Talking to a Friend about Alcohol and Other Drugs



  • A caring conversation can help your friend learn about how their behavior affects others and get the help they need.
  • Needing help is not the same as being an alcoholic or an addict. In fact, using these labels in an initial conversation may not be helpful. Instead, focus on troublesome behavior related to your friend’s alcohol/drug use and mention your concern with it.
  • There are many ways to help someone who's having trouble with alcohol or drugs. Some people just need the wake-up call of your honest opinion and loving support, while others can benefit from professional help to make changes in their behavior.

Before you talk to your friend:

  • Learn about drug and alcohol abuse. You can talk to any of the resources listed on our resources page without giving your friend's name.
  • Prepare a list of specific problems that have occurred because of your friend's drinking or drug use. Make sure to keep the conversation focused. DON'T say “Your obnoxious when you drink.” Instead, say, "When you were drunk, you made fun of me and were mean to me. That really hurt my feelings."
  • Choose a private location where you can talk without embarrassment or interruption. Make sure there are no distractions.

How to talk to your friend:

  • Talk to your friend when they are sober. Your message will have more impact if the consequences of their drinking or drug use have occurred recently.
  • Restrict your comments to what you feel and what you have experienced of your friend's behavior. Express statements that cannot be disputed. Avoid generalizations, such as "Everyone's disgusted with you” or "Lily thinks you have a real problem,"
  • Convey your concern for your friend's well-being with specific statements. Try to use “I” statements and avoid blaming. Openly discuss the negative consequences of your friend's drinking or drug use. Use concrete examples from your list of specific problems, such as "I want to talk to you because I am worried about you,"
  • Emphasize the difference between sober behavior that you like and drinking behavior that you dislike. For example, "You have the most wonderful sense of humor, but when you drink it turns into cruel sarcasm that really hurts my feelings"
  • Be sure to distinguish between the person and the behavior. For example: "I think you're a great person, but the more marijuana you smoke, the less you seem to care about anything."
  • If your friend agrees that they might need some extra support, be knowledgeable about some possible resources. Check out our resource page for more information. Be willing to accompany them to see a Counselor or another resource, as this can be scary at first.  
  • Let them know you are there to support them if and when they need it and continue to check in with them.