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Drugs - How to Help Others

There are two kinds of intervention. One is less formal, though it will nevertheless take a strong commitment on your part. If you have a friend who might have a problem with alcohol, and you feel you can help him or her on your own, then follow our six-step plan.

Step 1. Get sound advice. Go to a school counselor,or other trained professional. Explain your predicament and discuss how to proceed.

Step 2. Get sobriety on your side. When it's time to confront your friend, make sure he or she is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It's going to be hard enough to convince your friend that he or she needs help. The time will never feel "right" to bring up such a tough subject; but beginning your talk when you are both alert will give you a better chance of being heard.

Step 3. Drum up your willpower. Before you speak to your friend, have a definite plan for how you'll start helping them. Find out about A.A. meetings or other substance abuse counseling that is available, and plan to accompany your friend to at least a few meetings. All recovering addicts need the support of people who love them in order to successfully battle their problem. If you decide you want to work through it with him or her, make sure you've got the strength to stick it out. You might consider attending a support group such as Al-Anon to work through your own feelings as you help your friend through the recovery process.

Step 4. Keep it personal. Begin the conversation with your friend by letting him or her know you care, and that's why you are speaking to them about this problem. Use your own feelings about the situation, "The way you act when you're drinking makes me worry about you", instead of, "I heard you got sloppy drunk and got in a fight." Be up front and list the negative effects you have seen drugs and/or alcohol have on the person, including health problems, memory loss, poor grades, isolation from family and friends, etc. It is hard to ignore the evidence.

Step 5. Expect denial. It won't be easy getting your friend to admit he or she's got a problem with drugs or alcohol. Accepting that you've developed a dependency can be humiliating, embarrassing, and hurtful. So do what you can to reassure his or her dignity: Remind your friend that this dependency is the one personal obstacle that he or she has to overcome, and that there are many great things that make your friend a valuable human being. The first talk you have with your friend about this problem most likely will not be the last, but don't give up.

Step 6. Follow through. Ultimately, it must be your friend's choice to help him-or herself. Once that decision is made, show your support. Prove that you meant it when you said you would attend A.A. or N.A. meetings with him, or that you would opt for going to the movies with her instead of going to a party. Knowing you are there to lean on during moments of weakness when he or she really wants a drink or to use will help set your friend on the path to recovery. For your part, you need to have patience and remind yourself you are being a true and good friend.