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How to Support a Friend with Addiction

January 5, 2016

1. When we know a person well, we notice even the smallest changes in their behavior  so if you suspect a friend of having an addiction look out for the telltale signs.

“If it’s cocaine, they might be spending more time alone,” says Michael Garnham, Head of Therapy at Sensatori Harley Street. Most of us have dragged a mate to the bathroom mirror on a night out, but Garnham says toilet trips in clubs and bars can be the most obvious sign that a friend is using.

Check their behavior when they’re back – are they more erratic or talkative? Other addiction tip-offs include being constantly distracted, a lack of appetite, becoming worse at time-keeping and showing anger when under the influence.

2. Broaching the issue with your friend can be tricky and timing is important. Garnham says it’s important not to confront your friend while they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs because their reaction will be affected.
It’s also important to consider that a sufferer’s mood will fluctuate more than most – sometimes they’ll be feel ok and at other times they can be near suicidal. Speak to them when they’re feeling level-headed, Garnham says.
3. When you summon the courage to voice your concerns, there are terms to use and ones to avoid. Phrases like “Pull yourself together” are a big no-no, as are ‘label’ words like ‘alcoholic’ and ‘drug addict’. These phrases sound judgmental and accusatory and because most addicts are in denial, they will just react defensively.
A better approach is to remove the pressure and make things inclusive, for instance: “I’ve been drinking way too much lately. How’s your drinking?” Turning the topic to yourself before posing a question will soften the blow. If you get frustrated, don’t let your mood cloud your words but stay calm and vent later with another friend in-the-know.
4. The best thing you can do is encourage your friend to seek professional guidance – it’s nothing to be embarrassed about and the quickest way to treat the problem. If you suspect your friend of an eating disorder, don’t dismiss it as faddy dieting either. The earlier you treat a disorder, the better, so encourage them to speak up.
5. If your friend is in trouble and still doesn’t listen to your advice, go to their family and explain what’s happening. Don’t feel guilty about this – it’s vital to remember you’re not being bitchy, you’re trying to help a friend you care about.
Address a brother, sister, mother or father. With any luck they’ll listen, but keep in mind they might not want to hear what you’re telling them.
Visit BEAT for information and advice about eating disorders and Cocaine Anonymous  for help and support with alcohol or drug problems.


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