Encouraging a Friend to Seek Help

  1. Explain to the class that not all patterns of drug use carry the same potential for harm and that not everyone who tries alcohol or other drugs goes on to experience serious harm or dependence. Using the Degrees of Alcohol and Other Drug Use Risk slide (9.B), explain that there are people who may never try alcohol or other drugs while others may begin to use heavily and experience high risk and problems. In between, there are people who may experiment for a while and then return to no use at all. However, students may encounter a friend who seems to be getting in over their head with alcohol, cannabis, or another drug.

    Some signs of problem or high-risk use include heavy, quite frequent use and a substance becoming very important to a person. He or she will make personal sacrifices to get and use the substance and will spend a lot of money and time using the drug. He or she craves the drug and even feels uncomfortable without it. In fact, he or she needs to have the drug to feel “normal”. The person continues to use the drug even though it is causing various problems at school, at home, with friends, or with money. The person's substance use can become a concern within a family when it interferes with day-to-day life.

  2. Ask the class what signs they would look for that might indicate a friend is getting in over their head and having problems with a substance or experiencing high risk. Spend a few minutes brainstorming and record their responses. The list may include things like
    • skipping classes
    • changes in appearance
    • not showing up for things you've planned to do
    • hanging out with new people
    • asking to borrow more money
    • drinking or using another drug every weekend
    • drinking or using another drug on school nights
    • using greater quantities or strengths of alcohol and other drugs
    • passing out from drinking or using other drugs
    • showing up at school after drinking or using another drug
    • doing dangerous or stupid things under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
    • having unplanned, unwanted, or unsafe sex while using a substance
    • injecting drugs

  3. Ask the class what they might be able to do to help a friend who seems to be in over their head? Spend a few minutes brainstorming the options. Record their responses on the board or flip chart.

  4. Using the Ways of Responding to a Friend slide (9.C), explain to the students that there are three categories for the types of responses they may have to a friend who is having difficulty with a substance and present the following descriptions:
    • Some young people will worry that saying or doing anything is interfering, so they will not do or say anything.
    • Others will enable their friend, which means doing things that actually (without realizing it) help their friend stay in trouble or get deeper into trouble.
    • Some young people will be helpful by speaking to their friend, expressing their concern and offering their support.

  5. Using the students' ideas in Item 3 above, ask which of the three categories of responses-interfering, enabling, or helping-apply to the ideas. Ask the class to suggest other examples of each of the types of behaviour.

  6. Have the class work in groups of three to generate three guidelines for helping a friend with a substance-use problem. The guidelines can start with a “do” or a “don't.”

  7. Ask each group to present their guidelines to the whole class. Record the guidelines. From all the responses, ask the class to choose a list of three “do's” and three “don'ts” for helping a friend. For example, their list might contain items such as
    • DO be specific about the behaviours you have seen in your friend that concern you and ask if he or she is okay.
    • DO have the name of a counsellor ready in case your friend admits he or she needs help.
    • DON'T agree to buy CDs or other belongings from your friend if you suspect the money is being used on substances.
    • DON'T talk to your friend's parent before talking to your friend and finding out what is going on.