4 Ways to Help a Friend With a Substance Abuse Problem

It’s not easy watching a friend struggle with a substance abuse problem, but it can be hard to broach the subject. Many people with a drug or alcohol addiction are in denial and don’t believe their substance abuse is a problem. Others may get defensive or angry when you try to talk to them. Knowing how to talk to a drug addict can help you figure out ways to help a friend with a substance abuse problem. 

Here are some tips on the best ways to help drug addicts.

1. Educate yourself.

One of the most important ways to help a friend with a substance abuse problem is to understand substance use disorders, which include abuse, addiction and dependence. These are not the same things, and understanding them is essential for helping your friend.


Drug abuse is the act of using drugs or alcohol in a way that causes problems in your friend’s life. These problems may stem from risky behaviors while seeking out drugs or alcohol or while under the influence, or they may have to do with their relationships, finances, legal status, or physical or mental health.

Binge drinking is the most common form of drug abuse. Binge drinking involves drinking enough alcohol in two hours to bring your blood alcohol content up to .08 percent. For women, this is typically four drinks, and for men, it’s typically five.


Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug use despite negative consequences. Someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol will be unable to stop using, even if they want to or try to. Addiction is the result of brain changes that affect the learning, memory, and reward centers of the brain. It leads to intense cravings that keep someone seeking out and using drugs or alcohol even as their life falls apart around them. Addiction affects thought and behavior patterns, and using is no longer a choice, but rather a compulsion. The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that professional help is almost always needed to overcome an addiction.


Dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that set in when someone tries to quit using drugs or alcohol. Dependence also occurs due to changes in brain function as the brain tries to compensate for the presence of drugs or alcohol. This causes tolerance, which means that you need increasingly larger doses to get the same effects. At some point, brain function may change so that the brain is more comfortable on drugs. When you try to stop using, normal brain function rebounds and causes withdrawal symptoms.

2. Talk to your friend.

Talking to your friend is one of the most important ways to help a friend with a substance abuse problem. But it can be hard deciding on how to talk to a drug addict. Here are some tips:

Don’t try to talk to your friend unless he or she is sober.

Don’t judge or accuse.

Explain how you see the substance abuse affecting your friend’s life, including his or her relationships, finances, legal problems, or health troubles.

Ask your friend to get help, and offer to help your friend find the right treatment program.

3. Consider an intervention.

If your friend is in denial or refuses to hear you out, an intervention is one of the most effective ways to help a friend with a substance abuse problem. An intervention is a meeting between you and other concerned people and your addicted friend. During the meeting, you and the others explain to your friend how the addiction is affecting you. Professional interventionists can help you learn the best ways to help drug addicts, and they can help you plan and execute the intervention.

4. Offer support.

Offering your unconditional support during recovery is one of the most important ways to help a friend with a substance abuse problem. This means helping your friend through rough times in recovery, lending a sympathetic ear, helping your friend have fun without drugs, and supporting your friend’s recovery in other positive ways.

WhiteSands Treatment understands the best ways to help drug addicts. Contact us today at 877-855-3470 for information about ways to help a friend with a substance abuse problem.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.