Guidance for Young People With Friends who Abuse Drugs

Have you recently learned that one of your good friends has a substance abuse problem? You are probably experiencing a lot of emotions right now, from shock to fear to anger, and you probably have a lot of questions, too. Below are some answers from the team at the Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Riley at IU Health that may help you understand the situation better and help you help your friend.

Question: I've tried alcohol and drugs. Why did my friend get addicted but I didn't?

Answer: The risk for addiction is different for everyone. Sometimes a person's genetics makes it easier for them to get addicted. Sometimes a person's home environment or other personal external factors create an opportunity for addiction. It could also be the case that you knew the negative consequences of regular drug use before you experimented whereas your friend didn't. As a result, your friend never learned to have control over his drug use to avoid addiction.

Question: My parents don't want me to hang out with my friend anymore, but I care about them. How can I follow my parents' wishes without losing a friend?

Answer: First off, your friend needs professional help before they can be a good friend to you, so encourage them to get help to get sober. It is good to still care about and want to maintain a relationship with them. We recommend that you ask your parents if there is another level of relationship they are OK with. Ask them if you can still communicate with your friend through email or text or if your friend can come over for dinner with you and your family.

Question: I feel like my friend betrayed me because he never told me he was using drugs. Should I still be his friend?

Answer: Betrayal hurts, but it doesn't mean your friend meant to hurt you. The best thing to do is tell your friend you are worried about them and that it hurt your feelings when you found out about their drug use from someone else. Let them know why it hurt. Continue to be supportive while keeping yourself out of trouble (e.g., still spend time with them at school, but don't hang out with them while they are using drugs).

Question: Is there anything I can do to help my friend get better?

Answer: Try inviting your friend over for dinner with your family or to other activities where no one is using drugs (e.g., school-related activities, church, a fitness class, etc). We also recommend that you visit AbovetheInfluence.com, a great resource for information about how to help a friend with a drug problem.

If your friend is seeking professional help, the Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Riley at IU Health may be a good fit. Learn about the ENCOMPASS dual diagnosis program or call us at 317.948.3481.

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