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Australian Resource


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How to help a friend with a drug problem

Talking to a friend about drugs
Year: Year 7–8, Year 9–10, Year 11–12
Targeted Drugs:

Concerned about a friend?

Have you noticed that a friend or someone you know seems to be having some problems because of drug use? Here are some tips about how to support them and talk to them about their drug use: 

Gather information about the drug you think your friend may be taking. 

Have a clear idea of what it is that worries you about their drug use.

Choose a time to talk where you will have some privacy and won’t be interrupted.

Be prepared for a negative reaction. One reason for this may be that your friend does not view their drug use as a problem.

• Try to stay calm and reasonable. Don’t let it turn into an argument.

Don’t be judgemental or tell them what to do. If you start lecturing them, there's a good chance they will stop listening to what you’ve got to say.

• Ask about their drug use; don’t make assumptions about what they are doing.

• Don’t focus on the reasons they are using drugs — this can mean you get side tracked from the main issues that concern you.

Use statements including “I” as this doesn’t put the blame on them. So instead of saying “You make me feel worried when you use drugs” say something like “I feel worried about your drug use”.

• Let your friend know you care about them and emphasise the feelings that you are having. Remind them of their good qualities. People are more likely to listen and take advice on board if they feel valued and respected.

Be trustworthy and supportive so that your friend knows that they can rely on you and that what they tell you is kept confidential.

Remind them that we are all human and that we all have problems so that they are not too hard on themselves.

• Let them know that change is possible but it may take time, so don’t try to set deadlines for them as they may be less ready to change when they are being forced.

• If your friend does not want to change, encourage them to learn how to reduce their risk of harm. Let them know you are available to talk in the future.

Getting help

There are a number people that can offer advice and support when a young person is going through a tough time. These include:

  • A parent or teacher
  • School Counsellor
  • GP
  • Youth worker
  • Psychologist.

It is important to encourage your friend to talk about the problems, rather than ignoring them in the hope they'll go away. Running into problems at home or school is very common, and the people listed above will be able to help. 

You can watch the following videos to find out more about what it is like to see a school counsellor,  psychologist, or other professional, what to expect, and how they can help. 

Evidence Base

This factsheet was developed following expert review by researchers at the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use, National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW and the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University. See Student booklet for more information.