IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program

Helping a friend

Helping a Friend with an Addiction

Perhaps the best place to start in helping a friend with a substance abuse problem is with understanding why people have a hard time seeing the reality of their situation. Many times, a person with a substance abuse problem is in denial. Denial in substance abuse is often referred to as “the disease of denial”. Denial can take many forms: Failure to see that the problem exists, or to see the extent of the problem, failure to recognize that they need to address their substance abuse, and/or failure to see the connection between their substance abuse and the problems that exist in their life. If your friend is in deep denial, then most likely they will become defensive when bringing up the subject of their substance abuse. Please do not take this personally. It further clarifies the extent of their substance abuse.

Hate the drug, not the abuser

When confronting your friend, refrain from criticizing or attacking him or her.  Instead, criticize the substance that your friend is taking (“alcohol is such a downer”). If you start by criticizing or questioning some aspect of your friend's behavior, he might just shut you out, or become defensive, as we mentioned earlier.

A research project called the International Classification of Diseases–10 (ICD-10) identifies a list of warning signs that can help you identify whether or not your friend is struggling with alcohol, marijuana or some prescription drug abuse. Three or more of the following must have been experienced or exhibited at some time during the previous year:

  • Difficulties in controlling substance-taking behavior in terms of its onset, termination or levels of use.
  • A strong desire or sense of compulsion to take the substance.
  • Progressive neglect of alternative pleasures or interests because of psychoactive substance use, increased amount of time necessary to obtain or take the substance or to recover from its effects.
  • Persisting with substance use despite clear evidence of overtly harmful consequences, depressive mood states consequent to heavy use, or drug related impairment of cognitive functioning.
  • Evidence of tolerance, such that increased doses of the psychoactive substance are required in order to achieve effects originally produced by lower doses.
  • A physiological withdrawal state when substance use has ceased or been reduced, as evidenced by: the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance; or use of the same (or a closely related) substance with the intention of relieving or avoiding withdrawal symptoms.  

However, if you friend is using drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, in any form, then they need help immediately

Provide a Drug Free Option

When people start to use drugs or alcohol, they often seek out only those people who use drugs or alcohol. Once you have become concerned that your friend may have a drug or alcohol problem, and you want to help them with this, then refrain from drinking in front of them. Instead, as an alternative, go out for coffee, or a nice dinner, to a movie, or your place for dessert and game night. Never drink in front of them and always discourage them from drinking or using in your presence as well. Teach them how to have fun, without the use of drugs or alcohol. Of course, there is no need to explain to them what you are doing, as they would more than likely become defensive anyway.  

Finding Help

Provide your friend with a list of options for them to get help. A family physician or one of the agencies below is a good place to start. However, the agency will then refer your friend to a local drug and alcohol treatment center or counselor. Offer to go with your friend for the first appointment, as moral support.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
    World Services, Inc 475 Riverside Drive
    New York, NY 10115
    212-870-3400 (Literature)
    212-647-1680 (Meeting Referral)
  • Cocaine Anonymous
    World Service Office
    3740 Overland Avenue, Suite C
    Los Angeles, CA 90034
  • NAFARE Alcohol, Drug, and Pregnancy Hotline
    200 N. Michigan Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60601
  • Narcotics Anonymous
    World Service Office
    P.O. Box 9999
    Van Nuys, CA 91409
  • National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information
    P.O. Box 2345
    Rockville, MD 20847-2345
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
    12 West 21st Street, 7th Floor
    New York, NY 10010
    1-800-NCA-CALL (they will refer you to a local treatment information center)
  • Rational Recovery Systems
    P.O. Box 800
    Lotus, CA 95651
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
    P.O. Box 5
    Buffalo, NY 14215
  • Women for Sobriety
    P.O. Box 618
    Quakertown, PA 18951

Praise Him, Praise Him

Many recovering addicts relapse back into addiction. It's a sad fact that once you've been addicted to something you're always somewhat at risk to start using it again, and your friend is no exception. That's why you've got to make sure he knows that any time he spends off the drug is good time. Keep up with his progress, and praise him for any success he has. Comment on how good he looks, how much happier he seems, and how things are really going well for him, even if these are blatant lies. Don't patronize, but be ridiculously positive.

If you or a friend is struggling with the disease of addiction, and you want help, your Student Assistance Counselors provides confidential,  counseling services here at IPFW. All counselors are professional and licensed counselors who will assess and then guide you toward recovery.