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Concerned about a Friend

Concerned about a Friend’s Drinking or Drug Use– You’re NOT ALONE!

During informal surveys at Wake Forest about 80% of students report knowing someone who they think has a problem with alcohol or drugs but less than 15% ever express concern to that person. Barriers to expressing concern are often that the student does not want to upset the friend; they believe that dangerous behavior is normative; or they don’t want to seem hypocritical. We believe that expressing concern can be done in a compassionate way that will demonstrate the strong feelings you have for your friend.

We recommend:

  • Trying to talk to the person in a private space.
  • Describing what you have been witnessing and what you have had to do to try to take care of them.
  • Expressing your concern and worry about the person. Use as many “I” statements as possible. For example, “Last night I found you lying on the floor. I got worried because I did not know what had happened. I spent the rest of the night with you in the bathroom checking your breathing because I wanted to make sure you are okay. Recently, I noticed that I am worried that something is going to happen to you whenever we go out.”
  • Don’t dismiss the event or events and don’t laugh about it!
  • Give the person a chance to answer – allow the silence to be awkward.
  • Be prepared from them to deny that there is a problem.
  • Asking the person if they will talk to someone about reducing the negative consequences from their drinking or drug use. You can take them to their first appointment, help them send an email to make an appointment, or provide them with a name and telephone number.
  • Support the person if they choose to make changes to their drinking or drug use – invite them to do non-alcohol related events.

Ultimately, YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE if the person does not seek treatment or changes their behavior. Please contact Lavi Wilson, Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator for any support and assistance.