers, youth clubs, libraries, or schools
to see if they offer after-school activities — classes for
you and your friends. Ask your school or neighborhood to publicize
- Encourage your school to start intramural sports for kids who
may not be interested in competing on the junior varsity or varsity
athletic teams but still want to play.
Return to Crime Prevention Tips
Crime Prevention Tips Provided by:
National Crime Prevention Council
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