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How to Talk to a Friend with a Drinking/Substance Abuse Problem?

Have you ever been concerned about a friend’s substance use? If so, you’re not alone. Although initiating these conversations can be difficult, it may make a lifesaving difference. Below are a few tips to start that conversation and let your friend/loved one know that you care and that you’re concerned.

  • Educate yourself. Take time to learn about substance abuse.
  • Provide Resources. Before talking with your friend/loved one, learn about the support services on and off-campus to assist with substance abuse recovery.
  • Find a private place to discuss your worries.
  • Avoid starting those conversations if one (or both parties) are intoxicated. Your message will be better received with a clear-head.
  • Time the message. Your friend/loved one may be more receptive to the negative influence of substances after experiencing a problem related to drinking/substance use.
  • Keep minimal expectations. Your friend/loved one may respond to your questions with anger, denial or leaving the conversation entirely. Don’t take this personally. Recognize that you have planted the seed should your friend/loved one recognize the problem.
  • Support them. Let your friend/loved one know that you are available to connect them to on and off-campus resources whenever they are ready to reach out.


Remember, the road to recovery is often windy and steeped with hills and valleys along the way. You cannot fix a person, you can simply support them on their journey through recovery.