Expressing your concerns to someone about their alcohol, cannabis or other drug use is not easy, particularly if they have not acknowledged the problem. However, you can play a critical role in encouraging someone to seek help.
Here are some tips to consider before having this conversation:
- Make time for a private conversation. Find a time to talk to the person when they are sober. Ensure you have their full attention and the time to listen to what they have to say.
- Plan what to say. Think about what you want to convey to them, and how they might respond. You may want to rehearse with another friend or seek advice from a trusted professional.
- Listen. Allow your friend to speak candidly and respond without judgment.
- Avoid accusation. To do so, try to use "I"-statements. Point to a specific behavior that affects you and with which your friend cannot argue. For example, rather than "You drink too much," you could try framing it as "When I heard that you were throwing up again last night, I was concerned."
- Anticipate denial. They will likely react defensively. While their behavior might not change immediately, it is still important that you reached out to them. Change is a process, not an event, and expressing your concern helps to move your friend toward less risky behavior.
- Meet with a counselor to discuss your concerns. This can help you to better understand their struggle and to brainstorm ways to engage with them. All students can call CPS at (609) 258-3141 for a consultation.
It may help to have a script to follow when preparing to talk with someone. Below are some ideas of what you can say.
- "When you got really drunk this weekend, you got angry and I was hurt by some of the things you said. I value our friendship and I feel sad when I see how alcohol changes your personality."
- To help your friend figure out how to seek help, you might say “Can we discuss some ideas? There are a lot of resources available on campus.”
- If they say they want to seek help, offer support: “We can practice what you’ll say to the counselor.” or “If you want, I can be there with you when you set up an appointment.”