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How can I know if my friend is facing a substance abuse problem?

Please note that these are just possible symptoms and do not clearly mean that your friend is abusing drugs.  

Personal Appearance

  • Messy, shows a lack of attention for their appearance
  • Poor hygiene
  • Red, flushed cheeks or face
  • Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Runny nose, not caused by allergies or a cold
  • Marks on their arms or legs (they usually wear long sleeved clothing in warm weathers to hide the marks)
  • Smoke or other unusual smells on their breath or clothing

  Personal Habits

  • Financial Problems
  • Reckless driving that may lead to car accidents
  • Constantly avoids eye contact
  • Always locks their bedroom doors
  • Goes out every night
  • Secretive phone calls

  Teenage Behavioral Issues

  • Noticeable change in their relationships with their family members or friends
  • Mood changes or emotional instability
  • Loud, obnoxious behavior
  • Unusually clumsy, lack of coordination, and poor balance
  • Sad, depressed
  • Constantly tired
  • Silent, uncommunicative
  • Hostility, anger, and uncooperative behavior
  • Makes endless excuses
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to focus
  • Hyperactivity
  • A long habit of sleeplessness which is followed by long periods of "catch up" sleep
  • Disappearances for unusual amounts of time

  School, or Work, Related Issues

  • Loss of interest in their school work
  • Loss of motivation for extracurricular activities, hobbies, or sports
  • Failure to stick to their responsibilities
  • Complaints from their teachers or coworkers
  • Reports of intoxication

Reasons why my friend might use drugs

1.   To Experiment

People can be motivated to live new experiences. It is in our nature to be curious and discover things that we haven't done before. However, the risk begins from the first time you try it. It always starts with a cigarette, narguileh, or a sip of alcohol. Then it goes on to the desire to try hashish, cocaine, pills, or even heroine. All this is considered as experiencing drugs, and this scenario can turn curiosity into addiction.

2.   To Fit In

Many people would use drugs because they think everyone else is doing it. Users usually fear that if they say "no" to drugs, then they would not be accepted into the group. For a majority of their time, people are trying to figure out who they are, what they want, and where they fit in. It is a tough process, but everyone has a desire to be accepted and liked. This can make saying "no" extremely difficult because they think it can lead to being laughed at, teased, humiliated, or rejected.

3.   To Feel Better

The abuse makes people relieve stress, feel good, and gives them a chance to forget their problems and hurtful experiences. They start using drugs to boost their moods and increase their sense of well-being. Eventually, they would want to feel those moments over again and, would soon, find themselves unable to live without drugs.

4.   To Do Better

At times, people may turn to certain drugs hoping that they will enhance and improve their performance physically, sexually, or mentally. 


How can I help my friend who is at risk?

If you suspect that your friend is using drugs, even in small doses, it's important that someone intervenes early to avoid a worse situation.   

  1. Choose a private place to talk to them
  2. Make sure you decide on the perfect timing. Don’t try to talk to your friend when he/she is drunk or high, it would be too difficult to take in what you're saying and the situation could turn out badly
  3. Talk to your friend about the problems that the drug use is causing. Prepare them, write them down, and make sure that the examples are very concrete. For example, it's better to say "you weren't driving well last night, we were going to crash" than to say "when you use drugs you become uncontrollable". This might give them a sense of what is going on
  4. Here are a few more examples that you can use as guidelines for your list:
    - “I didn’t like what you said when you were high, it hurt me and you weren’t even aware of it”
    - “Everyone was looking at you and judging you. It hurt me, you don’t deserve to be like this, and you can be way better than that”
  5. Don't ask close-ended questions such as: 
    - "Are you still taking drugs?"
    - "Don't you think you are doing something wrong?"
  6. Tell your friend that you are not there to judge them, you are just worried about his/her drug use and are looking to help them in any way that you can. Make it clear that if they don't stop using drugs, their lives would be severely affected. This way, it is better to clarify the negative consequences
  7. Give them a chance to speak for themselves. Make it a two-way conversation so that they don't feel like they are being lectured or badgered
  8. Encourage your friend to seek treatment. Advise him/her to talk to a professional, and let them know that you will be willing to attend the appointment for moral support
  9. Don't lend him/her any money. This may seem extreme, but it is for their own good
  10. Don't accept late-night calls when your friend is drunk or high. Put limits for them. This way, you can even protect yourself
  11. Never try drugs with them to show empathy or sympathy. Your friend needs your support and strength
  12. Contact CDLL for more advices


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R, 62 years old, father of M, M is now recovering from drug addiction

"I used to think that, as a father, it was my job to get the money for the house, school, university, and the gifts." - "What about now?" - "I made him eggs today" - "Last week, we went hiking. It was just him and me"