Stand Up: How to Help Someone Who Is Misusing Alcohol or Drugs

If you are concerned about someone’s drinking or drug use, it is always better to talk to them about it than to remain silent. Although you may want to protect the drinker from harm, ignoring the problem means that nothing will change. You are not responsible for your friend’s actions, but you could make a potentially lifesaving intervention.

It is important not to cover for the person you care about, make excuses for them, or otherwise protect them from the consequences of their drinking or drug use. Experiencing the negative consequences of their actions may be what ultimately convinces them to get help with their addiction.

Tips for talking to your friend:

Be specific
  • Tell the person that you are worried about their drinking and describe how it is affecting you.
  • Use examples of the ways in which the drinking has caused problems, including the most recent event.
Time your conversation
  • The best time to talk to the drinker is shortly after an alcohol-related problem (such as an argument, sanction, or injury) has occurred.
  • Choose a time when they are sober, both of you are fairly calm, and you can speak in private.
Be prepared for a negative reaction
  • It’s pretty common for a problem drinker to feel attacked when confronted by a friend.
  • Defensiveness and denial can be difficult to deal with. Get support for yourself.
Try to stay calm and objective
  • You may need to bring up the topic several times. 
  • Don’t take any harsh comments personally.
  • Avoid discussing the issue when the person is drunk or high.
What if nothing happens?
  • Be patient.
  • Accepting that one has a problem with alcohol isn’t always easy.
  • Recovery from alcoholism and other drug addiction doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Try to accept setbacks and relapses with calmness and understanding.
  • Continue looking for opportunities for conversation and be willing to act.
  • Seek the company of other friends and acquaintances who do things you enjoy.