Substance use disorders (SUDs), which include the abuse or dependence on a particular drug, can negatively impact communities, families and individuals. They also contribute heavily to the burden of disease in a country and are expensive to the nation as a whole because of crime, health care and lost productivity. According to the 2019 World Drug Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 35 million individuals across the globe suffer from drug use disorders.
Talking to a friend about their substance use can be difficult. It’s not a conversation that you can start on a whim. The good news is that you have ways to communicate that will produce better outcomes than you can expect.
Here are a few suggestions to speak with your friend about SUD and help them put their life back together:
Speak With Your Friend At The Right Time
Initiate a conversation when your friend is more likely to be open and understanding.
Arrange a time when the two of you can talk. Raise your concerns about their SUD. At the same time, take note that the conversation is just a two-way street. Listen to what your friend has to say and give them time to voice their feelings. Your goal is to make them aware of their substance use disorder, not blame them.
Lecturing your friend on the consequences of addiction will only make them more anxious or nervous. Instead, bring up the benefits of living sober and undergoing treatment. Assist them in researching treatment options on the web. If your friend, for instance, has heroin addiction, see if you could recommend a heroin rehab center near their area.
Also, offer reassurance when they join support groups and undergo psychotherapy or other recovery services. Your friend may sometimes need an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on while they’re getting their life back together. Showing your interest in their long-term sobriety and recovery plan will push them to keep going even when times get difficult.
Let your friend with the addiction know what you will and will not put up with. Don’t be afraid to put your foot down and follow through. You’re showing your friend that you aren’t simply punishing them for using or making empty threats.
If your friend appears to be unwilling to change and you believe that you are unable to continue a relationship with them while they’re using, gently let them know. You could do this through counseling.
Sometimes, you need to cite specific scenarios to deliver a clear explanation for your concerns. You could, for instance, discuss how their attitude changes after taking a certain drug. Be honest by telling your friend how they are when sober and detail how circumstances change once they begin to use.
People with SUD will be highly unpredictable in their behavior and words. Setting a good example could help you turn things around. Make sure that what you say and do are predictable whenever you’re around someone with a substance use disorder. Surprises can get stressful – and stress fuels addiction.
Keep Your Actions And Words Consistent
Consistency is just as important as predictability. When communicating with a friend about their addiction, keep your message clear and consistent. Here’s an example: don’t say that you’re worried about your friend using, then just watch them partake in that activity. This sends mixed messages, which can complicate matters between the two of you.
What’s more, make sure that you steer clear from criticism and accusations. Instead of jumping to conclusions, show empathy in their current situation. Telling them that they “made a mess of their life” will put your friend on the defensive. You could instead say phrases, like “I noticed you’re having a hard time lately” or “I’m genuinely concerned about your health and well-being.”
Show your friend just how much you care about them through your behavior. Act with kindness and compassion. This is the main ingredient to successfully interacting with a person who is struggling with substance abuse.
Addiction is highly stigmatized in society that people with this problem expect others to belittle, insult or criticize them. They also expect family and friends to reject them. When you accept the individual with an addiction, you could begin to build bridges to recovery and forgiveness – even if you don’t accept their behavior.
Communication is difficult with someone who has SUD, but you can make this process easy by following these suggestions. Make sure you bring up the problem sooner rather than later because it can make a difference in your friend’s recovery and treatment.